Should You Unplug From Work On Vacation Completely? We Asked Experts & Here's What They Said
With summer in full swing, 'tis the season of time off and using vacation days to unplug and get away from it all… right? Is "vacation" really code for "workation," or is it better to disconnect while on the beach in Spain — or perhaps even while staycationing on the couch in your very own living room? A survey by Accountemps found that 54 percent of workers said they typically check in with the office at least once or twice a week during their vacation, up from 41 percent the year prior. Sound familiar? Fifteen percent of workers touch base at least once or twice a day, respondents said, versus 21 percent in 2016. And why? Their reasons included gaining peace of mind that things were under control (54 percent), keeping projects moving along (53 percent), avoiding coming back to extra work (47 percent), and preventing colleagues from feeling undue stress (34 percent).
"I remember meeting with a client once who told me he hadn't taken a vacation in over five years," Dr. Suzana Flores, psychologist and author of Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Lives, tells Bustle. "One day, he finally decided to take his wife on a cruise... but he would not get off his iPad. 'I have to catch up with work,' he told her. Then, one day, she had enough and created, as he put it, 'The world's first unmanned flying iPad.' She grabbed his iPad and flung it over the ship's balcony. In hindsight, he said he was glad she did it, because otherwise he would've never allowed himself to disconnect completely." Though I bet you can relate, whether you're this guy or his wife.
Doing work, or even checking a work email, may be tempting while you're on vacation — after all, you're on your phone anyway, messaging friends or posting photos on Instagram, so what's the harm in checking one short email? But maybe it does more harm than good, i.e., you disconnect from the vacating part of your life. Because sometimes work needs to be left at the office instead of being brought with you on the beach in Ibiza. But what if you can't just ignore work altogether?
Here's what some experts think about whether or not you should completely unplug while you're on vacation, and how best to do so when work may seep in.
1. You're Not Really On Vacation If You Continue To Check Your Work Emails
It's sometimes tempting to see what's happening back at work even though you're millions of miles away — or at least across the Atlantic. But, some experts say think twice.
"We all know vacations are meant as a time to rest and rejuvenate; however iPad, iPhones, and other mobile devices keep us connected even when we are technically supposed to be unplugged," Dr. Flores says. "You are not really on vacation if you (like my client) continue to check your work emails. Refusing to take a break from work pressures will ultimately negatively affect you physically as well as emotionally. ... "[T]he truth is, taking a break from work, and work-related technological devices, can actually help your career since vacations help us to recharge and return to work with improved energy and focus." Can't argue with that.
2. Disconnect To Reconnect
Chances are, ~everyone's~ been there at some point — not wanting to check work emails while sipping a piña colada on the beach, but then the numerous email notification sounds — and perhaps guilt? — lure you in. However, they don't have to.
"As a leadership coach, I have seen how corporate culture can take its toll on employees' mental and emotional health, particularly with women, who face acute challenges in moving up the company ladder," Debra Bednar Clark, founder and CEO of DB+co, a career and style coaching firm that helps empower women at all stages of their careers, tells Bustle. "But no one should attempt to be the 'office hero' or remain 'always on,' as it's not good for you, your family, or your employer, nor is it sustainable. You need to disconnect to reconnect if you want to bring your best and whole self to work. Setting aside time to rest, renew, and recharge will generate the energy you need to be creative, exploratory, and reflective — maximizing your impact at the office and reaching new levels of personal fulfillment at the same time."
3. Refrain From Giving Away Too Much Vacation Information
You may be so stoked about your upcoming travel plans, you want to tell everybody and anybody — including all your co-workers, and why not your boss, too?! But — maybe you shouldn't.
"Refrain from giving away too much information about your vacation," Dr. Flores says. "The more details your employer knows, more he or she may feel that you are in fact 'reachable' to address office matters."
4. Set Up Strategic Out-Of-Office Replies
Your email's out-of-office feature will be a lifesaver while you're on vacation. If you haven't used it before, now's the time! "I'm a firm believer in disconnecting from email and work and meetings while on vacation," Life Coach Nina Rubin, M.A., tells Bustle. "Vacation is time to connect with oneself and family or friends. Vacation is necessary so we can rest and recharge and not wear ourselves thin. Some steps to take: tell people you're away, or at least set up out-of-office replies so you're not expected to reply to emails. Maintain your boundaries and don't break your code. If you want to be unreachable, don't reply to emails or show up for a meeting. Plan in advance, if possible, so you're covered and staffed appropriately."
Dr. Flores is all about the out-of-office email, too, but not just any old one. "Craft a strategic out-of-office email," she says. "For example, most people detail how long they will be away from the office. Instead, indicate how long you will be unavailable. Additionally, check with co-workers if you can place their names in your response as an alternate contact."
On a related note, I tend to add a day or two to the front and back end of my out-of-office emails — I can prep for the trip with the former, like finish up pending projects, then use a day or two to catch up on everything with the latter. Obviously, my coworkers will know when I'm back, but other people won't.
5. Sort Work Emails Into Important Vs. Unimportant
Perhaps you cannot just ignore all your work emails. So, here's a solution. "If you absolutely must check work emails, I recommend sorting work emails into 'important' and 'unimportant' folders," Dr. Flores says. "These filters will save you time when you return from vacation and may bring you peace of mind."
6. Do Not Spend Hours On Your Laptop Poolside
Maybe you've turned off your email notifications or temporarily deleted your work email icon from your phone, but what if you think of some genius work-related ideas while on vacation? "Do not spend hours on your laptop while poolside," Dr. Flores says. "Doing so ruins the relaxation vibe. If you receive a moment of inspiration, pack a small notebook so you can jot down your ideas, then address them later."
7. Ask For Support
Just like you may need a gym buddy, you may need a digital detox buddy, too. "Ask for support," Dr. Flores says. "If the tech addition is real for you, ask people vacationing with you for gentle reminders to 'put the phone down and grab a margarita' in the spirit of helping you when you fall off the relaxation wagon." No arguments here!
8. It Really Comes Down To Boundaries
In many facets of life, you must set up boundaries, whether they're work-related or personal. And going on vacation is a great time to set them, too. As Rubin mentioned, boundaries are key when it comes to how you'll spend your vacation, vacating from work — or not. Kali Rogers, CEO and founder of Blush Online Life Coaching, agrees.
"It really comes down to boundaries," Rogers tells Bustle. "The point of a vacation is to de-stress, so you have to figure out what works best. If you have strong boundaries — meaning, you are able to understand what is your responsibility and what isn't while not feeling guilty about it — then I think working a little bit while you are on vacation is fine. You are also probably that person who might feel anxious about your inbox piling up and the actual act of working a little bit does release your stress. You have to ensure that you are actually able to answer a few emails, jump on one call before dinner, and zone out immediately afterwards. Otherwise, it's pointless. You'll just be stressed about work instead of doing a task that relieves stress."
And it could also be the perfect time to set a rule. "On the other hand, if you know that you are overworked and also know you are susceptible to being sucked into tasks that are not your responsibility, then perhaps it's best to create a complete 'disconnect' rule. You must *communicate* this expectation to your boss so there are no misunderstandings. But this really comes down to knowing yourself and what is best for you and your state of mind."
Michael Steinitz, Executive Director for Accountemps, also agrees about boundary-setting. "The reality is, many professionals, either by necessity or choice, will check in with the office to ensure things are under control and projects are moving forward in their absence," he said in a press release. "Employees who feel the need to connect with work should set clear boundaries to minimize the time they spend attending to office duties."
Hopefully, after reading the above, you have renewed #vacationinspo and will try to make your vacation more of a vacation versus a workation. However, if the latter happens, at least now you have some tips on how you can better manage your time on the beach, or what have you, versus letting work take over — because who wants that?