Do You Work While on Vacation? You Should

Gene Marks

If you’re not working when you’re on vacation, you’re in the minority. Most people do.

That’s according to a 2018 study from staffing service Accountemps. The survey asked more than 2,800 employees at companies around the U.S. about their vacation and work habits, and their responses indicate how attitudes about time off have changed.

For example, back in 2016, 59% of respondents to a similar survey said they never check in while on vacation. But, in this year’s survey, more than half (56%) say they do check in with the office while they’re away. Even more interesting is that 70% of younger workers — those aged 18 to 34 — say they maintain “some contact with work” during their vacations, as opposed to only 39% of those aged 55 years and older. “Lazy millennials?” I think not.

What about you? Do you work when you’re on vacation? I hope you do.

That’s because running a business means you’re never completely on vacation. You’re trusting others with your livelihood. Your business always needs attention. Your employees always need answers. Your customers don’t care that you’re on vacation. Your competitors love it when you’re away.

Many of my clients argue that they need to “completely” get away from the office when they go on vacation. I get it. I’m sure there are plenty of studies that have shown the value that fully unplugging has on one’s mental and physical health (Editor’s note: There are several). I’m impressed by people who can take time off for weeks and never check in with the office. These are smarter, more fully developed people. They enjoy fine wine and good music. They appreciate that life is made for living and not working. These people have lived past lives. They are old souls.

Nope, not me. I’m no renaissance man. I’m just a small business owner. When I travel, I have my smartphone locked and loaded. I never leave an out-of-the-office message. I don’t unplug. I don’t disengage.

“Some workers enjoy greater peace of mind when they allow themselves to check in a few times — but not much more than that — while on vacation,” an executive director from Accountemps said. “Doing so confirms that all is well, which allows them to stop worrying and focus on relaxing instead.”

It is exactly that for me: peace of mind.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t take vacations and enjoy them. I do and I do. It’s just that I can be on vacation and still keep an eye on the very thing that’s paying for the vacation: my business. When I’m on vacation, I’m not working anywhere near the level that I normally do. I’m checking emails just to make sure there are no fires, and I’m only responding to a very select few. I have people who can handle most of our issues. And you know what? I kind of enjoy taking an hour out of the day in a relaxing spot by the pool or in a nice hotel lobby and reengaging with my business by making a call or two, or cleaning out my inbox. I find it kind of therapeutic.

Yes, that may sound insane to some. But not to me. And clearly not to a majority of workers nowadays. The Accountemps study isn’t saying that these workers are spending their holidays on conference calls or writing contracts. What it’s saying is that times have changed, technology has changed, attitudes have changed, and the majority of people care enough about their jobs, their businesses, and their livelihoods to stay in touch with the office, even when they’re away. It’s not about loyalty or dedication. It’s about responsibility.

16 Responses to "Do You Work While on Vacation? You Should"

    • Charles W. Jones, MBA | September 20, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Gene, I totally agree this method took me from a 1 person operation out of my spare bedroom to over 100 employees in 6 states. My last vacation was a business trip, we won a new contract in HI!

      • Hannah Sullivan | September 20, 2018 at 2:53 pm

        Congrats, Charles! Thanks for your feedback.

    • Not me! | October 24, 2018 at 12:04 pm

      Absolutely not! Your opinion is great for the executives and Businessowners who may have untrained personnel. For decades offices have used backup personnel. It is unnecessary for everyone else who is lower in the staffing chain, especially when they are not getting paid to do it. Coworkers have no courtesy in the business world of today. I am bothered at night, weekends and if I should take a lunch break too.

      There are things in life that are more important than work and making money. I think that the instant gratification demands of the millennial generation need to stop. My office thinks we should have 24/7 service which means there is always a danger in the outsourcing jobs. Who seriously needs a certificate of insurance at 2am? We are turning a well-established professional business into a convenience store. No wonder why our customers who used to be clients, shop their insurance.

    • Jim | August 13, 2019 at 11:46 pm

      You miss three things:
      First, if you are hit by a bus on vacation or on your way to work, will your business continue without you or fold? If you aren’t a narcissist, you’ll want the business to continue. If you never give you subordinates the opportunity to hone their skills running your business, it will be gone.
      Second, if you never give yourself the time to separate yourself from your business, you fail to give yourself the opportunity to look at your business from the 100,000’ level. Maybe what you are doing could be changed – if you don’t separate yourself and look from afar, you’ll never know.
      Third, believe it or not, life isn’t about the success or lack thereof of your business. Someday, whenever that occurs, you will not be with your business – whether that’s due to failure, ill heath, retirement or even untimely death. Family, friends and other interests make you into a whole and complete person. When you die and someone says you were dedicated to your business – it probably wasn’t a compliment. Take the time you should from your business life to bond with other experiences be that family, friends, travel, whatever.

      • Chloe Silverman | August 14, 2019 at 9:41 am

        We appreciate your feedback, Jim!

    • Judy OToole | August 14, 2019 at 6:23 am

      How long is the vacation? Taking time to recharge, connect with family, and relax is important. Staying connected during vacation brings the stress of work life into personal time. Why go on vacation ?

    • Sandra Brigham | August 14, 2019 at 7:15 am

      A fine example of how to model no boundaries.

      No thanks, I’ll pass.

    • G Hoffman | August 14, 2019 at 7:56 am

      Are you kidding me? I am the VP of Operations at my company. When I go on vacation I am not available unless the place is burning down. I give everything when I am there, so when I get that break, it IS a break. If you don’t have competent people working for you you, then YOU have a problem. Get away, unplug, and when you get back, take care of business.

    • On the Fence | August 14, 2019 at 8:45 am

      I wasn’t going to respond, but I saw Not me!’s comment. I am solidly in the middle of the millennial generation. While I do think there are a lot of us in this generation that are lazy and want instant gratification, I think what is being forgotten is we grew up in technology growing from barely being use to everyday use, climate change really being pushed on us and then seemingly forgotten, a war, and a depression. We have seen and lived in struggle. And we are vastly experienced in what happens when things are neglected. So I understand staying connected.

      I just left a job, where if I even went to the bathroom, there would be a comment about me not being at my desk. I had anxiety about taking just a Friday off, let alone about going on a week vacation because I didn’t think anyone would be able to do anything for themself, even though I had completely written out everything they needed to know (including things I had shown them multiple times). Then I got a new job about 2 weeks before I went on that week long vacation, and while it was nice to get away, I felt so disconnected and I had barely been on the job. There is always something to be done. Keeping in mind, it may not directly impact your employees, co-workers, and clients right away, it could still help you. Even if it’s just answering a few emails that need answers to avoid fires or just start moving some of the smaller things off of your desk and onto who it needs to go to.

      So while I understand wanting to disconnect completely (weekends are never long enough), disconnecting now (especially when you are used to working more than 40 hour weeks, which is becoming if not already and American norm) is not easy to do (a week is too long for me).

      Just my two cents. 🙂

    • Actual Business Owner | August 14, 2019 at 10:03 am

      I think some of the dichotomy in responses comes from those who have actual “ownership” of the business versus being an employee. I just made the transition to self employment, and I am always connected, but it isn’t a burden. I have unlimited “vacation” time now, but if I’m not servicing my customers, I cease to make money. While there may be times to completely unplug, I agree that lightly keeping up with emails or making a sales call can be relaxing and who doesn’t love paying for your vacation while on it?

    • Cherie Schadler | August 14, 2019 at 10:30 am

      I own my own business so there is no real vacation. Even on our days off, we have to answer questions.

    • Tanya | August 14, 2019 at 12:48 pm

      This is disturbing. From a mental health counselor’s point of view, disconnecting from work is vital. If you are really so concerned about your business failing while you are on vacation, why go? Nothing like “guilting” people into feeling that they should be working 24/7.

    • Chris Landry | August 14, 2019 at 2:01 pm

      Well-said. You’re not alone on this. I am a business owner and have to be away from my office sometimes. Times have changed along with advanced technology allowing us to stay engaged “at work” wherever we are. Employees know how to reach me in 3-4 different ways. I check my work email daily, thanks to the smartphones. Vacation isn’t the same as when we were kids 🙂

    • Tanya H. | August 15, 2019 at 5:55 am

      I’m a self employed portrait photographer (one of many in my area) and I take 2-3 weeks off per year, but never fully unplug; I don’t have full time staff, it’s just me, and although I do set vacation responders, they say that I am out of the studio for that date range but that I am checking messages and will respond soon – and I do. The reason is, leads won’t always wait. I have landed many a good client because I was quick to respond to their initial inquiry, and if I wait a week to get back to someone, you can bet they’ve already found someone else.

      I love my work and knowing that I’m up to date on responding to new leads and other correspondence gives me peace of mind while I’m on vacation and keeps me from being swamped with calls to make when I get back to the studio.

    • Daniel | August 15, 2019 at 10:13 am

      My wife and I co own a business. We have been able to get away for 3 weeks at a time for the past 14 years. I have excellent people that are very empowered and buy into our vision. That took a lot work to put in place. When we are away we are able to stay disconnected but I do check email about once every 4 days or so. My cell is also on me and the employees know I am available and not bothered if they need me – although they rarely do. Some customers also sometimes text me requests. I forward those texts to my office and they are handled. Sometimes I speak with a customer and they are thrilled to know I’m taking some time off. I think it’s about having good relations, both with customers and employees. Also love people without an agenda, they usually will love you back and be happy for you having good things, such as the ability to spend time with family.

    • Yeah Right | August 15, 2019 at 10:45 am

      We are not on this planet to work. Everyone, except business owners, that answered YES needs to take a look at their life.

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