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Should You Work While on Vacation?

By Maurie Backman – May 29, 2018 at 8:11AM

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The quick answer: Maybe.

Of the various workplace benefits out there, paid vacation time is a highly coveted one among employees. Yet a large number of Americans don't actually capitalize on that paid time off. An estimated 21% of U.S. workers left vacation days on the table this past year, and their reasons ran the gamut from having too many pressing deadlines to take time off to fearing backlash from their colleagues or managers.

The problem with not taking vacation, however, is that it makes workers more susceptible to burnout. Not only that, but it also sends the message to employers that it's OK to be stingy on the vacation front since much of that time remains unused. And that's not a healthy message to send.

Man in swim trunks using a laptop by a pool

Image source: Getty Images.

What's the solution? We can't snap our fingers and make our work disappear, but we shouldn't deny ourselves the opportunity to escape the office for brief yet necessary periods of time. The answer, therefore, may just lie in a strange but effective compromise: working during vacation.

Pack your passport...and your laptop

Though the idea of working while on vacation may be horrifying to some, it's a practice many of us uphold anyway. In fact, 40% of men and 30% of women plan to work while on vacation this summer, according to new data from Wrike.

Now, it might seem like these folks are sacrificing way too much -- after all, they've earned that vacation time -- but in reality, working while away can be self-serving. In fact, 36% of men and 26% of women say they enjoy vacation more, and feel less stressed during it, when they stay connected work-wise and check in to ensure that things are running smoothly. Meanwhile, 29% of female workers say that putting in some time during vacation periods makes for a much less stressful transition back to the office afterward.

Of course, there comes a point when too much checking in can detract from your vacation or defeat the purpose of it altogether. But if you feel that working a bit while away makes for a more enjoyable getaway on your part, and you're doing that work because you want to, not because you have to, then there's nothing wrong with carving out a little time each day to give yourself that peace of mind.

Furthermore, we've all experienced that end-of-vacation dread that comes with knowing we're about to return to a mountain of work at the office. If plugging in during vacation minimizes that worry, then maybe it's not such a bad thing after all.

Be sure to set limits

While working a little during vacation might allow more workers to take time off, it shouldn't actually become the expectation. Therefore, even if you're planning to log on regularly while away, you should still prepare your manager and colleagues for the possibility that you won't be working on vacation at all. This means having coworkers to back you up while you're out and setting some grounds rules with your boss so that you're not getting called constantly to deal with work-related emergencies. Though doing some work on vacation might be a reasonable concession, it shouldn't become a given. So if you're going to do it, go about it wisely.

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