Not only are Americans bad at taking vacations, but when we do get away, we tend to bring our laptops with us. In fact, last year, 40% of male employees and 30% of female employees said they planned to put in some work time during their vacation time.
It's something I frequently tell people not to do. When you work while on vacation, you don't get the real mental break you need to return to the office refreshed and reenergized. The result? You increase your risk of burnout.
But despite the negative impact of working during vacation, I myself opted to bust out my laptop from time to time on a recent family road trip. Here are a few reasons why.
1. I was still able to unplug
The fact that I worked during vacation meant that I clearly had job matters on my mind while away. But here's the thing: The writing I did during my trip didn't interfere with my plans or stop me from fully enjoying myself while away. Because my vacation involved driving cross-country, I was able to do some work in the car when it was my turn to be the passenger and all we were doing was traversing long stretches of not-so-scenic highway. On the other hand, I didn't bring my laptop to the various national parks we visited, and I put it away in the car when the highway scenery was glorious and I wanted to take it in.
In a nutshell, my work didn't impede me from enjoying my time away. I only wrote when it was convenient, and I didn't feel pressured to do so.
2. I took a longer trip
As a freelance worker, I have the option to take time off as I please, which meant I was able to take a three-week journey without pushback. Meanwhile, my husband, who's a salaried worker, banked a ton of vacation time to pull off this trip on his end. Had we only been going away for a week, I might've just left my laptop at home. But three weeks is a long time to be out of touch, and frankly, I didn't want to return to an overloaded inbox and lists of timely stories needing my immediate attention. I also figured that taking three weeks off is really a privilege, and so I didn't mind working a small fraction of that time.
3. I don't get paid time off
Being freelance means you don't get paid when you don't produce. I put in many, many extra hours in the weeks leading up to my trip to take time off without guilt. But knowing that I was going three weeks without an income drove me to take out my laptop and write an article here and there to avoid a larger gap in earnings. Furthermore, doing that extra work allowed me to indulge a little bit more while away. For example, there were nights when we spent a little extra money on nicer meals, and I didn't feel bad, knowing I'd earned the cash earlier that day.
Now, I'll be honest: If I were a salaried employee, I probably wouldn't have put in the same amount of time as I did. But doing so has helped me avoid some of the "back from vacation" stress I'd otherwise be facing. And while I may choose to completely unplug the next time I go away, I don't regret doing the work I did this time around.