Should You Ever Work During Your Vacation? Pros and Cons of Staying Plugged In

Traveler man sits on a tropical beach with his laptop and works; working in vacation concept.
SHansche / Getty Images/iStockphoto

Many of us go on vacation with the intention of fully unplugging, only to be sucked into checking our work email — or even phoning into a meeting or taking a client call when we’re supposed to be “off.” But is this always a bad thing?

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GOBankingRates spoke with career experts to get their takes on the pros and cons of staying plugged in during vacation.

Why It’s OK To Stay ‘Plugged In’

While you don’t want to spend your whole vacation working, there are some advantages to staying somewhat plugged in during your time off.

“The advantage of staying connected on vacation is that things may be easier your first couple of days back,” said John Winner, future of work expert and CEO of Kizen. “Additionally, if you’re the only one who can do something, it can minimize delays.”

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If you choose to stay plugged in, use time blocks to make sure you actually do get some real vacation time, said Alan Edwards, writer and coach at Undercover Recruiter.

“Set an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening to respond to whatever’s happening,” he said. “Apart from those time blocks, put the computer away, and turn off emails on your mobile device.”

Vicki Salemi, a career expert with Monster, notes that if you do decide to stay plugged in during your vacation, this should be because you choose to — not because your employer expects you to.

“If you aim to log off while you’re out of the office and you get pushback from your boss, peers and/or the company culture, that’s a sign you should start looking for a new job,” she said.

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Why You Should Actually Try To Completely Disconnect

There are several advantages to fully disconnecting during your vacation. For one, it can boost your productivity upon your return.

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“I really believe in the importance of vacations to recharge,” Kizen’s Winner said. “When properly done, they also give perspective on challenges you may be having at work and grant space to re-think and marinate on ideas. I oftentimes notice this stimulates creative energy and novel ideas.”

If you never fully unplug, this can lead to burnout, he said.

“Completely unplugging is absolutely essential and required for people to maximize productivity and happiness,” Winner continued. “The easiest way to do this is to sign out of all work emails and accounts and not log in while on vacation. Additionally, turn off all notifications. Finally, having separate work and personal phones (or at least phone numbers using something like Google Voice) allows you to put your work phone in the drawer and take it out when vacation is done.”

To make sure you’re actually able to unplug — and not be stressed out about it — be sure to set boundaries and expectations with your manager and colleagues.

“Employees should convey their intent to disconnect in a way that stresses their desire to be collaborative and excel,” said Aliza Knox, author of “Don’t Quit Your Day Job: The 6 Mindshifts You Need to Rise and Thrive at Work.” “They might say something like, ‘I really want to make sure I’m delivering my best, and to do that I need a real break from the office.’ Then, they should point out how they have provided coverage, noting which person or people will be available for their regular meetings, normal duties and unexpected situations. They might consider leaving a number for absolute emergencies to show their commitment. Then they should go on holiday, care-free, and be able to return refreshed and ready to dig in at work!”

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About the Author

Gabrielle joined GOBankingRates in 2017 and brings with her a decade of experience in the journalism industry. Before joining the team, she was a staff writer-reporter for People Magazine and Her work has also appeared on E! Online, Us Weekly, Patch, Sweety High and Discover Los Angeles, and she has been featured on “Good Morning America” as a celebrity news expert. 
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