The Reality of working on vacation

Woman working on vacation
Is this you? It’s not how I look while on vacay, but the laptop is a frequent accessory.

Have you ever worked on your vacation? I’m embarrassed to admit that I do. Since I started working for myself, I’ve struggled to separate my work and home life. They both seem to bleed into each other on a regular basis. I used to beat myself on every trip when I realized I’d have to  spend a few hours tending to projects.

Working on vacation

I recently polled a diverse group of working mothers and was shocked to discover that I wasn’t alone. The majority of these moms also work on their vacation. While some of them were freelancer/consultant types like me, many worked at companies. While it was almost everyone’s intention to never bring work along, many times it’s unavoidable.

Man yelling at computer
Me, pretty much every day.

Working on your vacation

Upon more research, I discovered 61% of Americans plan to work on their vacation and some business gurus think using an out of office email message is not only outdated, but a major CLM. (If you have a “big C” career, either you or your assistant should be checking in.) And Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recommends doing a bit of work each day so that you appreciate your downtime more.

Blackberry poolside
Don’t drop the Blackberry!

After realizing I was not alone in bringing work with me on vacation, I forgave myself. I try hard (and do a pretty good job) of finishing up projects prior to any trip I take. Unfortunately, in my line of work, I can’t control when an editor is going to throw back an article for rewrites or when a great idea is going to pop into my head. (Even Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do on the Weekend, feels no guilt in scribbling down ideas on her church program during the Sunday worship service she attends.)

While I’m not advocating people work on holiday, I do think we need to cut ourselves some slack. In today’s wired world, it’s hard to unplug. Should we make strides to? Absolutely! Should we shame ourselves or others for trying to keep up? I don’t think so.

Do you bring work with you on your vacation? Do you feel guilty about it?






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4 thoughts on “The Reality of working on vacation”

  1. I agree. Better to just get it over with and if you love what you do, it’s not such a drag if you’re under a palapa. Would love to hear more about Sayulita. I’ve never been, but have always wanted to go.

  2. So hard to separate work & personal hours when you work from home, whether taking a vacation or trying to maintain a standard work week. Decided to take the weekend off from my printing business and visit with relatives. I’d get back on track Monday. Well along with Monday came a frozen sewer, more snow, calving problems, extra chores…The list goes on. If I don’t take a few hours everyday including weekends to work on “my” stuff I get too far behind.

  3. OMG! What a situation! I wish somebody told me that when you work from home you have to lose all your expectations. There are benefits, too, of course, but we need to rethink that work-life balance. Juggle is more like it.

  4. Liz Tompkins

    I just returned from a 19 day trip to Sayulita, Mexico. Even though I did most of my work before I left I knew I would need to put in about 2 hours of work while I was away. I know, 2 hours in 19 days… poor me. The alternative would be to not go and I’d much rather pull out the computer under the palapa in Mexico than stay at home in the snow. I feel fortunate to be able to have the luxury of taking work with me and always end my work time with a dip in the ocean and a margarita!

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