work during vacation

Blending Work and Vacation Can Be Difficult – But Not Impossible

There’s good reason why workers have been counting down the days until their Labor Day getaway (only three more to go!). Research shows that individuals will reap physical, emotional and psychological benefits from unwinding outside of work. Personally, I come back from a vacation feeling rested, rejuvenated and reconnected to both my work and personal life. So then why do so many of us have such a difficult time disconnecting from the office while on vacation?

The answer to this question is probably different for us all. Many like to go through email periodically to avoid coming back to a mailbox full of hundreds of new messages. Others need to finish up a few items that they were unable to finish before hitting the highway. Or, as is my case, the position one holds simply does not allow them to completely unplug for an extended period of time.

Whatever your reason, it’s important to strike the balance between work and play. Here are a few tricks I’ve learned throughout my career for achieving a balanced workation.

Manage expectations
It’s important that your coworkers and customers know that you’ll be checking in with the office periodically on your workation. Communicate your plans a few days before you leave, and carefully craft your out-of-office message to let everyone know you’ll be responding to emails/voicemails, but not consistently or immediately. I like to set up meetings with my direct reports a day or two before I head out of the office to give them an update on what I plan on working on while on vacation and how to best reach me in a pinch.

Learn more about the right tech tools in my first workation post earlier this week and how technology can help you manage expectation and set boundaries with coworkers and family.

Set boundaries
Your family and friends deserve to know when you’ll be busy and when you’ll be ready to join them on the beach. If you plan on doing more time-intensive work than just checking emails, set aside dedicated time each day to get your work done, such as first thing in the morning or during the afternoon lull. I usually wait until my daughters have gone to sleep before I login to email. At times, I’ll also give colleagues a head’s up as to what days I can make myself available to join calls over lunch.

Unwind by example
As a manager, we have a responsibility to ensure employees are taking their well-deserved R&R and are not headed down a path toward work burnout. While I am guilty of not completely unwinding while away from the office, I do stick to the work expectations I set prior to my vacation and keep “office hours” to a minimum as to set an example for my team. And, before any of my direct reports head off for their vacation, I reiterate the importance of balancing work and play. I whole-heartedly believe that a team that takes all of their vacation days will end up being a more productive and creative one in the long run.

I know it can be difficult, but during this Labor Day weekend, resist the urge to check your smartphone or tablet for the latest email or update from the team. Instead, manage your team’s and customers’ expectations, set boundaries for yourself, and set an example for others. By following three simple tips, you may find yourself enjoying your vacation that much more.

Don’t miss my first workation article or PGi’s Workation Nation infographic, revealing details of how our vacation landscape is transforming from travel vistas into technology tools. Did you know that 82% of U.S. employees work during their vacation?

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kolin Toley

About Sean O'Brien

Sean O’Brien is PGi’s Chief Administrative Officer. He oversees the company’s Legal, HR and Program Management organizations and manages Corporate Development, M&A and Acquisition Integration. In addition, Mr. O’Brien leads Corporate Strategy, Executive Communications and Global Facilities Management.

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