In our age of e-mail, Google docs, and smart phones, it's easier than ever to stay connected with your work no matter where you are. I’ve written a lot recently about how the rise of telecommuting has made it so millions of workers can get their tasks done while at home or at some other remote location. This hasn’t been a completely positive development though. The “always on” worker, who frantically checks e-mail while in line at Disneyland or edits spreadsheets on the beach, has become a familiar figure on vacations. Some might see this person as the ideal of a hard worker, but really they're not doing themselves or their company any favors.
Staying connected to the office while on vacation, or in the evening after the work day is through, is not helping anyone in the long-term. It sets you up to be a more stressed out, less efficient employee. It can harm both your personal relationships and your relationship with your boss. Here are a few reasons why everyone will thank you for staying away from your electronics and totally disconnecting while on vacation.
Staying Connected Defeats The Point
The word vacation comes from the Latin word vacare, which means to be unoccupied. We associate vacations with travel, but at their core the purpose of a vacation is to take a break from life's many obligations and spend some time unoccupied by those concerns.
The benefits to being unoccupied for some time are numerous. It reduces stress, improves your mental acuity, and leads to enhanced productivity upon your return. With these benefits, it's no surprise that some companies have instituted unlimited vacation time for employees.
If you stay plugged in during your vacation, even if you're not doing much work, the stresses and concerns can weigh at the back of your mind the whole time and prevent you from recharging the way you need.
The Work You Do On Vacation Is Bad Work
Everyone understands the importance of minimizing distractions while you're trying to work. Well, vacations tend to be all distraction (as they should be). Trying to work in the midst of all that distraction is pretty much a guarantee that you'll make some significant mistakes. Oftentimes, these mistakes might actually create more work when you come back than if you'd just done nothing at all.
Moreover, even though the tools are there to communicate with the office while on vacation, the odds of some miscommunication are higher. It's easy for someone to forget to copy you on an e-mail, or for you to misread some poorly worded instructions and spend your entire vacation going down the entirely wrong path.
The Office Should Be Able To Function Without You
Simply put, if your company can't function for a week or two without your input, then there's something drastically wrong with the way it's organized. Any absolutely essential day-to-day tasks should have at least one other person that knows how to perform them, while your longer-term projects can afford to spend a little time not being worked on.
Some people like the idea of being irreplaceable, but that's not an ideal way to function. As the old saying goes, “if you can't be replaced, you can't be promoted.” Additionally, there's always the chance that you'll be pulled away from your work involuntarily for an extended period of time, maybe for health reasons, or to care for elderly parents. You want to know that the company can survive in your absence.
Personal Relationships Are Important
When you spend time working on vacations, you implicitly send the message to everyone that your work is more important than they are. That's a big problem, as healthy personal relationships are far more important to long-term well being than work. Doubling your group of friends increases happiness to the same extent as a 50 percent increase in income. Additionally, happy personal relationships are correlated with longer life spans, better health, and less stress. Devoting time to nurturing your relationships with friends and family makes you a happier, healthier person, which in turn loops back around and makes you a more effective employee.