Vacation should be the time to unwind and detach from the office, but it doesn't always work out that way. An American software management company recently conducted a survey to examine how vacation time -- specifically during the summer -- impacted employees, their teams, and their companies. The investigation revealed that on average, about 35% of people planned to use between six to 10 vacation days this summer, with 30% taking between one to five days. However, one-third of the respondents intend to work during their vacation. More specifically, the results showed that, "Most workers say they spend a few minutes each day forwarding time-sensitive messages (22%) or answering calls or emails from their boss (24%) when working on vacation." The survey also uncovered the fact that that almost 25% of employees routinely work (or will work) as much as they need to, to ensure that projects move forward.

Today's work environment of intense time pressures and limited resources means many of us are required to put in extra effort, energy and time -- even if it's checking emails a few times a day during a vacation. Is this the new normal? And how is it affecting our overall health? A recent Work and Well-Being survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA) sought the answers. Their results showed that 21% of U.S. adults felt stressed during their time off and 28% worked more than they thought they would on vacation.

Vacation, by definition, means taking time away from work, relaxing and recharging. But it seems the boundaries between work and relaxation have become distorted. Unplugged vacation time and self-care are essential for our wellbeing. As a business owner or leader -- it is critical to mirror this way of life to your employees and encourage them to do the same. David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, who heads APA's Center for Organizational Excellence, offers clear advice for our times. "Websites and magazine articles offer plenty of tips on how to make the most of time out of the office, but often put the onus on the individual employee and ignore important organizational factors. A supportive culture and supervisor, the availability of adequate paid time off, effective work-life policies and practices, and psychological issues like trust and fairness all play a major role in how employees achieve maximum recharge. Much of that message comes from the top, but a culture that supports time off is woven throughout all aspects of the workplace."

Working while you're supposed to be winding down can negatively impact your relationships as well. It can take you away from the present moment and make you irritable, lower your mood state, and make you more susceptible to metabolic syndrome, leading to cardiovascular issues.

How much time will you spend working during your vacation?

These three simple steps may help you recharge more effectively:

  1. Try your best to make room for rest and relaxation by unplugging from your devices for as long as possible (including social media) each day of your vacation.
  2. Be sure to arrange for a trusted colleague to take over for you while away and predetermine what constitutes a true "emergency" if you must be contacted. 
  3. Reduce distractions as much as possible, and focus on self-care (book that massage in advance so you won't be able to cancel) so you can regenerate your stores of energy and feel more rejuvenated when back at work.

Published on: Jul 2, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.