Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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Why you shouldn’t work on vacation

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More than 80% of American adults own a smartphone, reports Pew. Consequently, an equal number are more than capable of conducting office work at all times of day and from anywhere.

Because of this, a concerningly large number of employees voluntarily work on vacation, nights, and weekends. It’s so easy that many of us simply fall into bad habits, thinking that the act will get us ahead.

In truth, it doesn’t. Here’s why working on vacation is a bad idea, according to the overwhelming research contained in my book, Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting.

It kills inspiration and long-term productivity. If you choose to squeeze some work in during designated downtime, you might maintain “inbox zero” or even enjoy short-term gain. But the fact remains that working on vacation actually leads to long-term productivity loss. And since it robs your brain of much-needed downtime to recharge its synapses and fuel tank, working on your break inevitably kills your inspiration. You’ll still be able to complete routine assignments, but you’ll reduce the chance of contributing truly remarkable work, which is as fulfilling as it is financially rewarding.

It increases burnout (and messes with your mental health). Related to the above, when we choose to work at all hours, not only does it negatively impact our physical and social health, it seriously affects our mental health. The problem is that anytime work via our phones gives off the illusion that we’re still working, which of course we are, but it messes with our ability to contribute meaningful results, my book found. I won’t go as far to call it an epidemic, but it is a widespread problem and evidence shows that those who achieve a healthy form of offline balance are the ones that contribute and gain the most, mentally as much as professionally and personally.

It sets a bad or otherwise unsustainable precedence. Smartphones are slavish devices, but the way we use them makes them even more slavish. Allowing them to alert and interrupt our lives whenever they choose is the first no-no. But showing the world that you will answer texts, emails, and calls at all hours of the day and within seconds of receiving them only leads to more demanding coworkers. This was certainly the case for me. But it’s been remarkable better since setting the expection with everyone (and keeping to it) by not answering work inquiries on vacation, nights, or weekends. By doing so, these inquires have largely stopped, since coworkers and clients now know that I don’t work then. Put good in, get good out.

You’ll miss out on the fun. If you choose to work on vacation, nights, or weekends, you will cannibalize your own enjoyment, provided you have the guts to agree to and participate in activities and getaways you actually enjoy (or at least with people you enjoy). In turn, that exacerbates all of the above, which creates a vicious cycle. When life is fun, you do better work. So if you willingnly opt-out of fun, you’ll likely produce fewer great works.

If you want to avoid the default smartphone setting of letting it and work interfere with your life, I have some good news. You can do three things right away to help reduce phone overuse. They are as follows:

  1. Know why you’re reaching for your phone (i.e. are you bored, lonely, feeling unproductive). Once you identify that, you can better choose another activity besides work that will likely satisfy your need.
  2. Turn off audible and visual alerts; willpower alone will not work but this does and allows you to live in the moment and follow your heart and brain instead of letting a phone dictate how you should spend your time.
  3. Set boundaries for both time and place; make a pact with yourself on how, when, and where you will use your phone for work purpose.

You can do this. I speak from 10 years of experience and it’s glorious.