Work Hard, Play Hard: How to Unplug on Vacation

Work Hard, Play Hard: How to Unplug on Vacation Thu, 08/19/2010 - 15:50
Andrew Strieber

Smartphones, netbooks, tablets. As these portable devices become increasingly powerful and affordable, more employees are gaining the ability to ditch the office and take their jobs on the road. Combine these light and portable computers with readily available high-speed data connections, and many tasks that once required you to stay close to your desk can be accomplished from just about anywhere. Stories abound of innovative work-from-home programs and executives who need nothing more than a laptop and data connection to get things done.

While trading in a cubicle for the local coffee shop or seat by the pool may sound appealing, all this unfettered connectivity can have a serious downside. The use of smartphones and laptops can actually have a negative effect when focusing on hours, workload and downtime. After all, once an executive can work from anywhere, what's to stop them from working at any time as well? In some industries, the ability to remain wired is causing executives to routinely labor after hours or on weekends, which can lead to exhaustion and burnout. Additionally, career experts say the time that hyperconnectivity has the greatest potential to do damage to traditional work/life balance is when you go on vacation.

Vacations are meant to serve as the ultimate reset button, helping you drop out of the rat race and recharge so you can return to work with a renewed focus. However, even when you're lying in a hammock on the beach sipping a daiquiri, if you're also busy checking emails on your phone you aren't really getting a break. Without a clear separation between work time and relaxation time, your vacation may feel less like a vacation than just another business trip. In addition, spending your downtime checking emails, working on projects or dealing with the everyday stress of work doesn't just do harm to your own revitalization, it can be draining for your family and friends as well.

Of course, while most executives would love to head out of the office for two weeks and leave their phones and computers behind, the truth is that in today's economy, sometimes completely unplugging on vacation just isn't possible. Employees have to be available when needed, and the pace of business doesn't always allow for key decisions to wait for a week or more. But if you really need a break and your job doesn't allow you to disconnect, what do you do? Thankfully, there are ways to unplug from work and get the relaxation time you need. All it takes is some careful planning and a little determination.

While some employees may think they're too important to go on vacation, or that taking a break will hurt their chances of advancement, experts stress that turning off for a while is often good for your career, since "vacations help us mentally and spiritually recharge, so we can return to our businesses with new ideas, energy and focus," says Dave Morton, CEO of The Spinnaker Group, Inc. "A proper work/play balance while on vacation is key to returning home well-refreshed." So if you're ready to spend time in the mountains, lying in the sand or even just relaxing around the house, try following these 10 tips to help you unplug on vacation without hurting your job performance:

Andrew Strieber is the Producer of and

Career Topics
Life At Work