I got the idea for this post from Running on Fumes.
I think many of us Americans have the wrong concept of vacationing. Probably some of my fellow Americans will agree. For our 1st vacation as bf-bf to Spain, my hubby did not understand why I needed to do work while I was separated by an ocean from my job. Actually, that is lie. He brought this up during our second vacation together when we went to Mexico. Why the confusion? I was a biomedical researcher when we travelled to Spain, but I had just started job as an administrator in higher education before our trip to Mexico. I’ll expand on why this is significant in a bit.
Anywho, the hubby was saying something like many of you Americans take vacations but work in another location, which defeats the purpose of a vacation. Keep in mind, the hubby is not someone who is all like Europe is better than the US because of X, Y, and Z. Actually, he goes off about Europe and Spain quite often.
Work is never ending:
One of the reason why I work during a vacation is because if I do not do anything over a week’s time, then I will have four times the amount of work to do when I return. I’m left with two choices: 1) Do work during a vacation or 2) Do no work and stress about how much work will be waiting for me when I return.
Once you start, you can’t stop:
On previous vacations, I would tell myself that I would check email only once a day. This is a fine practice; however, I’m type of a person who is: While I have my laptop open, let me do X, Y, and/or Z. Next thing I know, I have been working for damn near 3 hrs. This situation was especially problematic while we were in Hawai’i. Although we were in Hawai’i, my body still felt like we were on NYC time, which is 6 hours ahead. Rather than enjoying the beautiful Hawaiian sunrise, I was like let me see what’s going on at work.
Another instance of my struggles between work and vacation life. Whenever I check email on my phone, I typically have to respond via my laptop (I hate sending long emails via my phone). Then the situation that I described above happens.
The guilt trip:
One of my bosses told me that they did not understand how people can completely disconnect while on vacation. Followed with a because there’s always something to do. I think this boss was trying to give me a hint. Isn’t the point of going on a vacation is to NOT work? At the end of each fiscal year, I usually have 30+ days unused vacation days. In my current position, one of my bosses always tells us to use our vacation days because we’ve earned it. But I’m like when, When, WHEN? We are already overworked and stretched too thin so there is no time to take an adequate vacation. In that boss’s defense, they probably are talking about taking off a day or two here and there. Since I’m always suspicious of everything, I was like this place only is telling us to use our vacation days so they do not have to pay us for the unused vacation should we leave our roles.
Career paradigm and vacations
I’ll admit that I did not really have an issue over balancing vacation life and work life until I became an administrator. Prior to this role, I was a biomedical scientist so it was easier to leave work at work in my biomedical researcher roles. Simply put, it’s hard to run biomedical experiments on a beach. Also, you cannot bring 500+ pound machines with you on an airplane. 😉 This was not a perfect system because sometimes it was hard finding time to actually take a vacation. For example, being in the middle of a three-week experiment or asking someone to take care of your cells and mice (if you trust anyone) is always tricky. However, in higher ed (or any job that can be done remotely), most of the work are meetings and emails. As most know, once can email and conduct meeting pretty much from anyplace on the planet . . . or even the galaxy. As as scientist, I never I had force myself NOT to work while on vacation because it was impossible to do so. However, things are a bit different now that I’m an administrator.
The other complex piece of the puzzle. I have always been told that I work TOO much. Maybe it’s one positive thing that I have inherited from my father. When I first started this role, I did not mind working long hours or working during a vacation. For multiple reasons, I do not feel as connected to my position as I did when I started four years ago. So, I’m kind of like screw. In the past, I have worked my butt off only to be passed over for promotions so I’m like what’s the point. Even in this role, I am doing EXACTLY the same thing that I have been doing when I started four years. Honestly, I do not see much of any signs of professional growth. Maybe I’m just being negative, but I’m getting to the point of saying if it has not happened now then it never will. I will add one more thing: if the conversations about moving up with in this organization have not happened by now, then they never will.
My vacation tips:
Feel free to add some more in the comments.
-Be selfish of your time. Even though I am an only child, I will admit that it is hard for me to be selfish of my time. Yes, I may joke around about being self centered, but at the end of the day, I’m not THAT self centered. When speaking about one of my exes, I would say something like he was so self-centered that he did not realized how self-centered I am.
-Use email software to automatically sort/filter incoming messages. A couple of years, ago I set up a filter to send ALL emails to a “sort later” folder. That way, I do not see eight thousand emails when I open my iPhone’s email app, which makes me feel like I have to answer them all. Instead, I have to actively go to that folder to see the incoming emails.
-Speaking of phones, someone told me that I should change the passwords of work emails but not on the phone. That way, I would actively have to log into my email from my phone. That one extra hurdle would keep one from constantly checking my email.
-Someone told me to try to wind down a couple of days before a vacation. This makes a lot of sense. If your vacation starts on a Friday and you send a bunch of emails on Thursday, then you might worry about the statuses of/responses to those emails.
-If I’m traveling for a vacation, I always try to schedule an extra day before physically (or virtually) going back to the office. I call it my acclimation day. This gives me a change to sort of top, mid, and low priority emails that accumulated while I was gone, wash dirty laundry from the trip, and clean up the messy apt. Since I’m a last minute packer (hey, I’m getting better), the apt becomes a frantic mess as I’m looking for and packing things. Also, the acclimation day gives you a chance to mentally reset before going to work. For instance, there is nothing that bugs me more than spending a week on a beach and having to commute the next day through nasty NYC for work.
Question of the Day:
How do you prevent work from affecting your vacation?
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I agree be selfish with your time and don’t work on vacation. I luckily have a new(ish) boss who saw me online while on vacation and messaged me to get off line and go be on vacation. lol I like these tips to avoid falling into 3 hours of work while on vacation. I used to have my work email on my personal phone but now i can only get it on the work phone (for some IT security reasons) so it’s been great to physically leave the work phone at home on weekends, after hours — it’s too easy to get sucked in to responding or start stressing about work stuff. Hope you can unplug for your vacation!
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Thank you for thinking of me!
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I like to give credit for ideas that are not my own.
It is appreciated!
Well, I haven’t been on an official vacation for almost 2 years due to Covid.
My sister was living in Germany and we were going to visit for 2 weeks. But that fell through.
I know that you can’t really disconnect if you are checking and responding to email while on vacation.
But I hate spending the first day back in the office cleaning out my inbox.
It’s not very relaxing to be stressed out over work. I think that being able to clean out the junk and respond to hot items actually helps me to relax.
It’s the American way!?
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Whenever possible, I schedule an acclamation day, which is in between the last day of vacation and the first day back in the office to sort out emails.
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Hm, I’m self-employed and although I’m a lot better now there’s one client who I do usually end up doing bits for when I’m away – but it’s usually 30 minutes max early in the morning. My bad one is working until midnight the night before then frantically packing in 2 seconds then complaining I don’t have all the right stuff when we get there …
Love the idea of an acclimation day! I’m pretty opposed to working while I’m supposed to be on vacation and have always done a pretty good job of not looking at email when I’m off. Sorry, my time is my time!
I never check email while on vacation. I do usually do like you and have an acclimation day though that I’ll check it on so I can start fresh.
Ideally it is good to disconnect whilst on vacation but we do not all have that privilege. I agree with runningforunicorns – my time is my time! I try to as much as I can. I have a pretty good work life balance in general though. This time of year gets crazy (TV job) but thankful to just be employed during the challenging times we are currently in.
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