Why We Can’t Seem to Stop Working on Vacation

Two recent surveys find that many workers check in repeatedly even when they’re supposed to be on PTO. Part of the reason might be a desire not to fall behind—but some may be working on a side project instead.

We’re well into the dog days of summer, and that (of course) means that you might have a vacation coming up.

However, you might find that even on a long trip away from the office you’re still stuck taking calls and emails from the boss. Not an ideal situation, but as it turns out, a lot of people do just that.

According to a recent survey by the company Accountemps, 56 percent of workers say they check in with the office while they’re officially on vacation, a number that has increased significantly within the prior two years of the survey—and a trend Accountemps blames on increased connectivity.

The problem is particularly pronounced among young adults. The survey found that around 70 percent of employees aged 18-34 check in at least once a week, per the company’s survey of 2,800 workers.

The report finds that workers based in some cities, such as New York or Seattle, are more likely to check in than those in other cities, with Denver and Cleveland among those that have employees least likely to check in on PTO.

Accountemps Executive Director Michael Steinitz offers a curious reason for why many workers try to plug into the office even though they’re supposed to be on vacation.

“Employees need time away from work to rest, relax and recharge. Yet for an increasing number of people, totally disconnecting from the office can have the reverse effect and add stress,” Steinitz said in a news release.

A separate survey from LinkedIn on the same topic, which finds that 70 percent of professionals fail to break away from their day job, has a more specific reason why employees fail to mentally embrace PTO: According to the report, 56 percent say they don’t want to fall behind.

Of course, there are two things that cause problems with taking real vacation time, where employees do nothing but relax: One, the distractions from the home base (67 percent of respondents say they’d contact a vacationing coworker), and two, side interests.

The latter issue is less heralded but fairly significant. LinkedIn reports that 70 percent of respondents say they have a side hustle on top of their primary gig, and 40 percent of those respondents say they use their vacation time to catch up on their side gig.

Speaking to Fortune, LinkedIn career expert Blair Decembrele makes the case for turning off your email for a while.

“You’re not alone if you feel guilty before asking for time off or shutting down your email on the beach, but you should ask,” she said. “It’s important for your well-being, and we often hear that taking time off makes people more productive when they come back.”

Of course, it helps as well to ensure that your employer has thoughtfully considered what happens when a vacationing employee gets back in the office.

(Anchiy/E+/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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