Sean O’Brien: How to weigh the pros and cons of taking along work on vacation

Summer may be over, but the trend of Americans working while on vacation is only beginning. Regardless of the industry, it can be difficult for employees to balance responsibilities to employers and customers, and a much-needed break from work.

Our team at PGi recently surveyed our customers about their relationship to the office while on vacation. One of the most eye-opening findings was that 82 percent of employees check in with the office at least once a day while on vacation.

The topic of “workation” has been widely debated in recent months. In reality, there is no one right answer for all jobs and all employees, but there are factors each individual must weigh when considering whether to work while on vacation.

Some positives to checking in while away:

Peace of mind

The purpose of a vacation is to relax and recharge, but many employees cannot simply flip a switch when they walk out the door. Instead, that last report they sent their boss or the project their team is advancing stays on their mind for a couple of days.

For many, a quick glance at their email from a smartphone to see that projects are advancing and your customers are happy can provide peace of mind and allow you to truly unplug. 

Technology increases vacations

Technology can empower many employees to take a longer vacation than would have otherwise been possible. That Friday afternoon meeting can be taken from a smartphone or a video conference with a customer can be handled from a laptop or tablet while waiting for a flight. 

Higher productivity and less stress

Studies have shown that getting out of the office can lower stress levels and workations help avoid the dreaded “vacation inbox.” By plugging in for short bursts of productivity, employees remain included in new business opportunities, critical client interactions and projects, rather than spending the first couple of days back at the office playing catch-up. 

However, those who want a more traditional work/life balance dread workations and think they can lead to the following: 

An increase in workload

According to a recent survey by the American Psychological Association, more than one third of employed Americans report feeling that working from vacation increases their workload. The respondents also say workations make it more difficult for them to stop thinking about work during their time away. 

A higher burnout rate

Staying on top of work increases the chance of burnout. Even the most dedicated employee needs to unplug from time to time. If they never have the chance to do so, the next time they leave the office, may be for good. 

Setting a precedent for work/life boundaries

While an employee may not mind sending a short email or taking a quick call when on vacation, they may have concerns about setting a precedent. Concerned employees need to maintain open communication with colleagues and customers to ensure work does not encroach on their vacation time.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, it’s clear that working on vacation is an increasingly common practice in today’s connected world. As we approach the winter holidays, identify which camp you fall into and plan appropriately to ensure you find a balance that lets you enjoy your vacation. 

Sean O’Brien is executive vice president of strategy and communications for PGi, a global leader in collaboration and virtual meetings for more than 20 years. Visit


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