SURVEY SAYS: Are You Expected to Work While on Vacation?

July 14, 2011 ( - We recently covered a survey that said that roughly one in eight (13%) employees (excluding those self employed) who have taken/plan to take a vacation this summer say they are expected to work while away.  

That survey notwithstanding (see TwoThirds of Employees Can Fully Check Out on Vacation), this week I asked readers if they were EXPECTED to work while on vacation? 

First off, the vast majority – and we’re talking 85.1% – of this week’s respondents said that they were NOT expected to work while they were on vacation, at least not by their boss.

Well, if their boss wasn’t demanding that kind of sacrifice, I wondered (and asked), if readers found that people generally pretty much assumed that they would work while on vacation. 


Here, the plurality was also favorable; 38.6% responded “no”, though more than a quarter (28.1%) said “yes”, and the remaining third said “some do, some don’t.”

So then I thought – well, if your boss doesn’t expect it, and other people don’t really seem to act as though you will – did readers find that they tended to work on vacation irrespective of those expectations?

Here again, a remarkably robust 38.9% said…. 




However, a nearly equal 36.3% admitted that they worked on vacation “some times”.

That was twice the number (18.6%) who flat out admitted that they worked while on vacation, and well ahead of the 6.2% who said they worked on vacation “most times.”

There was, as you might expect, a bit of “passion” in the verbatim responses this week:


Unless you're out of the country without international coverage, it's hard to NEVER check e-mail on your phone.  But I will say the best vacation I've ever taken is when I was out of the country, without international coverage...

In my humble opinion, "working on vacation" is an oxymoron. The whole point of vacation is to take a break from work; to recharge your batteries so you can return to work rested and refreshed. Doing work on vacation defeats the purpose.

We wonder why people are so burnt out and short-sighted when they can't even bear to be away from their CrackBerry's and laptops for some time AWAY from work and with family. It frustrates me to no end to see and hear how many people can't put it down and step away. Half of it is them being afraid that work will not survive with you gone (trust me, it will) and the other half is putting their full self-worth in their career. I am happy to report that you can be successful without that mindset.

I need time away from regulations, phones and participants and beneficiaries.  I need to refresh the mind.

I ONLY respond to e-mail messages that have a Subject line which begins with "URGENT".  I've trained my staff to this protocol, and for most vacations I only need to respond to a single e-mail.

I tend to work on the weekend when I get back from vacation to avoid coming into a huge mess.  Email is not as great an invention as we all think. Technology is making it more difficult not to work while on vacation.  What did we do before laptops, internet and cell phones?

For my own sanity, I will normally review emails from home the day before returning after a lengthy vacation.  But the company does not require it.


Expected may be too strong a word.  No one at my company is going to get in trouble for being on a hike of the Appalachian Trail and not being able to log in, for example.  A better way of describing it would be that my boss anticipates that I'll be doing some work-related activities during my vacation, and he'll probably be right.

It's not a vacation unless you can disconnect from work!

Whoever invented the Blackberry should be put in prison for life!

I work for a small company so it is nearly impossible to "get away from it all".  I don't really mind it but it would still be nice if the CEO & CFO actually appreciated my efforts.

I think more people put on the notation that they have to work on vacation and it isn't really the expectation.  The more they feel they have to work on vacation it becomes the expectation.  STOP WORKING ON VACATION, BREAK THE CYCLE!!!

Vacation is a time to relax and get re-energized.  That's tough to do if you have to think about work.  But that comes with the territory of being a professional.

I do work from home on holidays or vacation when something must be done and delaying it until my return will hurt me or an employee with a benefit crisis.  Otherwise I'm fortunate that I'm not expected or demanded to be available during my off-time as many other departments are in this company.


Our President is one of those rare individuals who believes no employees, even management, should be expected to work while on vacation or off hours.  He has banned company sponsored smart phones, but most employees use their own.  It is odd that despite the strong tone at the top, most other top and mid-management employees want to go around this structure and find ways to work while on personal time.

Vacation must provide the break with reality that your system needs to continue functioning. It's like turning off the lights in your car when you shut it off. If you don't, the battery will run dry and no work will get done.  That being said, I always check email and voice mail on the day before I'm expected back in the office so that I'm not swamped.

What's the point of taking a vacation if you work while you're on vacation? I don't get it. Just stay in the office!

I make it clear it is VACATION and don't leave the door open to be expected to work

Luckily I am not expected to work on vacation and it is not normally allowed.  I leave my employer issued laptop home and since they do not give me a cell phone, I do no work unless someone calls me on my home cell.  The people I audit do have my home cell, but, most know I am on vacation so only emergency calls allowed.  Than again, other than two funerals last year, I was not able to take a vacation and this year surgery recuperation may be my vacation until December when I will be taking a 4 night cruise.  I will be unavailable for all during that time.


I check my e-mail just to keep informed of what is going on and delete junk e-mail.  It makes re-entry a little smoother.  I try really, really hard not to respond to any e-mails. It's not expected so the temptation is all my own.

It is refreshing that we treat vacation, personal and sick days as time away from work.  There is no expectation to work and no contact from the office.  Having previously worked for an employer that knew no boundaries on the work day, I am fortunate to now work for an employer who encourages rest and recharge time to be exactly that.

I view a vacation as time away from the office, not work.

More a "comes with the territory" than an expectation.  Once you're issued that company tether (i.e., Blackberry) all bets are off!

I try not to work on vacation, but I don't like to come back to 100s of e-mail messages, so I will check e-mail, voice mail, and perform online banking transactions for cash management.

My boss does not work on vacation, never checks in; but someone my magic wand must work so things are done.  Maybe she has the right idea!  I'll check emails but on my schedule.  Helps me sleep the night before my return.


I have the most wonderful boss who feels that vacation should be a total absence and I love him for it!  When I come back after 2 weeks away, I am curious to see what's happened in my absence and excited to get back into it.

This year, my vacation overlapped the only meeting time I could find for project team members, so I had to either delay the project for three weeks or work during my vacation.

I have no problem checking in once or twice a day if it keeps projects and initiatives moving.

Last year, I was on my personal cell phone for an entire day while traveling.  Which seems to not be that unusual.  It has happened the last several years.  Fortunately, my supervisor called me and told me he was indicating on payroll that it was a full workday.

I am a true believer that when I leave work, I leave work.  For years I have fought the pressure to sync my phone to my work e-mail or to access the network from home.  Life is too short to spend all my time worried about someone's retirement plan.  I've been working in this industry for 9 years, and I have yet to experience a true pension emergency, so I don't see this philosophy changing anytime soon (especially now that I'm expecting my first child).

It is not expected at all around here, but some people feel like they need to so they won't fall so behind that they drown upon their return.

"A resolution I made to myself this year is not to take my work laptop (necessary for me to access the office network) with me on vacation. Haven't had a vacation yet to test myself. Normally I take my laptop home each night as part of our disaster recovery procedure. Next vacation, I plan to take it home with me, lock it in my desk there and give my wife the key.


I don't think that anyone should expect that anyone will work on their vacation. Reality is that some people do and that has led to the expectation that more people will. The whole point of vacation is to get away from work."

It's my own feeling of being overwhelmed all the time that tempts me to work some while on vacation. There's just so much to do. Like everyone, we're running lean and mean so we're short staffed.

I'm so lucky to work for a company where everyone picks up the slack for everyone else so each individual can take a week off (or sometimes two) and really relax!  Thank you colleagues; and thank you executives!!

Best way to avoid working on vacation is get away from cell service and electricity - head for the mountains! No phone, no laptop, FREEDOM!

By "work" I mean I weed through my email so that those who ignore my autoreply that I'm out of the office will not feel as though they're being ignored.  Kind of ironic, huh?  I work to not ignore those who ignore me.  Secondarily, it makes the first day back IN the office slightly more sane.

Vacation.....what's that?!!!

Don't do it. Just enjoy your vacation and forget all about work.

"In my ""old"" job (same employer, different role), while you were not EXPECTED to work on vacation, in practice it always happened.  It took each of us, on average, three days to prep someone to be our backup while we were out.  Since we didn't have the three days free as our regular jobs were 10 hour a day jobs, you ended up with half a back up while you continued to check e-mail and resolve issues.  So it was a vacation from a 60 hour week, but it was still a 30 hour week.


Thank goodness for my new role in that I do get to take vacation when I need it, and all I do is check e-mail to clean out the box."

I try and schedule a vacation at least every few years that is completely out of cell coverage and I don't admit to internet connection.

I am fortunate to have a boss and an organization who believes that vacations are to relax and recharge.  They actually frown upon checking in while on vacation!  And my team is awesome - we all cover for each other so no one comes back to an ugly mess.  No wonder I'm still here after 13 years!

We have a required 5 days away with no access to the network, however we can still read emails on our Blackberries, So even though we cannot access our network we read emails and can be alerted if there is something that we need to take care of or have someone back in the office handle.

I only worry about the critical things that come up if I will be gone for more than a couple of days. I'm not expected to work a great deal, but as a department head, there are some things only I can do and they can't always wait.

We evidently have forgotten what a vacation is, it is time AWAY from work to refresh the mental thoughts and prepare us for the work ahead.

Where I work, it's not really expected.  Nonetheless, many do.  When I'm not going away, I always tell myself I'm going to do something, and so usually, on the Sunday before I return, I'm kicking myself for doing nothing (but not too hard...).  Case in point: last week.  I MEANT to, but never quite got around to checking email (or finishing that report, or cutting the grass, or cleaning up, or...)  I read a few books, though... 

It's not expected, but if I don't keep up with email, it will take too long to catch up, when I'm back in the office.

Work involves being available and checking in regularly to support the staff if any critical issues arise which must be handled before I return.

Being a 401(k) consultant, I never work on vacation--there's no such thing as an emergency in a pension plan--if you don't retire today, you can retire tomorrow.  No one will die because I took a week off.

I'm not high enough on the food chain to give up my time for work.  I don't even have a company issued Blackberry.

I'm not married, have no kids/pets, live in a condo and work is my extended family. Thus, I usually defer to other "conventional" employees' vacation schedules and get bargains on off-season excursions. So, when I'm gone it's see ya, hasta la vista, sayonara, au revoir, aloha and good nite.

Part of the reason that I moved to this position was the ability to go away and know that my clients would be taken care of while I was away.    Aaaaaah!   It IS wonderful.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who noted, “I've found that people only expect you to work on vacation if you've given them reason to expect you to work on vacation.  If you set limits upfront and state that you will be unreachable, they'll respect your time.  So even if you DO work on vacation, for heaven's sake don't let anybody know you are!