SURVEY SAYS: Does Your Email Go on Vacation With You?

August 26, 2010 ( - Over the past week or so, as we put to bed another issue of PLANSPONSOR (and PLANADVISER), I’ve had the opportunity to coordinate the production of several sponsored pieces with a number of different providers.  

Now most of those good folks, as it turned out, seemed to be trying to squeeze in some vacation around these “intrusions” (and thank goodness they were willing to make those sacrifices).  But it was hard not be struck by just how much we all seemed to be counting that connection despite vacation – and that led me to ask readers – “the last time you went on vacation, how often did YOU check your email? 

A clear plurality – 49.4% – said they “never” checked their email.  On the other hand, 3.7% said “every time it beeped”, and about 1% admitted to “constantly.”

But, all in all, this week’s respondents seemed to do a pretty good job of keeping their email reviews to a manageable minimum.  The rest of the responses broke out as follows:

24.8% – daily

13.8% – a couple of times

  4.6% – once    

The rest, of course, went with “other” – generally because they checked it on a frequency other than the options presented.

I also asked readers if they felt that these electronic “tethers” made it harder or easier to take time off. 

The most common answer, cited by 32.4% was that being able to bring email had no real impact at all.  On the other hand, more than one-in-five (21.6%) said that it made it possible to take time off that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to, while about half that number (11.8%) said it makes it impossible to take time off. 

Of the remaining respondents, 28.4% said they won’t take email with them on vacation, and 5.9% said they couldn’t.

That said, there were, of course, some interesting verbatim:

When I am gone from the office, I am gone. Only in extreme circumstances do I expect a phone call. I make it clear I won't fault people for doing something as long as they have a rationale for it. One way to learn is to make mistakes and correct them. It's doing absolutely nothing while I am gone that I don't appreciate.

I'll check a couple of times per day but only open e-mails where the subject line starts with the word "URGENT".  This keeps me from getting distracted by the office when I'm supposed to be relaxing AND allows my staff to handle critical items without bothering the CEO.  I've found that they're good about abusing the URGENT status, preferring instead to "handle it themselves".

I refuse to check e-mail on vacation.  It's a VACATION!  That means I'm gone, inaccessible, away, unreachable, and the folks at the office will just have to figure out how to live without me for a day, long weekend, or (gasp!) an entire week.  Funny -- before the advent of this blasted find-me-anywhere technology, we all found a way to get our jobs done without being able to access folks on vacation!

I've actually planed vacations based on how easy it would be to check in at work - the more likely I would be able to check in the less likely I'd end up there on vacation. I even picked my phone based on its ability to NOT get emails..Years ago it was different - life has changed for the better..

I try to practice what I preach. I tell my staff NOT to check e-mail while on vacation. As I've aged, I've come to realize that the work will be there upon return and that if anything urgent arises out of someone trying to reach an "out-of-office" employee, they'll find someone else if it's urgent! People need to rejuvenate themselves with some well deserved R&R as we run 100 miles a minute all the time at work. But, I still checked my e-mail twice while on vacation this summer. However, it was for the sole purpose of keeping up on the barrage of e-mails I constantly receive (no I don't have a blackberry - I don't have a need for it) so I didn't spend 8 hours upon my return trying to identifying and prioritizing e-mails. I made the mistake of responding to one e-mail that was from one of my direct reports due to the nature of the e-mail and I was promptly reminded NOT to check e-mail on my vacation. I should have known better!

I check email many times a day when I am on vacation.  I went to the Amazon Jungle recently with no access to the internet at all - I planned the days over a weekend so I wouldn’t miss much at work - Friday to Monday.

I checked it a couple of times every day, except I checked it more often the first day because of a problem that came up. (Wouldn't you know it that a problem would come up the first day?)

1-2 times per day

Since I'm not a President, EVP, VP nor Manager, it's NOT a vacation if one check's email; therefore, my answer is NEVER!

I usually try to deal with everything I can first thing in the morning, then try not to check again (or at least not "often") until evening.

Every few hours throughout every day.  Sometimes more if something is going on. It's the first thing I do in the morning and usually the last thing before I go to bed.

As the sole HR person is a company of 150, i find it very NECESSARY for my sanity to go on vacation 3 times per year - 1 week each - I NEVER check mail/voice mail while away - there is always a problem and that I have no control over and that's why I am on the much needed, true VACATION; however, on Sunday night when I get home, I do log in - typically have between 500-1000 e-mails - thankfully mostly spam/sales propaganda that I quickly delete - oh, and the critical issues that happened while on my vacation, don't seem so critical when I return - funny how people can work things out for themselves without the babysitter/referee.

"I NEVER check my EMail on vacation. I'm one of the rare persons who even turns off their cell phone.....


What bliss!"

Vacation? What is that?

I can't check my work e-mail from anyplace other than my desk. But I do check my personal e-mail account once or twice a day. A trusted co-worker forwards anything really urgent to that address.

I check once a day (on my I-phone) but not because I have to.  No one at the office expects me to and I don't respond to any e-mails.  However, I like getting rid of the junk mail and just keeping tabs on what is going on.  It makes re-entry a little easier. 

Work - NADA!" 

Just once at dinner each day.


I used to.  Not any more.  They get a lot of free time from me while I'm working,  my vacation is just that my vacation - my break from work - so I can come back refreshed & cover all the work that sat while I was gone.

I didn't check it at all while I was away. In fact - I didn't even take my computer on vacation. However, I had one recovery day where I checked my e-mail.

2-3 times per day so that I didn't have as much to catch up on when I returned to the office

But my favorites were:

I took 2 weeks off and only went in on Sunday afternoon, day before returning to work, to alleviate my email hell...but did not even log in once during my vacation, which was a nice change from what I've done in the past.

I never check my work email.  However, I use my personal email to make my coworkers wish they were on vacation too.  The best ever was the picture of the 180 degree view of the tropical island beach from my bedroom window.  I asked HR to post that one on my office door just to torture everyone!

While our company offers tools to allow you to check your e-mail from home, I have feigned ignorance of how these things work for 5 plus years now so as to avoid being asked to.  I truly believe one must separate work from "life" - the minute I walk out the door I try to think as little as possible about my job so I can focus on the things that make my life, well, a life.

I heard it every time it beeped but waited until I could find a few minutes to look at several messages at once.  I attempted to hide what I was doing from my adult children who constantly complained that I shouldn't be checking messages at all.  Their advice was apparently only for me since they were checking more frequently than I was!

"Personal - couple of times but mainly to share vaca news with friends and delete junk

Never - I was on my honeymoon!

But this week’s Editor’s Choice was the reader who said  "I think email was invented after my last real vacation, so I guess the answer is Never.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!