On her recent summer vacation, Rosy Lopez excused herself at a restaurant to use the restroom and went on her phone to check email. She knew her husband would be angry with her for working on vacation. However, after checking email and sending responses, she returned to the table feeling much more relaxed.
“I just can’t say to clients, ‘peace out, see you in couple of weeks,’” says Lopez, owner of Rosy Strategies, a Fort Lauderdale digital marketing firm. “But my husband sees vacation as his time.”
Today, going on vacation requires a lot of planning, negotiation and compromise. With our smartphones tempting us to “check in,” jetting to an exotic location or exploring a state park is much more complicated than it was years ago when we truly took vacations without staying connected.
One of the tricky parts of vacationing today is doing so in a way that is compatible with your travel partner or your family. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting in a lounge chair trying to relax while your spouse is on his or her phone talking to a colleague about a work dilemma. If you’re the one who wants to stay connected while traveling, it can be stressful trying to hide it from a significant other, a friend, or children who find it disruptive to the flow of the vacation.
A survey in June of 1,033 global executives by Korn Ferry Hay Group found 97 percent of executives still connect to work on vacation, and about a third do it multiple times a day. More than half of all the executives said they had a disagreement with their spouse about being too connected to work while on vacation.
Over the years, I’ve been known to give my husband the “glare” when I am see him checking email on his phone while waiting our turn to zip-line or board a river raft. As much as I understand the compulsion, I believe that staying connected too much gets in the way of the purpose of vacation: to renew relationships and return to work rejuvenated.
Getting clear up front with travel companions can eliminate tension. Terry Frank, director of marketing and strategic projects for BBX Capital in Fort Lauderdale, a holding company for businesses that include Hoffman’s Chocolates, planned his family’s summer vacation to combine business and pleasure. Frank, his wife and his 12- and 14-year-old sons drive through a variety of states, from ballpark to ballpark, to watch baseball games. Along the way, he has set up business meetings, and he also plans stops at local chocolate shops to see what’s new. While his family understands the detours, “they don’t 100 percent appreciate it,” Frank says. “They do, at times, get annoyed, but I have found the best way is to be upfront so they can plan things around it.”
Frank said he also tries to be upfront about his need to stay connected with his office. He tries to check email on his phone when his wife is driving or his kids are sleeping, but if he winds up checking it during a family activity, someone reminds him to pull back: “I get the look from the kids or my wife when I’m doing it too much. My wife will say, ‘Put the phone down and have fun.’ I appreciate that. Last year, my son took my phone and hid it. That’s when I know I’ve crossed the line.”
Getting comfortable with each other’s responsibilities helps, too. When vacation partners have different careers and job demands, it can be more difficult to understand why someone doesn’t feel comfortable with off-the-grid downtime. For example, Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters, an Atlanta-based corporate training and management consulting company, says her husband is a doctor who doesn’t need to stay connected to his urgent care clinic while on vacation. As a business owner, she does. On a recent vacation to Destin, Brownlee was about to answer her phone while at the beach. Her husband encouraged her to ignore the call. Doing so wound up costing her a new client. Brownlee used the example to show her husband how their career demands differ: “Sometimes, just taking a quick call can seem disrespectful, but that’s why it’s important to have a conversation beforehand.”
Understand you might need to make tradeoffs. “If you want to participate on a conference call, you might need to miss an activity,” Brownlee says. One friend says the other ruined her European vacation when she was constantly searching for a café with WiFi rather than perusing museums: “She would get mad if I tried to go without her.” Had she made tradeoffs, some of the hard feelings could have been minimized.
Schedule vacation work hours. Fort Lauderdale family attorney Claudia Jo Willis, who vacations in Wyoming, says she sets time aside every morning to check email and go over matters with her paralegal, who handles all correspondence with clients. Her husband, now retired, uses the time for coffee and crossword puzzles. By mid-morning, she is ready to hike or ride horses and leave work behind.
No one wants to feel so buried in email that they wish they had stayed home. But planning ahead, discussing your plan and sticking to it can make all the difference in staying attentive to work without ruining your vacation for yourself and others.
Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman writes on work/life and workplace topics. Connect with her at BalanceGal@gmail.com, @balancegal or visit worklifebalancingact.com.