Should I Stay Connected While on Vacation?

Once in Corporate America you are pressed into many responsibilities.  Waking up at a certain time, handling certain projects, creating presentations, and sending emails, to name a few.  But those responsibilities all go to the wayside when you go on vacation, right?  There are a few trains of thought on vacations that we explore:

100% Vacation Mode

If you want to take a true vacation, do it.  A lot of times it is a necessity for you to get your mind completely off what is going on in the office.  Why is this so important?  Being able to take a step back from what you are working on and clear your mind is one of the best ways to regain focus on your everyday work.  You will return from a vacation (hopefully) relaxed and with a clear head.  This will allow you to jump back into your work upon your return and be able to execute at a high level.

The best way to be on 100% Vacation Mode is to completely shut yourself off from what is going on.  In today’s connected society it is challenging to be truly “off the grid,” so you may need to force yourself to be disconnected rather than hoping it happens.  How to accomplish 100% Vacation Mode:

  • Set up your out of office message on your email.  Something like the following works just fine (Note: out of courtesy, always give your manager a head’s up you’re putting them on your out of office): 


I am out of the office and will not have access to my email.  I will reply to your message upon my return.  If anything is urgent, please reach out to my manager, [Manager’s Name], via email [Email Address].  

Best, [Your Name] 

  • Tell your manager you are not going to be reachable.  This is incredibly important if you truly want to be off the grid.  There is the perception, especially amongst young employees, that you need to make yourself available.  I have had that perception leading up to a vacation, but was actually thinking: “I really hope no one contacts me from work because I don’t want to think about it on my trip.”  If you have the same mindset, don’t make yourself available.  Once you do, you are giving others permission to interrupt your vacation which will not make it relaxing
  • Leave your work computer at home.  Leave your computer at home if you want to be disconnected
  • While on vacation, turn off your notifications on your phone.  I’d suggest doing this for all your apps so you can be disconnected from everything and live in the moment.  At the least, though, make sure you turn off notifications for your work email application if you have it on your phone

If you make it clear to your manager that you will be taking a vacation and will be unreachable, you should not be expected to follow up on emails or phone calls.  While it is possible a work emergency may pop up while on vacation, this is a rare case.  You, as a new employee, will likely not be required to figure out the problem.  Your manager can do their best to solve the problem in a timely manner if it is truly an emergency.  Plus, you’re on vacation, act like it.

A 100% Vacation is the CSU recommended way to take a vacation.

Reachable Vacation

If you do not wish to be completely disconnected while on vacation, you can make yourself reachable in certain situations.  Here is how to go about doing this:

  • Set up your out of office message on your email.  This message is a bit different than above, but has the same core function - to let others know there may be a delay in response: 


I am out of the office and will have limited access to my email.  I will reply to your message as soon as I can.  

If you are contacting me about [Project A] or [Assignment B] and require my immediate action, please reach out to me at my emergency phone number: [Phone Number].  Otherwise, contact my manager, [Manager’s Name], via email [Email Address]

Best, [Your Name] 

Setting the expectation of what projects you can be contacted about while on vacation is a good way of filtering through what is important.  You may have an upcoming deadline you just can’t miss, so you want to make sure you are reachable.  That is OK.  As long as you are setting the appropriate boundaries and expectations so you can balance your vacation and your work, you will be all set.  

The word “action” is critical.  You should only be contacted via your emergency phone number if your action is required.  Updates or otherwise can wait until you return

  • Tell your manager what projects or situations they can contact you about.  Just like the email template above, set expectations and boundaries with your manager.  That way they know to contact you only when a specific action on your behalf is required.  Everything else can wait

Fully Connected “Vacation”

I intentionally put “vacation” in quotation marks in this headline.  If you are fully connected, you cannot call it a vacation.  This is not a recommended approach if you are looking for a relaxing trip.  Essentially, you are just working in a different location.  In doing this, you really only need to do one thing (depending on your company culture): let your manager know you will be working remotely for a few days.  So long as you are fully connected and working, it shouldn’t matter where you are.

Going this route is great in some situations.  If, for example, you have a limited number of vacation days and the ability to work remotely on occasion, you can use the Friday after Thanksgiving to work from your parents house 3 states away.

If you are traveling across the world 10 time zones, do not go this route.  Take advantage of the time you have to explore the world and disconnect from work.

My Experience with Vacations

At my company, I have the privilege of having a lot of vacation days throughout the year, so I take advantage of the 100% Vacation Mode mindset.  I do not look at work email or respond to voicemails and it has never caused a problem.  As an employee at the lower levels of my company, I would not expect issues to arise.  Though, I assume, as you get further up in the corporate hierarchy, the expectation of being connected more frequently is present.

I have been fortunate enough to take trips all over the US and the world and my manager has never asked me to be available while I am gone.  It is kind of a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” mindset.  While I am on vacation, my manager can help out and pick up a bit of my slack, and vice versa.  It works out well.

Comparison to Undergrad

As an undergrad, you get built in breaks, like Spring Break and Winter Break.  Typically, you have no assignments over this period and, possibly, no responsibilities.  This is the same as being in 100% Vacation Mode.  You do not need to focus on assignments or sending emails or reading textbooks.  You simply enjoy time with friends and family, let loose and recharge the batteries for your return.  Plus, while on Spring Break, you do not want to study, so why would you bring your textbooks with you to Cancun?  You wouldn’t.  Keep that in mind once you move to Corporate America.

Thought Starters

  • How do you feel about your ability to be completely disconnected during a vacation?
  • What perceptions do you have as a new employee of your ability to be in 100% Vacation Mode?