Mallory Welsh, LCSW

I work with many clients who are struggling with their work life balance, especially when they are looking forward to an upcoming vacation. My job as their clinical therapist is to help the clients understand the possible reasons why they are struggling to create this balance in their life, and also possible coping strategies to implement more work life balance.

I recently read an article that touched on this very topic from Fast Company, “If you’re going to work on vacation, here’s how you should do it” by author Stephanie Vozza. Vozza describes strategies for individuals who are choosing to work while on vacation in addition to important questions to ask yourself regarding why you are choosing to work while on vacation.

Below are some key points from Vozza’s article.

  • Expected to work while on vacation? A study from Glassdoor identified that 66% of Americans work while they are on vacation. Also, 53% of Americans are expected to respond to messages while on vacation according to staffing firm Randstad US. Dana Greenberg, professor of organizational behavior at Babson College discusses how each job is different, and there are different expectations for work life balance, so there is not one simple answer on how to manage work life balance while on vacation.
  • Why are you choosing to work on vacation? Greenberg encourages individuals to ask themselves three important questions if they do choose to work while on vacation:
    Am I working because I don’t trust my colleagues to do a sufficient job while I am out? If the answer is yes, then you could be micromanaging your team which is a red flag. If so, then you need to think of alternative ways to manage your team.
    Am I working on vacation because my boss isn’t giving me space to separate from work? If the answer is yes, you should reconsider how to negotiate your expectations and availability to get your work done. There can be incredible negative impacts if your job is requiring you to be available 24/7 which is an extremely unrealistic expectation.
    Is working on vacation distracting me from enjoying the present moment with my friends and family while on vacation? If the answer is yes, the individual should shift the amount of work they are doing while on vacation. Vacations are very necessary for individuals to recharge and reset so that when they return to work, they can work more effectively.
  • What kind of work should you do while on vacation? Michael O’Brien, chief officer at Peloton Coaching and Consulting encourages people to avoid work tasks that are not urgent, as that could bring you down a rabbit hole of numerous hours of work. O’Brien also discussed the importance of setting boundaries prior to your vacation. For example, let your coworkers know that you’ll check your emails each morning from 8-10am. If there is an emergency, they can contact you outside of those hours, but again, only if it is an emergency. Vacation is still work, just a different kind of work. While on vacation, you can allow your mind to wander, which then can help you think of more creative ideas for when you return to work.
  • What kind of work shouldn’t you do on vacation? O’Brien encourages individuals to avoid email, instant messenger, or Slack. The last thing you want to do is an open an email that throws off the rest of your vacation from relaxing. It might even be helpful to talk with your manager prior to the trip to be clear about your expectations while you are on your trip. It is important to remember that vacation days are given to be used, and more importantly, at the end of the day, vacation is crucial for your mental health if nothing else!

If you are currently struggling with a lack of work life balance, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment. Symmetry Counseling also offers professional development workshops on mental health in the work place.