Man sitting on beach using laptop and cell phone

More than one-third of employees check in with the office during vacation, according to a recent survey. (TravnikovStudio/Shutterstock)

Canada | Trends

Tech detox: Why we don’t disconnect from the office on vacation

Unplugging can be challenging, but doing so means you’ll be more productive when you’re back, say experts

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Sitting on the beach listening to the crashing waves while your phone pings away isn’t really the ultimate holiday. And yet, a recent survey by Accountemps found that more than one-third of employees check in with the office during vacation. In addition, a 2016 Expedia survey reported that 36 per cent of respondents post to social media while on a leisure break, some even stating the need to capture their vacation on social channels so it “validates the experience.”

But staying connected, especially to the office, can increase stress. Employees often cite the fear of falling behind or missing an important conversation as reasons to remain plugged in to the office while vacationing, according to Michael French, regional manager for Accountemps. Workers check in to ensure their projects move ahead as scheduled or to stay on top of daily items to avoid returning to a pile of work.

“Regardless, employees need to recognize how important it is to unplug and rest fully so that they can return better rested and more productive,” he says.

Millennials, who have grown up in a connected world, struggle with this phenomenon even more. Nearly half reported checking in with the office while vacationing, compared to those 55 and older who successfully disconnect. “Older workers began their careers in a time when email accessibility via phones didn’t exist,” says French. “There was no choice but to completely disconnect while away.”

True rest cannot be undervalued, says Christina Crook, author of The Joy of Missing Out, who took a self-imposed technology detox to see what she could learn about herself and relationships. “It’s already hard to unwind, even before we throw smartphones into the mix,” she says. “But now we’re bringing this little stress piece with us [on] our holiday. It doesn’t make sense, but we don’t really think about it.”

Crook recommends setting parameters to help unplug as realistically as possible before leaving for vacation. That can mean different things for different people, such as leaving your phone in your hotel room or turning off your data and setting a specific time to check your phone.

The reality is the technology we use every day is designed in a way that meets our emotional needs on a very surface level and it feels really good,” she says. “The challenge for unplugging is really understanding the true value of it…finding a deeper happiness and joy available to us if we give ourselves space to do so.”

In a nutshell, the importance of disconnecting should not be overlooked. “We need to be able to step away from our work to recharge and avoid burnout or dissatisfaction,” says French. “Overworked employees are exhausted, less productive and result in higher turnover. Promoting wellness, balance and truly taking advantage of vacation time for workers is good for them, and good for business.”


Inspired to go on vacation? Our smart cash-saving tips will help you get to your dream destination sooner. And once you get packing, make sure to take along one of these top business reads to help you relax and get inspired.