Working Vacation

Dos And Don’ts To Taking A ‘Working Vacation’


I’ve known about ‘working vacations’ for as long as I can remember. Growing up, my dad owned an engineering firm. Every time we went away, it was a working vacation. However, I realize most people don’t generally take these types of vacations. When they go away, their company and co-workers don’t hear from them until they get back. And they definitely don’t think about, let alone, do any work while their out of the office.

Related: 3 Ways To Network Over Summer Vacation

Yet, this summer, I guarantee more people than ever before, even people who don’t believe in working vacations, will take their first one. I’ve talked to dozens of folks who say the economy has forced them to cut short grand summer plans. “I’m worried how it will look to my boss,” said a woman who just survived a layoff  at her firm.

“I don’t want to risk being out of the loop,” said a guy who claims since the layoffs at his firm this past spring, workers have been more secretive and trying to one-up one another to avoid the chopping block should it occur again. Thus, knowing many of you will be giving the working vacation a go this summer, I thought it might be wise to share with you the professional DOs and DON’Ts to what is known as ‘phoning it in.’

DO… Tell Co-Workers In Advance

Some people make the mistake of keeping their working vacation on the down-low. Bad idea. Hiding it from your co-workers seems deceptive. Not to mention, it leaves them no way of knowing how to cover for you in your absence. Just because you are technically going to be accessible and will be doing some work, you are still going to be out of the office and possibly not available when they really need you.

Who should they go to if they have questions? What is the status of projects you are working on that involve them? Can they call you for non-emergencies? What’s the best way to contact you if they do need you? Just like a regular vacation, you need to make arrangements for the fact you’ll not be physically present.

DO… Clear Meetings And Lighten Your Work Load

A classic rookie mistake is to assume while on vacation you’ll have plenty of freedom and can still attend meetings by phone or provide important work deliverables. It’s vacation! You want to be free of constraints like these. Besides, you may not be in the position to attend.

TRUE STORY: I recently knew a person who agreed to run a meeting with a client while on vacation. He figured he could do it from a local coffee shop that had WI-FI. Not only did he get stuck in vacation traffic and arrived at the coffee shop 10 minutes after the meeting started, the shop was so noisy that his co-worker had to request that he put his phone on mute and was forced to take over the call, even though she wasn’t fully prepared to do so. It was unprofessional and left a less-than-stellar impression on the client AND the co-worker.

DO… Set Specific Times You’ll Call In

My dad was a pro at this. He made it clear he would dial in at 9 AM every morning and that it would be the only time staff would get him ‘live’ during his vacation. They were always organized and ready with questions. Just because you have a cell phone on vacation doesn’t mean you should be picking it up whenever someone from the office calls. It’s better to set up a scheduled time and stick to it. You can even send e-mails the night before to remind them you’ll be calling.

DON’T… Cancel Or Miss Meetings You Agreed To

There’s nothing worse than promising you’ll make yourself available and then either canceling last minute or forgetting all together. And yet, this sort of thing can happen on vacation. The good times are rolling and suddenly you’re caught in a moment when you’d rather be doing anything BUT work. Skipping the call or backing out moments before is rude and will leave a sour taste in your non-vacationing co-workers mouth.

NOTE: This is especially true if you are partying. Don’t take a call if you’ve been throwing them back. Seems obvious, but I can tell you, I’ve been on calls when a co-worker is ‘phoning it in’ buzzed, and no matter how composed you think you are, it does NOT come across as professional.

DON’T… Criticize Co-workers’ Efforts From Afar

Expressing dissatisfaction with a co-worker’s performance from vacation is like rubbing salt in a wound. It’s one thing if you are in the office and can provide valuable feedback face-to-face. But, telling a co-worker in a text message or two-sentence cryptic e-mail from vacation that you weren’t happy with their work and intend to discuss it when you return is pure evil. Wait to give the constructive criticism until you are back in the office and can A) fully explain yourself, and B) allow the person the opportunity to ask questions and get clarity as to how to make it better.

Okay, those are my professional DOs and DON’Ts for taking a working vacation. I’m sure I missed a few. So, I hope my fellow readers will share the ones I missed in the comment section below. But, please know I may not get to reading your thoughts until later in the week. Why? Because I’m on a working vacation right now…

Related Posts

Burned Out? How To Take A Vacation Without Taking A Vacation
Balancing Family And Work: 5 Mini Vacation Ideas
3 Strategies For Good Work-Life Balance


Photo Credit: Shutterstock

J.T. O'Donnell

Job Search & Career Expert. Syndicated Speaker & Author. Wife. Mother. CEO of CAREEREALISM Media. Connect with her on Twitter or LinkedIn.


  1. This article is flawed by it’s very name. This is not a ‘working vacation’ but ‘working outside of the office’. Vacations or holidays are hard earned and should be taken properly for the benefit of both the employee and company. Switch off email and calls only in absolute emergencies! If you were ill what would your colleagues do, call you in the hospital? If so, need serious culture change and new career plan!

  2. Very true Caroline. On a similar note, just like a working vacation the ‘working week-ends” have become quite common, particularly when the client is in another time zone and they require the support. Even though, they are notified of the week ends in the supporting zone, it is tough when the client really needs the support. I have experienced working on at least one of my week ends to support clients in the other time zone for more than 1.5 years.

    Appreciate members thought on this.

  3. Caroline Greenberg

    Working vacations do nothing but keep creativity at bay. It has been proven time and time that when people actually “vacate” from their job, they return refreshed and with better ideas and energy than before not to mention a clear mind that allows them to think sharper and make fewer mistakes. A tired, stressed mind is hardly the way to increase productivity and better results.

    The fact that Americans feel that this is the only way to keep their job is short-sighted. Show me anyone who works while on vacation and I dare say they return to work almost as stressed as when they left. Who loses? Both the worker and the company. Worst of all, if an employee lives in this much fear, their productivity is already at risk.

    • I do have to agree with Caroline that a work vacation may not be the best way to get rest. American s work more than most and should have more vacation like their counterparts in Europe. Then I can see one may take a work vacation, providing that all of their vacations are not working vacations.

  4. My case, thank you for sharing. Although there is no advice about how to relax during that kind of vocation. This time I failed to relax at all.

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