This blog was originally posted by Cait DeBaun, Director of Communications for Project: Time Off on October 11, 2017

Think about your last vacation. Were you tuned into the office? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is probably yes. 

Employees are turning the option to work from anywhere into the practice of working from everywhere. Our latest report, The Tethered Vacation, looks at employee behavior and attitudes around unplugging and as it turns out the out-of-office message may just be a front. 

Here’s what you need to know.


For some people, having the peace of mind that their cubicle isn’t on fire helps them to better enjoy the moment. Project: Time Off’s survey found that 78 percent of employees want to have access to work if they choose to. In practice, most vacationers check-in with work occasionally (46%) while smaller percentages are logging on frequently (27%) or taking the step to entirely unplug (27%). (Yes, you’re doing the math right—only a quarter of Americans leave work behind on vacation.)


Time off isn’t frivolous for employees. Nearly 1 in 5 employees (19%) rank vacation as the top benefit from their employer—second only to health care (36%). Vacation beats out retirement plans (17%), flexibility (15%), and even bonuses (5%). 


Staying tethered to the office while sipping your Mai Tai impacts your overall vacation habits. Sixty-two percent of employees who check in frequently while on vacation leave time off unused, compared to 52 percent of employees who unplug. 

Staying plugged in on vacation isn’t helping these employees either. More than half (51%) of those who check in frequently report stress in their home life, compared to 36 percent who unplug on vacation. At work, where stress levels tend to be high across the board, 76 percent of those who check in frequently report stress, compared to 62 percent of those who unplug.


Here’s a red flag for HR and senior leaders: Two-in-five (40%) employees in cultures that do not support unplugging are looking or planning to look for a new job in the next year; just one-in-five (21%) in supportive cultures say the same. Encouraging employees to decompress translates into increased engagement. Employees in cultures that support unplugging are more likely to feel valued (69% to 50%), cared about (64% to 43%), and that their job is important (73% to 57%).


The added pressure technology has brought to our working lives transcends generation—and Millennials and Gen Xers are more similar than you might assume. While Millennials may be the work martyr generation, it is actually Gen X that is least likely to unplug on vacation (23% compared to 28% of Millennials) and say they feel more comfortable taking time off knowing they can connect to work (82%, compared to 77% of Millennials). While Millennials (32%) slightly edge out Gen X (29%) as the most connected employees—those who check in frequently.

The numbers prove out: staying connected to the office—or pressuring your employees to do so—on vacation isn’t benefiting anyone. It’s time to mean it when we put that out of office up. 

If entirely unplugging isn’t for you, that’s okay. Try to scale back your connectivity on your next day off to the occasional check-in. You may be surprised at how well it works out.