The Ultimate Guide to Vacations for Web Workers

Sure, sitting on the beach and sipping an umbrella drink doesn’t sound like the kind of task that requires an instruction manual, but without an office and with 24/7 internet connections, it’s hard for web workers know when work ends and vacation begins.

How can you switch off without appearing to slack off? How do you set boundaries without annoying colleagues (or your kids)? And most importantly how do you overcome your own impulse to check your email just one more time? These questions can be tricky, as blog Personal Dividends recently reported when outlining the downsides of web work:

I can shift some of my assignments around, but I rarely go a day without doing something related to my business. The only exceptions are Sundays and my yearly three-day camping trip. Usually, even when I’m away from home, I’m on the laptop for at least two hours day. Sometimes that means getting up way before everyone else so that I can get my stuff done before the activities of the day.

If you’ve been working remotely for a while you’re probably already aware of the trouble with vacations, so how can you minimize the guilt and stress and maximize the relaxation of your holiday? Here is a roundup of the best tips from around the Internet:

  • The obvious: inform clients or co-workers, choose your dates wisely, work ahead and prepare set email responses you can use with minimal effort while away.
  • Save the money and time necessary. You save up for a new car and block out enough time for a big job. Isn’t a vacation also worth dedicating resources to? Treat your break like a client and add your holiday to your calendar. Save money and sequester it for the purpose of taking a vacation.
  • Keep “remote guilt” in perspective. It’s well-documented that remote workers are often paranoid that they are perceived as lazy and work more hours to compensate. Vacations can be extra stressful because of this worry. There’s no magic cure, but knowing that you’re not at all alone in feeling that guilt can help.
  • Imagine your family’s perspective. If you need help finding the right balance between work and play, it might help imagining what you look like to your kids tapping away on your laptop in your Bermuda shorts. You tell yourself about the economic complexities and that you prefer interesting work to a bad detective novel, but can you really justify your decisions to your loved ones? If you’re not sure, maybe you need to re-balance.
  • Have a plan to deal with backlog on your return. No matter how well you’ve planned in advance, you will face a mountain of emails and to-do list items when you come home. Mentally brace for it and come up with a strategy to dig out. There are plenty of resources to help.
  • Don’t force yourself. Burn-out is a terrible thing, says conventional wisdom, which argues that no vacations equals physical and creative exhaustion. That’s true for many, but for some people blurring the line between life and work is the whole point of the web worker lifestyle. As Gerald M. Weinberg puts it, “By my definition, a vacation is an escape from work you don’t want to do. According to my definition, I’ve been on a real vacation for a long, long time.” If you’re like Weinberg, why waste valuable mental energy fretting about how much time you take off?

Do you struggle take and enjoy vacations as a web worker?

Image courtesy Flickr user uros velickovic.