Travel Debates is a series in which our editors weigh in on the most contentious issues that arise in-transit, like whether you should ever switch seats on a plane or if you should check your work email while on vacation.
Traveling for work as often as they do, it’s unsurprising that our editors hold strong opinions about whether or not to check their emails when actually on vacation. The truth is, though, that one’s inbox looms large no matter your line of work nor how far you’ve strayed from your desk. It’s on your phone, you don’t necessarily need Wifi to access it, and the line between work and play blurs easily with the rise of remote work. What’s the difference, one might ask, between logging in on your couch at home and taking a peek from your hotel room? And, ultimately, is checking the only way to quell that creeping suspicion that a fire only you can put out has erupted in the office? Is ignorance truly bliss? Our editors weigh in.
Check-in to unwind
“Does anyone really go a whole vacation without opening their inbox? And how? Is a gaping black hole of the unknown—in the place of where your inbox once was—really giving you inner peace while you attempt to enjoy laying on a beach? I don’t believe it! I resist replying, but doing a daily scroll to make sure nothing is on fire helps appease anxiety before leaving the hotel in the morning.”—Alex Erdekian, travel bookings editor
“The universal compulsion to ‘check’ is at near-OCD status amongst the smart phone generation. Check Instagram. Check Facebook. Check headlines. Check email, both personal and work. All. The. Time. I bet most of you won’t even make it through this whole debate without clicking back to at least one other app on your phone first (right?). It’s just how we’re wired. When we don’t check, we get a very 21st-century version of anxiety that causes stress. Checking relieves that stress. So whether I’m in Puebla or Rome happily enjoying getting paid while technically off the clock, I check in on my work email constantly to get a handle on things back at work, and carry on sipping my margarita. But respond? Well, unless it’s something that’s non-negotiably urgent and that only I can handle (which is the case almost zero percent of the time), my ‘out of office’ has done that for me. I’m on vacation, after all.” —Erin Florio, executive editor
I’ll respond when I get back
“I draw a hard line on checking email on vacation (or anytime outside my set working hours, thank you very much). I need boundaries between my work and personal life, which already blur as a travel editor, and I want to allow myself to fully experience the place I’m in or the trip I’m on without being dragged back to responsibilities at home. It also feels like an important standard to set—if all of us are unreachable while on vacation, people will start respecting OOO’s a little more, right?” —Megan Spurrell, senior editor
“Is anyone writing in favor of checking their emails on vacation? I sincerely hope not, mainly because of this story I wrote about how crucial detachment from work is to relaxation. It details how a material rise in heart disease in recent years has been linked to long working hours, and how remote work has only made the average work week longer. Not to mention, you’re doing your coworkers (and yourself) a favor by taking a true break and setting boundaries so you can come back well rested, and better at your job for it.” —Shannon McMahon, editor