There’s No Shame in Working on Vacation

If it’s a choice, a little work can be a joy

Laura Vanderkam
Published in
4 min readAug 21, 2019


Illustration: Fran Caballero

Dear Laura: I keep reading about the importance of disconnecting from the office and taking time off. But the honest truth is that I like to do at least a little work while I’m on vacation. Is this such a bad thing?

Signed, Happy at Work

Dear Happy at Work:

I began writing a response to your question during a week at the beach so, short answer: No, there’s nothing wrong with doing some work while you’re on vacation.

Personally, I’m with you on this one. And I’d even make a broader point: While people often complain that the lines between working and not-working are becoming blurred, there are ways that shift can actually promote work/life balance.

First, the necessary caveats: A lot of productivity literature extols the virtue of completely disconnecting, and there are times when this is appropriate. Anyone feeling close to burnout — which is a pervasive problem — should disconnect from work in order to regain some mental space.

If you’ve never tried disconnecting for a few days, you might also give it a whirl, just to see what it’s like, and to make sure your identity isn’t totally wrapped up in work. Some small business owners feel like they can’t step away, but it behooves them to try it out too — it’s important to have systems in place in case an illness or family emergency forces the issue in the future.

And of course if you employ anyone, you need to respect those people’s vacation days. No emails, no calls, no guilt trips from the boss.

That said, for many of us, work doesn’t feel like laboring in the salt mines. I’m guessing you, Happy at Work, are asking this question because your job involves solving interesting problems with clever co-workers or collaborators. You probably enjoy that, and have a great deal of autonomy over when and where you work.

That means that the difference between being on vacation and not being on vacation isn’t a stark question of whether you go to the office or not. It’s also not a question of whether you’re doing pleasant things or unpleasant things. Work can be a source of great joy.



Laura Vanderkam
Writer for

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management books including Off the Clock and 168 Hours. She blogs at