ST. LOUIS –The benefits of vacation time are well-documented, but American workers are seemingly unwilling to take a break from work. A new survey shows that two-thirds of American workers don’t fully “unplug” from work while away from the office and still wind up checking emails, texts, or logging on to social media when they’re away with loved ones.

According to its annual Family Vacation Survey of 1,501 adults conducted by Alamo Rent-a-Car, just 37% of respondents reported completely unplugging from communications technology while on vacation. That’s significantly down from 2017 when 53% of workers managed to get away without doing any work.

Woman using phone at beach
A new survey shows that two-thirds of American workers don’t fully “unplug” from work while away from the office and still wind up checking emails, texts, or logging on to social media when they’re away with loved ones.

What’s changed? This year, 59% said they put pressure on themselves to read work emails while away with the family, while 57% said they did it to avoid a mountain of work when they return. Half of those surveyed also indicated they feel guilty for leaving a co-worker to take over their duties when they’re gone.

The good news is, most people are encouraged by their colleagues to take time off. Fewer employees (41% in 2018 vs. 49% in 2017) report being “vacation shamed,” or guilt-tripped by their higher ups for taking time off. Similarly, fewer co-workers say they shamed colleagues for going on vacation than last year (27% vs 36%).

Social media also influences workers to check their devices while on vacation. Thirty-seven percent of respondents said they check social media outlets at the same rate or more often than they do at home. Sixteen-percent said they could never completely unplug from social media during a family vacation. Conversely, 23% said they’ve personally seen a family vacation ruined by the constant logging on to a social network.

The desire to unplug is there, however. About 4 in 10 admit they wish they could take a vacation from social media.

“Our research shows that the majority of U.S. families believe the biggest benefit of taking a family vacation is spending time together,” says Rob Connors, vice president of brand marketing for Alamo, in a statement. “But many people aren’t taking full advantage of their relaxation and quality time together on vacation because they’re distracted by work and, more recently, by social media.”

Millennials were most prone to looking at their devices on vacation. The survey showed a third of millennials feel “pressured” to post photos on social media just to show others they’re having a good time. A quarter admit they grow concerned when they don’t get enough “likes” or comments on their vacation photos. Meanwhile, 27% of all adults say they post their photos on social media to show off where they’ve been or things they’ve seen on vacation.

Still, being able to check in on work while taking time off is important to most people. The vast majority — 78% of those surveyed — indicated they felt most comfortable traveling somewhere that gives them the ability to access their work if needed.

“Vacation can provide the quantity of time that quality relationships require,” said Katie Denis, vice president of Project: Time Off, which helps to ensure Americans take full advantage of their vacations. “But if you are vacationing with your job, you’re missing out on the benefits that travel provides.”

The 2018 Family Vacation Survey was conducted from Jan. 2-4, 2018 from adults in all 50 states and Washington, DC. The survey was conducted using the Research Now online consumer panel.

About Ben Renner

Writer, editor, curator, and social media manager based in Denver, Colorado. View my writing at

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