How To Work While On Holiday (Without Going Crazy)

Holidays are supposed to be about getting away from work, but for many of us, that isn’t realistic. While we generally recommend unplugging altogether, here’s how to stay productive (and relaxed) when you just can’t pull away completely.

Images by ollyy (Shutterstock), Moyan Brenn, Morgan, Ben Grey, Valentina R. (Shutterstock), Thomas Le Bas (The Noun Project), and Aleksander1 (Shutterstock)

Last week, I went on holiday and for the first time, did work while I was gone. My brother and sister worked even more. While it did take away from our relaxation time, I found that being able to check in made it easier to relax because I knew everything was going OK back at work. (Lifehacker Australia editor Angus Kidman took more or less the same approach recently.) Here’s what I’ve learned from the experience.

If You Don’t Have to Work, Don’t

That said, we know many of you are going to work on holiday anyway — either because you have to or because you just can’t pull yourself away. If that sounds like you, you should set up a few guidelines to keep yourself sane.

Set Aside Specific Work Times

Apart from that block of work time, I recommend leaving your laptop in your bag for the other 23 hours every day. Keep that as your “work zone” and disconnect completely during non-work times. Turn off notifications on your phone, set your calls to go directly to voicemail, and let everyone know they can text you if they need you right away (but only for emergencies).

Use That Time For Basic, Stress-Free Tasks


Make Sure Your Internet Doesn’t Fail You

  • Use tethering on your phone or a Wi-Fi hotspot. This won’t help if you’re completely out of signal range, but it will generally be a lot cheaper than paying hotel rates.
  • Bring a power board and a small Wi-Fi router . This won’t make the internet any faster, but it will definitely make it easier to access — especially in hotel rooms that don’t have enough outlets or Wi-Fi (but do offer ethernet access).
  • Set up a secondary browser for slow internet connections. With the right tweaks and add-ons, you can have a secondary browser on your laptop designed for making the best of a slow connection, letting you get your work done faster.
  • Plan your work. If you know you’re going to have slow internet, then perform bandwidth-light tasks at your house/hotel/wherever and group your bandwidth-heavy tasks together for when you have better internet, such as at a cafe (or at the office before you leave).

A little planning can go a long way, so organise your work in a way that makes your holiday as easy and stress-free as possible — remember, the less time you spend working, the more time you have to relax.

In the end, working on holiday requires a lot of the same rules that working in the office does: keep a balance between work and play, draw clear dividing lines between each, and plan your time effectively. The only difference is you’re spending a lot more time playing and a lot less time working. At least, you should be!