Work from vacation?
August 28, 2009 8:13 AM   Subscribe

For people who work-from-home, have you ever tried to work-from-vacation? Was it worth it? Any pitfalls or tips/tricks? Any particularly apt destinations?
posted by smackfu to Travel & Transportation (21 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Don't try it if you're married.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2009

i have done it, and it defeats the purpose of "vacation" as it just stresses you out and pisses you off. and all i did was check and respond to email!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 8:24 AM on August 28, 2009

Isn't a vacation suppose to be your time off from work? If you cannot afford to leave work then don't go on a vacation. Schedule it for a time when you can honestly say screw work for a week it's time for me to unwind.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:25 AM on August 28, 2009

Don't take your work on vacation....

OK, that said, you need to set forth the expectations for yourself and your employer, before you depart. If you plan to be in touch via e-mail/internet, how fast, reliable, and much is the networking options where you will be staying? If you're going to call back to the office internationally, how much does that cost? I would hit up your employer with a reimbursable for all work-related costs required for you to work on vacation. It's more like a business trip than a vacation in that sense.

Also, you need to set expectations for when you will work. Telling you employer that you will only be working between 7-10am or 8-11pm will not only let them know when they can reach you, but allows you to plan around that schedule to do other vacationy things. I would also record these hours, and make sure that you don't give these up as vacation time. It'll also give you a clue of how much you can do - 3 hrs. a day for 5 days is almost two full days that's work hours - not vacation. You can do no more then that much worth of work.

Lastly, this is YOUR vacation. Plan your work around your vacation, not the other way around. There will be plenty of work when you return from your time off.
posted by spoons at 8:31 AM on August 28, 2009

Just to clarify a bit, I mean working from a vacation spot, but not using vacation time. Just moving my "home" for a week or two.
posted by smackfu at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2009

I did it- I had a job that I could do anywhere, so during one of the slower months, I moved myself and my laptop down to FL. Worked out just fine when the internet was working.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

It depends what you're aiming to get out of the different spot.
-A friend of mine goes home to Australia for three months a year and works remotely from there - she just does regular hours and has evenings and weekends to do stuff and socialise, as usual.
-Another guy at work had to be in New York for two consecutive weekends, and didn't want to do the flight twice (we live in Seattle). He worked remotely during the week and said it was fine, he got tons done (I think he was staying in a hotel).
-I tried to do the same thing from Washington DC (there for two weekends, work during the week) and it totally didn't work, partly because I had intended to work 'part time' and hadn't made a proper schedule/aims, and partly because I was staying with my brother and his kids and kids are more distracting than I'd realised.
posted by jacalata at 8:42 AM on August 28, 2009

I haven't, but my coworkers do (we're all virtual). Best trick seems to be trying as best as possible to stay in the same timezone.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 8:43 AM on August 28, 2009

People live in vacation spots and manage to work. I think the relevant issue is your mindset. If you are going with the intent of not spending a lot of time on the work side of things, it will be different. If you are going with a clear set of parameters and you stick to them, no issues.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:48 AM on August 28, 2009

I've done this several times including last week when I was in New York and my work was in LA. The biggest pitfall for me was the time difference- there were really only a few hours I was available by phone when it was a reasonable hour for both of us so this lead to me stepping out of a few dinners to take lengthy phone calls and keeping a notebook in my purse so I could take notes on what I should do next when I finally got back to my room.

As for location, I'd say that matters less than the expectations of the people you're around. While New York had all of the resources I could possibly want, it wasn't really the best environment to work from because I used to live there and since I was on "vacation" a lot of my friends wanted to go out. That's what gets stressful- not the work, but conflicting expectations. I find it easiest to work from beachy vacation spots where I don't know many people and I'm likely to get bored anyway. And adding to what JohnnyGunn said, I like to think of it as living like a local- I'll skip the tourist attractions during the day and go out at night.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 8:56 AM on August 28, 2009

Oddly enough, I am working-from-vacation right now. It works well if you normally work from home and arn't using your vacation time (cause that would suck). I work for a pretty flexible company so I don't even bother letting my boss know when I'm going on vacation- it makes no difference to him. I try to take advantage of free wifi at starbucks/panera/mcdonalds. The most annoying part is being tied to your work during the day. My girlfriend is out on the beach right now while I'm stuck inside working (and metafiltering).
posted by adirondack at 8:57 AM on August 28, 2009

I have two extremely different jobs-- one for a nfp arts org that I do remotely, and one teaching job that requires ongoing education out of town. I don't like to use vacation time for the educational events, so I just work remotely from wherever those are taking place. Sometimes I don't even tell my boss, since she's used to not seeing me for days at a time, and I tend to send work at weird hours anyway. I see no reason why this wouldn't also work for a real vacation, and you have now given me an excellent way to increase my vacation time without anyone knowing.

unless of course, my boss is on MeFi and just read this whoops
posted by nax at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2009

smackfu, I know exactly what you mean. While I agree with the many commenters that you need a full break sometimes where you DON'T WORK AT ALL, an extended working vacation can be great. Yes, you're still working all day, but when you get off work you're not going back to the same old place and stuck in your at-home routine but a change of scenery.

The ability to work remotely for me means that I can go anywhere I want without taking vacation time. Normally I work from home. I've also worked from hotel rooms, and spent about 8 months going back and forth between my home in Florida and Washington State - this allowed my now-wife and I to get together in the first place. A week off work is about all I can manage without coming back to catch-up chaos. By working remotely, I could take a multi-week vacation anywhere in the world, and as long as I can manage the time difference noone would notice at all.

On to the practical advice:

Hotels' advertisement of Internet access can mean a great deal of different things. For one, it meant there were telephone jacks for dialup in the room. For a few others, it was access only in the lobby or clubhouse. Some only offer in-room access to certain floors or areas. Even if you're guaranteed in-room access, find out whether it's wired or wireless. I generally call a few days before check-in to confirm this and note in my reservation that I must be in a room that provides this service. I also travel with a wireless access point just in case, and this has helped me numerous times.

Expansion cards that work over the cell network are also very handy for traveling, or even at home when your primary access goes out. The first place where I was staying in WA was way in the boonies and was someone else's house, so I couldn't get regular broadband service there. I bought a Sprint EVDO card with an access point that it could plug into, turning it into a wi-fi network so that all my wireless devices could use it at once. The second place I stayed was temporary (6-month lease), so rather than order cable I just continued to use the card.
posted by tkolstee at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2009

I have done this, particularly last year when my daughter was diagnosed with cancer just 2 months after I returned from maternity leave. I wanted our family to have some time away, especially with the out-of-state grandparents (we knew the diagnosis was terminal), but I didn't want to take advantage of my office by taking a 2-week vacation so soon after leave. In that scenario, I say a working vacation is a GREAT solution. I was even able to leave my return date open, with the caveat that if a client meeting required my attendance I would make any necessary arrangements to be there.

However, I set limits on a fluctuating basis. I worked all day, 8 hours or more, when the company needs demanded it. When I could just check email frequently, call in to colleagues to touch base and be out most of the day, I did that. Each morning, I identified by email my work-related priorities for the day and requested comment. Once I ensured that all needs were met, I identified my "schedule" for that day. I took a couple of days where I actually was "Off" all day, but even then I checked voicemail and email. My beloved Blackberry was always by my side. I know some people dismiss "Crackberries," but without it, my family would not have been able to do this.

I just made sure to have a reliable phone connection, email connection and printer. Based on the nature of my work (and I work from home anyway), I don't need more. A nearby Kinko's would have been helpful, but not necessary.
posted by bunnycup at 9:40 AM on August 28, 2009

I've done this, mainly while visiting relatives, but once in a more vacation-ey destination, as well.

The thing about it is that it tends to make the people around you cranky. They want to do things with you, but you have to work. And that tends to make you cranky, too, since you'd rather be snorkeling than filling in the cover for your TPS reports.

Working in a vacation spot might be marginally better than working at home, but it's got nothing on being in vacation in a vacation spot.

I think it would be different if it were a longer term thing -- going somewhere for a couple of months -- where working became part of the routine and you had plenty of free evenings and weekends to enjoy the location. But if you're only going for a vacation-sized length of time, it's kind of depressing.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:09 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't see any problems. I work in a regional office for a small firm, and nobody expects me to show up at head office for meetings. I just call in. A lot of my work is client-centric and involves business development, and so I have traveled a lot in the past to form those connections. I also came into this job with a pre-existing network, so it's pretty easy for me to just work at my office on projects. I have a blackberry and a laptop, and I hate to use my printer, so I can work just about anywhere. I work on projects with a number of clients in remote locations, too - it's all virtual teams.

In my old days as a translator (on big, complex projects), the agency and the project management was in Tokyo, I was on the West Coast, and other team members were in other parts of the world. All I needed was an internet connection and a telephone.

Once again, I could have worked in a coffee shop, but it's not a very comfortable environment.

I think what's most important is that you are results-oriented and can work independently.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:39 AM on August 28, 2009

Yes, we've done this many times. (I say "we" because Mr. Adams and I work together.) We're lucky in that our hours are very flexible, and we can put them in whenever works best for us, which means if I'm usually up to full speed from 10PM to 5AM, that's when I get my work done. When we went to Universal Orlando a year ago (my first-ever visit to Florida!), we went to the "island" in the morning and stayed until around noon when the sun got too hot for either of us. Went back to the hotel room and worked, with the vacation bonus of when lunch time rolled around, I didn't have to cook and we didn't have to drive anywhere; we had a number of wonderful restaurants to choose from right in the hotel. We'd head either to the beach or back to the island around 6PM, when it was still daylight and very warm, but the sun was no longer a threat. Possible drawback for some (not for us, as we didn't care) is that Mr. Adams was paranoid about leaving our laptops in the room when we weren't there, so we left a Do Not Disturb up at all times and just had Housekeeping drop off fresh towels once per day, never had them "make up" our room.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:53 AM on August 28, 2009

I'm self-employed and do this increasingly often. The main challenge has been inflated promises of internet connectivity. On a recent trip, 3 of the 4 (cheap) European hotels that claimed to have internet in the room didn't. In the US, even the overpriced business hotels will sometimes say they have wireless in the room but actually don't. If they've promised that your room will have wireless, check it before you accept the room (I use my iPhone).

Another possible issue is time zones, but they can work for you. For me, it was pretty painless to have a pseudo-vacation in Europe while still working (not full time). My clients know I'm in the US but don't necessarily know which time zone. I decided that meant that I could sight see most of the European day and start checking email around 3 or 4. I'd take care of any pressing issues, then poke around town some more, then finally work for real at night. Unfortunately, since the promised wireless really only worked in the lobby, this often meant hunching over my laptop at a painfully low coffee table in a quaint and slightly moldy lobby with passing guests remarking on how I shouldn't be working so late.
posted by PatoPata at 12:54 PM on August 28, 2009

Any pitfalls?

If your main contact phone number is a landline, and you can't setup a reliable and instant forwarding option, then that is a pitfall. If you're in an area that the activities (diving/skiing/etc) conflict with work schedules, then that is a pitfall. If you need to suddenly travel somewhere, and your rental/reservation is no refund, than that is a pitfall.

Besides that, what else matters as long as you have phone and broadband?
posted by Dave. at 1:52 PM on August 28, 2009

Do it all the time. For me, the deal is being stingy with my vacation hours. If I am driving somewhere, like to a ranch or a beach house, I like to do a lot of work at night in the hotel. I'll do a few calls or webcam meetings from the destination - especially if there is a key meeting scheduled - but try to keep several consecutive days entirely free.

My tip would be to make sure people know you are not in the office - let them know in advance if you have afternoon plans and will not be on a call if it's pushed back, etc. or if your dog is in the room and might bark. Or, if your group would not be cool with that, make sure there are no distractions.

No one in my group works in my office, so I try to be as "present" as possible.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:38 PM on August 28, 2009

Thanks for all the insights!
posted by smackfu at 6:35 AM on March 4, 2010

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