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Work, Vacations, and Your Significant Other

Do you regularly work late? Do you take business calls, reply to texts, and answer emails when on vacation? How does your significant-other feel about you always being connected to your business? Is it causing stress?

There has been a lot written about work-life balance over the years, mostly exhorting the importance of not letting work take over your personal life, but in the real world, if you want to get on, you will have to go above and beyond to be successful. It is good practice to agree on work-life priorities with your significant other long before vacations become part of the story.

For ambitious businesspeople, the question is not whether to work; it’s how to work and minimize the stress it causes for your loved ones. Here are a few tips to help prevent you from choosing between your business and your relationship.

  1. If things are volatile between you and your spouse, sit down with those most affected by your having to work and discuss why you need to work during vacation or family time and what the benefits are to everyone involved. Highlight the financial benefits your business currently brings and the long-term security it could offer. Talk about the sacrifices in relation to the rewards. If you or your spouse decide the sacrifices are too great, you may need to seriously rethink your business life and career.

  2. If your situation is less volatile; perhaps your significant other just rolls their eyes and sighs every time you deal with a business matter when on vacation, then it may be a good idea to set some expectations ahead of time. A few days, or weeks before you leave, mention that you may have to answer calls, texts, or emails from clients. The earlier you have this conversation, the better. If you need to work on a project when away, mention this and devise a way to minimize the impact. Perhaps, in the mornings, you could wake early and do an hour or two of work before everyone else gets up. Or, do an hour or so once everyone has gone to bed. This approach can help defuse what could become a problematic situation.

  3. Another approach is to ask yourself how critical it is that you work during personal time. Would it be feasible to let your clients know you are going away and ask them whether it would be okay to get back to them on your return? It is surprising that most people understand that you need some downtime.

  4. A strategy that can work when you are working on a project with a client is to contact them just before leaving for your break with a bunch of questions or a draft document for them to review. This can buy you some time before you need to become reinvolved.

  5. Delegation can also allow you to minimize interruptions. Anticipate the issues that might arise and brief an employee or sub-contractor so they can deal with them in your absence.

  6. Whatever situation you find yourself in, a good strategy is to plan a way to make it up to the people you are having to ignore while working. Show them that they are still a priority.

Using some or all of these techniques will help you overcome the “working on vacation” syndrome and the downward relationship spiral to which it can lead.

However, before mitigating the adverse effects, your work may have on your family, think carefully about how crucial the work is to your success. Often, we put too much importance and urgency on our work when it could have easily been put off for a few days or weeks.

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