Executive Vitality™: Boundaries on Vacation

Executive Vitality™: Boundaries on VacationHow far should we go to satisfy our boss, customer, peer, or our own ambition? If we take a vacation, should we call the office, get on just one conference call with our team, constantly stay plugged into email…?

Over the years, I have decided this isn’t so black and white, all or nothing. I believe the key is identifying the consequences of any decisions regarding vacation boundaries, having an agreement with those likely impacted by those decisions, and understanding your own motivation.

If, for example, you are “fine” making a business call from your rented cottage on the lake because your spouse is catching some rays on the beach and you didn’t want to, that should be OK as long as you have an agreement about it ahead of time.   If, however, you have promised your partner that you will have “no phone time” and you do otherwise, that breach of personal contract could have negative consequences.

How can you say “no” to your boss or customer if they want a call when you are on vacation? Everyone knows that, unless we are at the bottom of the Grand Canyon or in some other very remote spot, we can likely be reached. So, what is your boundary?

Here are some examples of how to handle these situations:

  1. Remind your boss/customer of the values of your organization.
  2. Provide two or three alternative times for the conversation.
  3. Find out the consequences, if any, of not doing it precisely when requested.


  1. Figure out a time that will disrupt your vacation time the least and offer that as an alternative.   For example, sometimes I get up at 3 or 4 a.m. to meet a client by phone. I do this to ensure that my clients’ needs are met.
  2. Seek permission not forgiveness.   It is very important to engage your family in the decision process.

Do you set boundary expectations with your traveling partner as well as colleagues and customers before your vacation? When have you wished you might have handled your vacation boundaries differently and what can you do that is better for future time away?

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