If you wake up on vacation with a computer in your bed, it's not really a vacation.

But more than half of employed Americans arguably don't understand that. And with the unofficial end of summer fast approaching, it seems like a good time to recognize the new reality of our digital lives.

We work all the time.

People still connect on vacation, just not necessarily with their families and friends.

Driven to Connection

More than half of employed respondents (53 percent) in a recent KRC Research Pulse Poll admit they check their work email even on vacation.

But that's only the beginning.

Almost one-third (32 percent) respond to work-related emails and 21 percent take work-related phone calls. And nearly one in five (18 percent) complete a work-related task beyond a call or an email, all while they're on vacation.

According to KRC CEO Bradley Honan, Americans are so attached to their smartphones, tablets and laptops they can't disconnect.

And that's a problem, since three-fourths of the 526 adults surveyed (78 percent) admit their vacations would be more relaxing without worries about work.

It's depressing — and pervasive. Look closely at the lovely sunrise image below of the woman strolling along the beach. What do you think that thing is dangling from her left hand?

walk on the beach

It's an iPhone.

I know, because it's me.

We. Can't. Unplug.

The digital workplace gives us the ability to work from almost anywhere. But it simultaneously pressures us to work just about anytime.

This is impacting work life balance "in no uncertain terms," Honan concludes.

The price for our constant connectivity? What Honan calls "the end of summer vacation as we know it."

"Millions and millions of Americans are never really off the grid, even when you get their out of office reply," Honan noted.

Why Can't We Relax?

Small, lightweight computing devices have created weighty burdens: a pressure to connect.

  • One in three Americans just think they "should" keep checking their email because they can, even during off hours
  • One in four think there would be hell to pay on their return to the office if they failed to check their email
  • Two in five get stressed if they go too long without checking their work email

About 10 percent of the American population already takes an antidepressant. But maybe we should also be treating anxieties and compulsions with equal aggression.

At the very least we should give ourselves permission to lighten up on vacation.

To paraphrase the words immortalized by Clemenza in The Godfather, "Leave the laptop. Take the sunscreen."

Misery Loves Company

Ubiquitous computing takes a toll — even on people back at the office.

And no one feels the heat more than network managers and sysadmins tasked with "keeping networks humming for remote workers on vacation," according to Ipswitch, a Lexington, Mass.-based software manufacturer.

The company's inaugural Summertime Blues Survey found broken laptops, BYOD policies and less vacation time can make IT pros lose their cool in the summer.

The survey, based on responses from 239 IT pros in the US, found:

Remote workers are a headache: 42 percent of all respondents cited malfunctioning laptops as the top complaint, followed by network connectivity issues (32 percent) and poor application performance (16 percent).

BYOD devices create additional pressures: When asked what type of device they’d like to see eliminated from use on the corporate network, 49 percent of all IT pros surveyed chose tablets, followed by smartphones at 31 percent.

IT pros have simple dreams: Nearly one third (29 percent) said they'd be most appreciative if employees would reboot their computers before calling the help desk.

summertime blues