3 good reasons to take a work-free vacation

July 11, 2012: 12:52 PM ET

Are you tempted to get away for a real break, checking in with the office only rarely if at all, but feel the need to explain why? We're here to help.

FORTUNE -- So you're packing to go away for a few days, and your loved ones are giving you the stink eye as you slip electronic devices into your suitcase right next to the snorkel and sunscreen. Oh no, you're going to spend the whole vacation working — again — aren't you? Understandable, of course: It's their vacation too, and they'd really like to have some fun (remember fun?) with you. But what if people at work expect to hear from you daily while you're away? A few points you could drop into the conversation at the office:

1. You trust your team implicitly, so constant check-ins are unnecessary.

More than half (51%) of chief financial officers say they'll make a clean break from the office while on vacation, with no plans to check in at all, according to a new poll by finance and accounting recruiters Robert Half Management Resources. That's nearly double the percentage (26%) who said so in a similar survey two years ago.

"We're seeing a continuing trend of executives unplugging completely while on vacation," says Paul McDonald, a Robert Half senior executive director. "It may indicate that managers have a stronger level of confidence in their teams and processes and, as a result, feel more comfortable leaving others in charge."

A side benefit to a hands-off getaway, he adds: "Placing trust in a solid team to carry on without you for a little while can help you identify strong candidates for succession planning and promotion."

2. You'll come back energized — and more productive — if you take a real vacation.

So will colleagues, inspired by your example, who get away completely. "Managers send a positive message when they disconnect, since employees may be inclined to follow suit," McDonald notes.

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"Vacations play a big role in superior job performance," says Lois Frankel, president of Pasadena-based Corporate Coaching International, whose clients include heavy hitters like Lockheed Martin (LMT), Warner Brothers, Disney (DIS), and TRW. "But you only get that benefit if you return relaxed and refreshed" — not if you come back as preoccupied with the daily grind as you were when you took off.

Getting away from it all is good for your health as well: Frankel points to academic research showing that women who take two or more non-working vacations annually cut their risk of heart disease in half, compared to women who take no vacations; and men who take real time off are 32% less likely to die of a heart attack.

If you think skipping a real break will help you prove how indispensable you are, Frankel adds, think again: "Unused vacation time never makes or breaks a career." This is a marathon, not a sprint. Stay fit for it.

3. The WiFi at that beach house (or on the golf course, or in any other public place) is not secure.

One reason why so many bosses these days feel okay about not checking in, Paul McDonald observes, is that, "with the prevalence of wireless networks and mobile devices now, they know they can be reached easily in an emergency." Great, but public WiFi connections and cloud-based file-sharing systems are a picnic for hackers and other cybercrooks, and a nightmare for your IT department.

"Often, managers away from the office do not follow the same security procedures that are required of the rank and file. They'll use a password like 'password 123' or they'll send and receive unencrypted documents from a coffee shop or an airport," observes Chip Tsantes, a principal at Ernst & Young. "It's ironic, when you consider that executives usually deal with the most confidential information."

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Tsantes worked on an eye-opening new Ernst & Young study about the security risks of mobile technologies. He's also seen a fair number of disasters, including one where a client's "confidential information was not only mined [by hackers] from a public file-sharing system, it was indexed on search engines." Oops.

To prevent that, he says, "Check in with your IT department before you go on vacation to find out what the rules are, and then follow them. Often, companies have good procedures in place, but people go around them because it's easier or quicker. Don't do that." Or better yet, just to be 100% safe, you could avoid working on vacation altogether. You're welcome.

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About This Author
Anne Fisher
Anne Fisher
Contributor, Fortune

Anne Fisher has been writing "Ask Annie," a column on careers, for Fortune since 1996, helping readers navigate booms, recessions, changing industries, and changing ideas about what's appropriate in the workplace (and beyond). Anne is the author of two books, Wall Street Women (Knopf, 1990) and If My Career's on the Fast Track, Where Do I Get a Road Map? (William Morrow, 2001).

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