GOING on holiday is supposed to mean no work but an increasing number of us just can't go cold turkey when we hit the beach, even if we want to.
The e-mail messages keep coming and there is always someone demanding a response about something, even if that person knows you are away.
A June survey by serviced office operator Regus found that 53per cent of the Singaporean workers polled said they will be working one to three hours a day while on holiday.
Yet, as hard as it is to imagine, your office will not implode just because you are away, and given today's relentlessly busy and connected world, holidays are more important than ever to help us recharge our batteries.
"Taking time off from work is not only essential to strengthen bonds and relax, but it can also make the difference between a healthy and a burnt-out frazzled worker," Mr Martin Schwarz, senior vice-president of United States-based management consultancy Stern Stewart & Co, says in the survey.
"With reports showing that a stressed mind is the perfect breeding ground for more unhealthy anxiety, it's important that professionals let their hair down once in a while and truly break off from the office."
So, if you have not had a real holiday - one not disturbed by work matters - take one.
That means not spending two to three hours a day answering e-mail or solving work problems, and letting your children know that there are things more important than your job.
Achieving this blissful state takes effort. First, leave your laptop behind.
"Apart from the option to find vacation spots with no Internet access, for most of us, it boils down to laying the groundwork before you set off for your vacation," says Mr Tan Swee Heng, executive coach and director of LZ Leadership International.
"Not being contacted for work matters is probably one key criterion to having quality vacation time."
Because of advances in information and communications technology, it may be nearly impossible to completely switch off from work, particularly in competitive marketplaces, admits Mr Filippo Sarti, Hong Kong-based CEO for Asia at Regus.
"However, it depends on the individual. They can still totally switch off by leaving an automatic e-mail and voicemail response stating that they are away on holiday and hence will only be responding when they are back."
What Mr Tan suggests is to develop a team culture where every member respects one another's time.
"Make it a norm that when a member is on vacation, the team should refrain from contacting the person, unless it is an emergency," he says. "When you respect your colleague's vacation time, your colleague will likely return you this respect when it is your turn to go on vacation."
The prospect of returning to 1,000 e-mail messages may be one reason people cannot switch off work while on a break.
Mr Sarti says employers should think more about the benefits of flexible work to help employees fit their workload around busy schedules.
"For example, time spent working smartly is always better than time spent commuting, so reducing that commute by working flexibly will really help to maximise efficiency and boost productivity."
Also, when bosses go on leave, they should make it a practice for their teams to approach their assigned deputies for all matters, says Mr Tan.
"Entrust your deputy with the maximum control that you can give to him or her for covering your duties," he says.
When you are retired, will you want to remember the vacations you had, or how much extra time you spent working during your breaks?