This 1 destructive habit is sabotaging 7 in 10 employees — here’s how to quit if you’re guilty of it

Having a healthy work-life balance can feel almost impossible when you work in the same room you sleep in. We’re always just a couple steps away from our work computer and all of the requests, deadlines and stress that comes with it. While the remote work world has given us more time at home, it’s diminished an important physical boundary between our professional and personal lives.

With these boundaries blurred or even thrown out the window, taking time off from work is more crucial than ever — especially if we want a healthy work-life balance.

Yet one common habit is threatening that balance: checking your work emails during PTO.

In a recent study about PTO habits, 76% of employees admitted to checking their work email during PTO.

In a recent study about PTO habits, 76% of employees admitted to checking their work email during PTO.

Refreshing your email may not seem like an overwhelming task; it might even be a daily habit or feel like second nature. Yet when you’re taking time off, checking email can get you back into that work world and work mode, even when you’re not online that day.

If you’re checking email and work messages, you’re also more likely to feel pressured to actually respond to work questions and requests, even when you’re not supposed to be working. 71% of the same respondents admitted to answering a work call or communication while on PTO.

What you can do about it

Unplugging from work and getting into the “life” of “work-life balance” isn’t as easy as telling yourself you won’t check your work email or messages. Overall, 42% of employees feel like it’s not possible to completely unplug during PTO.

Every industry is different, but the best way to balance work and life is to ensure that you set boundaries — and when you do set a boundary, it stays.

First, talk to your manager and team about best practices for managing your workload when you’re taking PTO.

To help you really take the time off you need, establish a clear system of how to manage your tasks and responsibilities in preparation for and during your PTO. 51% of employees say they work during PTO because they’re worried about falling behind; 69% feel like their work has piled up when they return from PTO. Can you front-load some work before your time off? Can a deadline be adjusted, or can a task be given to another member of the team? Ensure that everyone has the resources and information they need before you log off for your PTO. Addressing these issues can help you leave for PTO more prepared and relaxed — and help you avoid frantic email checking.

Next, have conversations about what your manager and team expect from you when you’re taking time off. This can help not only reduce your work anxiety when you’re taking time off, but also reestablish your dedication to your role and to the success of the company. If you’re not expected to completely unplug, setting boundaries about when you’re taking PTO is still important and can help you establish a better work-life balance. Can you agree to check your work email during certain hours or check your messages once a day, then unplug during the rest of your PTO?

Once your boundaries are set, stick to them. Not unplugging when you said you would only reinforce the idea that you’re available to work 24/7. Instead, staying true to your boundaries will ensure you get the much-deserved time off you need — so you’re rested and ready to thrive when you’re back at your WFH desk.

A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.