By Bradley Honan, CEO

I am just hours away from heading out on my annual summer vacation (the Connecticut & Rhode Island seashore) and my Out of Office reply is ready to go! I am excited to be spending time with my family and eagerly looking forward to recharging the batteries – it’s been quite hectic at the office!

We know that in today’s always-on digital world, people around the globe are becoming more and more connected to their laptops, cell phones, and tablets.

We also know this is impacting work life balance. But does this spill over, taking away the bliss of our annual summer vacations?

With the summer vacation season quickly (sadly!) coming to an end, my firm and I fielded a KRC Pulse Poll survey among 526 Americans and examined the current state of summer vacation.

Here is a bit of what we found:

In no uncertain terms, our data says that attachment to smartphones, tablets and laptops is hindering our ability to disconnect, even when we are away from work on vacation.

When asked about their last vacation, over half of employed Americans (53%) said they were still connected and had checked their work email!

Has this trend of constant connectivity become the new normal? Has the overwhelming prevalence and convenience of smartphones and tablets transformed the way that we spend our time on vacation?

Our data says that, for many, yes, it has.

We asked employed Americans to tell us about their last vacation: Almost one-third (32%) responded to work-related emails, 21% took work-related phone calls, and 18% completed a work-related task outside of phone calls and emails, all while on vacation!

In totality, this means that millions and millions of Americans are never really off the grid, even when you get their out of office reply.

The idea of the so-called “leisure (upper) class” – at least among those in the workforce – actually seems to be just the opposite, in reality.

The higher the income, the more likely they were to check email during their vacation. Granted, this is in part because these upper income workers are more e-connected due to the nature of their work (white collar and professional services) or because they work in management, even if they work for a manufacturing company.  It’s unlikely that there is much rationale for a sales clerk at a retail store to be “checking in” on their work email – assuming they even have one.

For those in households making less than $50K a year, 42% were connected to their work email on their last vacation. When the income bracket moves up to $50K-$100K, the number jumps to 52%, and it jumps to 62% among those making $100K or more.

With constant connectivity becoming the new norm, 40% of Americans say the summer vacation we used to know is gone forever.

Why do they say that?

34% of Americans feel that with the prevalence of smartphones and ease of access to one’s email, it has become an unwritten rule that employees should check work email even during “off” hours, including vacation. 25% of Americans went so far as to say they believe they would get in trouble upon their return to work if they did not stay connected and check their email on their vacations!

Interestingly, some of this connectivity is perhaps self-imposed: 40% of Americans said that they would feel stressed if they went too long without checking their work email while on vacation.

Yet, despite people’s actions and the apparent need to be connected to their work, nearly 80% of Americans said that their vacations would be more relaxing if they were visiting somewhere that had absolutely no way to access the internet or phone network. Perhaps we will see the rise of off-the-grid resorts and hotels – the “Internet of Things” be damned!

We are already seeing nostalgia for the vacations of years past where the work obligations were checked at the office, and the only worry was if you packed enough sunscreen. But laptops, tablets and smartphones have completely changed the world around us – including the way we take vacations – and there is no going back.

If you are taking time off in the next several weeks, regardless of how often you check your email, I hope you have – and have had – an enjoyable and relaxing summer.