It's late July—time for family vacations, and the inevitable release of surveys that show how little we're actually taking them.

The annual release of these surveys (meant to fill the slow summer news hole and, it seems, depress us all) has become as predictable as humid air in August. Conducted by research outfits but commissioned by remote-office software companies and job sites, "business continuity" firms and travel firms, the surveys tell us repeatedly that Americans don't take enough vacation, work too much when they do, and worry about their jobs the whole time. All subtle reminders brought to you, of course, by folks who can help you book a trip, work remotely, rest assured you won't miss an email, and find a new job if you lose yours for taking too much time off.

Here's just a sampling: TeamViewer, a provider of remote-control and online meetings software, tells us that 61 percent of Americans plan to work on vacation. Neverfail, meanwhile, a software company that provides "continuous availability and disaster recovery for critical Windows-based applications in physical, virtual or mixed environments," says 79 percent of us take work-related devices on vacation. CareerBuilder finds that the duration of vacations is shrinking post-recession. And though it wasn't released this summer, online travel booking company Expedia shared its "Vacation Deprivation Study" last November to remind us just how awful American workers have it when it comes to getting time off.

It's true Americans get far less vacation than their global peers do. And it's true that we'd all probably feel more rejuvenated and less stressed if we actually took vacations and unplugged when we're away with our families.

But for some of us, sending a few work emails from the beach to prevent a crisis is a small price to pay if it means we'll get similar flexibility to make important personal calls here and there when we're back in the office. Yes, we may still need a reminder to step away from our email. But let's have it come from our spouse or our kids, rather than a company with another message to send.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

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