Q. At my workplace, it's just expected that people will work while they are on vacation. People are always checking e-mail and calling the office, and it's almost like they aren't on vacation at all. I don't care what they do, but for myself, I need that time to recharge and not think about work. How can I let them know that when I'm out of the office, I'm OUT of the office?
A. This is becoming a lot more common. People are taking less and less vacation time, and when they do take vacation days, they work remotely anyway. If you're in an environment where that is just expected, then you might need to ask yourself whether that is the best environment for you. Cultures are different from company to company and even department to department. Culture-fit is hugely important, and it can impact your happiness within a job as well as your advancement opportunities.
Assuming that you want to stick it out in your current position though, you'll have to firmly and professionally set expectations up front so that people know that when you're out of the office you won't be working. This means making sure that any projects you're working on are wrapped up before you leave or have been assigned to somebody else to handle in your absence. Make sure to provide alternate people who can be contacted while you are out. You might also want to consider deliberately selecting vacation destinations where phones and/or Internet will simply not be available. Send a message out before you leave along the line of: I will be out of the office for the next two weeks returning <day>, <date>. During this time I will be in an area without phones or access to the Internet. Should you have any questions, feel free to contact <designated point person>. Thank You.