When was the last time you took a real vacation?
No— seriously— a real vacation.
That doesn’t mean a few days away from work when you’re still chained to the emails that pop up on your phone.
It also doesn’t mean a trip where you have to get up from your beach towel to race to your laptop to address some pressing issue.
I’m talking about a real vacation, one where you’re totally work-free and shut off from the responsibilities that await you upon your return. Has it been a while?
If the answer is yes, you’re not alone.
Today, we’ll go over the pros and cons of these faux vacations, otherwise known as 'workcations.'
The Stats on Workcations
In recent years, Americans have been working longer hours. In fact, one study found that 34% of employees don’t even break for lunch—they just eat at their desks. Why is that bad news? Because research shows mental and physical health are negatively affected when we lose work-life balance.
So are we using our vacation time to compensate for heavier workloads?
Not really. When it comes to taking advantage of vacation days, Expedia’s study found that on average, employees who had 14 vacation days left four on the table last year.
Because of various responsibilities and expectations, workcations seem like a good way to escape the office. The idea is that if an employee or business owner can be flexible and take care of work-related tasks while on vacation, they’ll at least get to enjoy some time away.
But how many people actually plan to work on vacation?
In a 2013 TeamViewer study, 61% of employed vacationers reported they would work on vacation—most often reading and responding to work-related emails. Take a look at the full infographic:
So why are employees allowing themselves to remain connected to work on vacation?
Sometimes managers put pressure on workers to perform, so it's hard for them to disconnect. Other times a small business owner is simply so swamped that they can't take a break.
Plus, our smartphones and laptops make it so easy. When work emails come through to the device that never leaves your side, they’re hard to ignore. If you’re a marketer in charge of social media management, you likely have all of those outlets linked to your phone, too. There’s another tempting distraction that’s only a few taps away.
The question remains—is it a good or bad idea to take a workcation?
Let’s weigh the pros and cons.
There are certain advantages to the workcation, especially in our modern world where everything (and everyone) is connected. When the workload is high but free time is limited, the workcation might be a solution that offers a compromise.
Remote networks allow you to work from anywhere with Internet signal
You’re only a call or an email away
Tools like Skype allow for face to face interaction when necessary
You can multi-task and enjoy the scenery while handling the ‘must do’ jobs
If you don’t use vacation time, you might lose it entirely
Your smartphone allows you to work wherever from a small, convenient device
But there are also negatives to working while on vacation, too. Not only are working vacationers distracted, but they never truly get a chance to unplug and recharge their mental batteries.
You might miss out on special moments with family and friends
You’re never fully relaxing or enjoying a healthy work-life balance
Distractions are ever-present with dinging emails and notifications
Your extra technology and equipment makes travel more arduous
You limit your activity planning when you fear leaving a Wi-Fi connection
You return to work just as tired as you were before the time off
What Professionals Say
There are both positives and negatives to the workcation concept, so we took the question a step further and asked a few individuals what their thoughts were about working while on vacation.
“When you work full-time in social media, the answer to working while on vacation is always yes because no one else is there to do your job for you.” –Sara Zucker, NARS Cosmetics
“Vacations are for rest; they are for connecting with your family and your passions outside of work. By disconnecting from work we get to see that the world doesn’t end, it can be done and in fact it’s good for us, and for our business.” –Brad Farris, Anchor Advisors
“__It depends on many variables. Like this: Do you want to be a cog in the machine, or do you want a job where you're the engine? For me though - I do work on vacation. Of course, my preference is to not if I have the choice. However, I think when you really love what you do and the people you work with that you should be there for them - even if it means you get slightly less vacation time.” –Marty Vernon, Educo Web Design
Going into this piece, I thought I’d come out with a clear answer (full disclosure—I thought the answer would be a resounding no.) But it appears that there are valid reasons for being on both sides of the issue.
For some people, working while on vacation means they have the flexibility they want and need within their role. For others, vacation is a sacred time to completely shut off the work brain and relax. And yet, for others, working while on vacation is just part of the job, and that’s taken into consideration when signing on.
Bottom line? It depends.
Yes, it is important to go on a real vacation every once in a while and fully enjoy the experience unhindered by work. But if you travel often, the ability to work whenever and wherever allows you to live the life you’ve always wanted.
Your Turn: We want to hear your thoughts on this issue—are workcations a good idea?