You’ve made it through security, survived the wait at the gate and claimed seat 24C. Just as you’re about to don your headphones, the person next to you leans over and asks, “Traveling for business or pleasure?” With bermuda shorts and sunscreen in your carry-on and a work laptop in your backpack, the answer isn’t so clear: you’re on a workcation.
Between the rise of digital nomads, the adoption of mobile technology and the growing acceptance of remote work, you don’t necessarily have to choose between work and play anymore. You can actually do both at the same time. But should you?
What Is a Workcation?
A workcation is exactly what you think it is: a hybrid somewhere between an actual vacation and a work trip. You can go wherever you want, but you have to take your work with you. According to a recent Harris Poll survey report, 74 percent of Americans who are working from home would consider taking a workcation.
In a culture obsessed with freedom and flexibility but plagued by constant connectivity, this new trend blurs the line between labor and leisure. Workcations may be on the rise, but determining whether they’re going to work for you has become the real question. So let’s cover this trend’s pros and cons.
Pros of a Workcation
Save Precious PTO Days
Paid Time Off (PTO) is one of the most desired employee benefits these days. It allows you to take a vacation, spend time with friends and family, or indulge in a Netflix binge for a few days. Staycation, anyone? Unfortunately, most American workers don’t get much PTO to play with. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than one third of U.S. workers received 10 to 14 days of paid time off in 2019 after a year of service. There are 261 working days in 2021, which means that we’re only getting around 4 percent of that time off. (Granted, this can change pretty dramatically based on your industry, company or tenure.)
Taking a workcation gives you the opportunity to get away, go visit a friend from a different state or sit on the beach without draining your PTO balance. Consider it a compromise of sorts: you can enjoy some sand between your toes, but you still have to respond to your email.
See New Places, Meet New People
Keeping your head down in a cubicle not only keeps you physically restricted, but it mentally limits you to what (and who) is directly within your vicinity. Working from somewhere new, on the other hand, can give you the opportunity to experience new things, see new places and meet new people.
Imagine working from a beach in Barcelona, a coffee shop in Seattle or a garden in Tokyo. Soaking up a new culture and taking in the richness of the language, deliciousness of the cuisine and intrigue of local norms can jolt you out of a creativity slump. New connections and perspectives can not only add some spice to your otherwise ordinary work day, but also rejuvenate your efforts on the job.
Skip the Overloaded Inbox
Let’s face it: the worst part about taking a vacation is coming back to a pileup of work. It’s as horrifying as driving up on a 20-car pileup on the freeway in the middle of a snowstorm. In the short time that you were away, every spammer in the Northern Hemisphere got ahold of your email address, 47 missed calls resulted in a tangle of voicemails to comb through, and the list of projects on your to-do list has multiplied by three.
A workcation allows you to enjoy the view without getting that pit in your stomach about the monster that’s been growing while you were away. There’s no out-of-control inbox, no voicemail jungle gym and no list of unaddressed requests. It’s a no-guilt getaway.
Cons of a Workcation
Eroding Work-Life Balance
Normally, you have dedicated times and locations for work and for rest, but when you take a workcation, all those boundaries get thrown into a blender and topped with a cocktail umbrella. When work is no longer relegated to the office, a cubicle or a desk, unplugging at the end of the day can get tricky. And it becomes even more difficult when you throw a new destination into the mix — especially if you’re still expected to tune into meetings from a different timezone.
This kind of work-life balance erosion can leave many employees feeling exhausted, burnt-out and unfulfilled. The 8-hour work day dates back all the way to 1886, where the phrase “eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for what you will” became a slogan. While our technology certainly makes us more flexible in terms of when and how we work, we should be cognizant of just how much time we’re dedicating to the grind.
Failing to Focus
Argue with me all you want, but it’s going to be hard to give your 100 percent attention to either work or play during a workcation. Unless you’ve got a strict schedule dictated in advance, it’s going to be difficult to not think about exploring when you’re supposed to be working. And it’s going to be equally as hard not to think about work when you’re trying to relax!
The entire point of a vacation is to give you a break from work. It gives your mind and body a chance to relax, disconnect and expose you to new things. Tying the two together may make it harder to get the distance you need. Just like healthy romantic relationships must involve some alone time, a healthy relationship with work requires time away. Without it, you’re just going to start resenting your job.
Declining a Digital Detox
Between blue light, unrelenting notifications and limited human interaction, we know that being attached to your phone or computer all day isn’t healthy. Digital detox retreats are becoming more popular for this very reason. If you’re trying to take a workcation because you’re overwhelmed with everything at work and think a change of scenery will help, you might want to reconsider.
Now, we’re not telling you to leave all your electronics behind, but we are suggesting that you limit your screen time. Taking a workcation makes this a lot more difficult, because you want to ensure that your employer knows you’re working. Staying responsive and visible is the best way to do that, but if it’s keeping your eyes locked on your gadgets instead of the view, then a workcation might not be worth it after all.
To Take a Workcation Or Not to Take One
That’s the question, right? Ultimately, there’s really no right or wrong answer. It depends on your relationship to work, and your ability to juggle multiple things at once. A workcation certainly has a lot of advantages, but it can also prevent you from getting the break you need. So maybe try experimenting! Take a few days and go somewhere new. Work from a coffee shop or a public library and see what happens.
Just know that in order to make a workcation work for you, you’re going to need the tools that will enable you to do so. And that’s where a cloud-based unified communication solution like Microsoft Teams or Webex comes in. You’ll need to be able to make phone calls, respond to chats and collaborate with your team regardless of your location. UC simply empowers you to make the decision for yourself.
Once technology is no longer a barrier, think of all the places from which you could work!