Want to get away without using vacation days? Consider a workcation to balance work with play.
Workcation or Vacation? Pros and Cons for Remote Workers
Did you know that U.S. employers aren’t required by law to give workers paid vacation days? As Statista shows, other countries like France, Spain, Germany, Chile, South Korea, and Australia mandate annual paid leave on top of public holidays and sick time.
Since Uncle Sam doesn’t consider vacation an employment necessity, American companies leverage paid leave as part of their employee benefits packages to entice top talent to join their teams. Potential employees can even use paid vacation as a negotiation point during the hiring process to maximize their annual earnings. Though most workers get excited about generous vacation offerings, a disproportionate number fail to take full advantage of their compensation plans.
The Current State of American Vacations
In their State of American Vacation 2018 report, U.S. Travel found that American workers left 705 million vacation days on the table in 2017. While over half of all American workers took some of their allotted time (totaling 212 million days) that still left $62.2 billion in unused paid time off.
Why do employees underutilize their paid leave benefits? U.S. Travel discovered that the most common reasons why Americans don’t take vacation are:
- Fear of being replaceable
- Too much workload
- Not enough coverage while away
Additionally, workers claim that pets, children, cost, planning, and straying from their routine also justify staying put.
However, this study also revealed that workers have more job satisfaction and improved health and well-being when they work at a company that encourages vacationing. An employee’s decision to take or forfeit paid time off was found to rely heavily on their company’s culture and senior leadership team.
What is a Workcation?
To combat fears while still fulfilling vacation ambitions, some employees opt for a workcation so that they can work and travel without sacrificing either. Some even plan a workcation-vacation hybrid to experience the best of both worlds. Though a workcation may sound like a dream to some remote employees, others may cringe at the thought of mixing business with pleasure.
Of course, vacations and workcations have their pros and cons depending on the situation. For example, if you’re an employee with paid vacation days, you can take time off without sacrificing a paycheck. Plus, if part of your trip is related to business, your employer may give you a per diem or reimburse you for work-related expenses.
Contrarily, if you’re an independent contractor, you probably don’t get any paid leave benefits. Therefore, when you don’t work, you don’t earn income. However, you may be able to deduct travel expenses on your federal income tax return if such costs directly relate to your job. In such a case, a workcation may be a better option for you.
Consider Your Options
Here are some pros, cons, and tips to help you decide whether it makes more sense to clock out completely or bring your work along for the ride.
U.S. employers who offer vacation days typically require employees to work for a defined period before such days can be used. They also have tiered programs so that workers who stick around can earn and accumulate more days after two, five, or ten years, for example. Additionally, some companies allow employees to roll over a maximum number of days each year or cash out on any unused days, while others institute a use-them-or-lose-them policy. In either case, if you are fortunate enough to have paid time off included in your compensation package, then it behooves you use it up.
With vacation days you can:
- Get paid without logging hours
- Take a break from the demands of work
- Spend quality time with friends or family
- Travel and enjoy new experiences
- Completely clock out without anyone expecting you to be available
In theory, vacations are periods dedicated to fun, relaxation, adventuring, and travel. They are supposed to be a complete separation from work so that employees can fulfill personal interests, spend time with family and friends, and restore balance. They’re not intended to be a work-life integration strategy.
Despite being on vacation, many Americans still check emails and take phone calls, especially those in management or critical positions. You may not want to clock out completely to prevent work from piling up while you’re away. It can be hard to relax when you know you’re going to return to a desk full of unfinished tasks and new demands.
Also, last-minute changes, new client requests, or other sudden high priorities may occur just before you leave. In some cases, if you choose to ignore your responsibilities, you may jeopardize your job. (Remember, vacation days are not mandatory by law in the U.S.)
Another reason may be that you’re so engrossed in your career that it’s mentally and emotionally challenging to separate your personal time from your job.
But what’s the point of taking a vacation if you’re still going to work?
If you’re not going to put your phone down or cease thinking about the office during personal travel time, maybe a vacation isn’t the best option for you. Perhaps you need a different way to maintain a sense of balance.
If you favor work-life integration over the work-life balance concept, then workcations might be a winning strategy. Depending on your employment type, during workcations you can:
- Make money while traveling
- Potentially deduct travel expenses on your federal income tax return or be reimbursed by your employer
- Boost productivity and creativity with a change of scenery
- Demonstrate your dedication to your clients or employer
- Accumulate paid leave (and cash out at the end of the year)
- Avoid heavy workloads upon your return home
- Network with professionals on the clock
Also, you might enjoy workcations if you:
- Will actively stay connected to your company and team anyway
- Feel that staying constantly connected is critical to your success
- Genuinely love your job, employer, and career path
- Enjoy professional networking everywhere you go
- Can’t afford to take a vacation otherwise
Additionally, if your occupation is conducive to telecommuting, or if you’re already working remotely, you’re in a favorable position to try workcations, since you’re accustomed to managing your time and tasks without in-person supervision.
They say that when you burn the candle at both ends, the light just burns out faster. Therefore, the pros of working while traveling also have a flip side, such as:
- Not enjoying the place where you are
- Unexpected costs
- Loss of motivation
- Feeling unsettled or lonely
Not everyone buys into the idea of working on the road. U.S. Travel found that Millennials favor workcations more than any other generation, and those who take workcations tend to be advocates of them. AARP’s 2018 Travel Trends study also found that nearly three-fourths of surveyed Millennials intend to bring work with them on vacation, while just over half of Baby Boomers pack their laptops in their luggage.
Tips for Taking a Successful Vacation
If clocking out completely is more appealing than work-life integration, then bear in mind these tips to ensure you have a fulfilling experience:
- Plan vacations during periods of slow workflow.
- Work ahead to avoid feeling stressed upon returning.
- Give managers and team members ample notice and reminders before you leave.
- Clearly establish boundaries and communication expectations.
- Turn your devices off, or at least turn off all work-related notifications.
- Know your worth and release any fears of being irresponsible or replaced.
If necessary, set aside 30 minutes per day or a few times per week to respond to emails and accept phone calls. Put your availability in the team calendar so that everyone knows when they can contact you. As much as possible, schedule your availability when the kids are asleep or during downtime so that your loved ones don’t feel neglected.
Tips for Taking a Successful Workcation
Though working on the beach or at a street café may sound romantic or luxurious, such locations come with plenty of distractions for full-time remote workers. Therefore, if you’re going to take your job on the road, consider the following tips to ensure a successful workcation:
- Find a comfortable working space that helps you concentrate and stay productive.
- Mind your time zone and be available for regularly scheduled meetings during your team’s local time.
- Use only private, password-protected internet connections, or carry a portable mobile hotspot to secure your devices and information.
- Store data in the cloud for ease of access and in case your devices become damaged during transit.
- Avoid using USB drives or other removable data storage to prevent losing or damaging them.
- Leverage Skype, Google Hangouts, or a comparable application for phone calls and meetings.
- Communicate frequently with team members and remind them when you’ll be available or unavailable.
Additionally, when traveling with family, establish clear work-life boundaries just as you would at home. If you’re already accustomed to the telecommute lifestyle, then this transition should be relatively straightforward. However, if you’re working remotely for the first time, check out this article from our blog: Telecommuting Work-Life Balance: 15 Problems and Solutions.
It’s Time to Take a Break
Regardless of your career and personal responsibilities, you’re going to need a break at some point. Even if you already work remotely or don’t have much stress, a bit of travel can cleanse the mind and soul, rejuvenate your energy, and give you a fresh perspective.
If you’re wondering whether a vacation or workcation is better for you, consider your job duties, typical workflow speed and fluctuations, and interests outside of your career. Though your team may be accustomed to communicating and collaborating with you in a remote environment, you might want to clear a workcation with your employer to ensure you follow company policies while on the road.
If you currently work in an office and want to take the remote work lifestyle for a test drive, search through the Virtual Vocations Telecommute Job Database for positions that align with your career interests and experience. A side gig is an excellent way to experiment with remote employment and decide whether vacations, workcations, or hybrids work best for you.
Are you more interested in a workcation or a traditional vacation? Connect with Virtual Vocations on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to tell us about how you plan to spend your time off. We’d love to hear from you!
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