Work is a Beach: Are Workations Our Doom or Our Freedom?

You can run, but you can’t hide. Just 15 years ago, vacation was an escape from the daily nine-to-five grind. The unplugged era is over, folks. Welcome to the age of the “workation.”

We’ve all had that perfect vacation planned. A weeklong trek through Italy, hiking in the Rocky Mountains, lounging on white sand beaches or Christmas with the family. Inevitably, right in the midst of our vacations, the holiday curse strikes: a bizarre mixture of guilt, panic, fear and complete office implosion. A colleague bungles your deal. Your top client receives the wrong product. Office politics are hijacked and Joe Somebody gets your promotion. Fifteen years ago, we would be helpless — stranded and disconnected thanks to crackling landlines, shoddy dial-up and hotel fax machines. The age of enlightenment is here. Smart phones, wireless technology, virtual meetings and social media usher in the age of true connectivity. But is being connected anywhere, anytime, a double-edged sword for the corporate vacationer?

Today, the office is under your virtual control, even on a mule ride up the Himalayan Mountains. Your spouse, however, is threatening divorce if you check your email one more time. Your children are sulking after you miss the dolphin show. Even the concierge is judging you with his beady little eyes. What should’ve been a delightful, restful vacation was hijacked by the inevitable corporate fire drill and your near-workaholic obsession with the office. Is mobile technology a destructive force, breaking down the barriers between work and vacation to create “workations” — ruining vacations for families everywhere with email, meetings and phone calls?

Here comes the mysterious work-life balance equation, where someone talks and you say “That’s not me.” Well, let’s look at reality:

Fact #1: Americans work like robots. Unlike our European brethren, Americans feel duty-bound to work around the clock — only 57% of us use 2 weeks of vacation time (vs. 89% of French workers with six weeks of annual leave).

Fact #2: You need a vacation. Office burnout can literally kill you, so vacations — even just a “staycation” at home — are required. If you like living, anyway.

Fact #3: 75% of Americans expect to stay connected to the office on vacation. Oh, we are a guilty, worried bunch.

Fact #4: If you don’t set workation boundaries — even for your plugged-in kids — your family (and thus you) will be miserable.

Fact #5: Workations free us from the 9-to-5 office grind — and get the job done. Want to travel the world and still keep your job? This is the first time in history the Average Joe can work anywhere, anytime. Cubicle freedom, if done right.

All work and no play make Jack a dull boy — super creepy film, but absolutely right on. Successful workations require more planning than just travel arrangements. Finding the balance between work and vacation requires effort and planning, compromise with your co-vacationers, explicit boundaries for the office and a determination to RELAX. Surprisingly difficult balance to maintain — but your health, family and friends are absolutely worth it. And it does feel pretty cool to attend a meeting from the beach.

About Blakely T.

Blakely is a work-life juggler with three little monsters, Sci-Fi/Fantasy Book-a-holic, Atlanta transplant and PR/social/content strategist (and presentations nerd) for PGi.

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