Episode 12: The Rise of the Workcation

August 18th, 2021 by Yvonne Harris

In this episode of Welcome to the New Normal, we ask what is a “workcation”? And why is it a terrible idea? A workcation is a holiday where you take your work with you, and apparently, it’s less rare than you’d imagine. Research shows, unsurprisingly, that real vacations, where the stresses of the office are left well behind you, are food for the soul and essential for wellbeing.

Tune in to the Welcome to the New Normal audio podcast now and follow along with the script below.

News

Rewire has published a somewhat worrying report, titled “The Rise of the WorkCation”

WorkCation? What fresh hell is this?

A workcation is just like a vacation.

But it’s not really a vacation, because you take your work with you, instead of leaving it behind.

If the last 12 months have taught us anything, it’s that employees don’t need to be physically present at work in order to be successful.

But, do they really have to take their work with them when they take a holiday? I thought holidays were about leaving it all behind?

Well here’s the logic behind it…

Apparently, in a culture that’s obsessed with constant connectivity, it’s an attractive alternative to the norm.

You won’t come home from sunning yourself on the beach to a mountain of emails…

You don’t get the stress, before leaving or before coming back to work,

You don’t have to worry that there’s stuff you haven’t done,

Or that you’re not prepared to hit the ground running on your return.

And if you can work from anywhere, why not work from somewhere new? A bit like being a digital nomad, just on your holidays.

Happily Rewire goes on to quote the CEO of SOJRN, a study abroad company for adults who can work remotely, who says working from abroad is in no way a replacement for a good old holiday.

She said that if you’re working full-time, but just from a different location, there’s nothing vacation about that.”

But the fact that we’re even talking about this is emblematic of a larger problem:

That is to say, the lack of work-life balance in many corporate environments, exacerbated by the pandemic, and the mountain of stress so many of us came under just to keep going.

Workcations aren’t the root of the problem; they’re just a symptom.

A workcation isn’t a sustainable path forward. We need our holidays to switch off, to experience something different and new.

And I for one am happy that this remains the case.

Research

The Harvard Business Review has a word about working on vacation.

And that’s – don’t do it!

I couldn’t agree more!

Researchers  Laura Giurge and Kaitlin Woolley authored a paper titled “Don’t Work on Vacation, seriously”.

They found that a 2018 American Time Use survey showed that 30% of full-time employees in the United States say they work weekends and holidays.

That means people just aren’t switching off, and it isn’t healthy. Not just for employees as individuals, but also for the quality of their output.

Specifically, it isn’t good for what’s called “intrinsic motivation”

Intrinsic motivation occurs when an individual acts out of genuine interest in the task.

It’s about the internal reward mechanisms that come from doing what you love to do.

Get these internal rewards, and you work better: you’re fresher, more focussed, enjoying the work more, and you’re more innovative

And here’s the problem: Working during leisure time creates internal conflict between pursuing personal and professional goals, and that makes people enjoy their work less.

The researchers found that people who worked some weekend days felt less intrinsic motivation for work.

They ran experiments – with working adults and also college students, to examine the relationship between work time and intrinsic motivation.

And they found, surprise surprise, that working during time off reduced people’s intrinsic motivation for their work.

When people engage in work during the time that they think of as leisure time, such as the weekend, they experience conflict between their expectations and reality.

As a result, they find their work less engaging and less meaningful.

Their key takeaway is that whether people enjoy their work or not is shaped not only by the type of work but also when it’s done.

And they suggest that managers should protect intrinsic innovation by encouraging their team members not to work during time off.

And this is particularly important at the moment, with people working from home, staring at screens all day, and often unable or unwilling to switch off completely.

Managers take note! We all need time and space to relax and switch off!

Number

52

That’s a government-mandated working week of 52 hours.

That’s in South Korea, famous for the long long hours employers can expect their staff to put in.

But it looks like things may be moving kind of in the right direction.

As of the beginning of July, new laws came into force.

They’ve been in the pipeline since 2018 when the South Korean National Assembly approved a bill that did away with laws permitting a whopping 68 hours a week of work!

The old regime allowed employers to insist their staff toiled for 40 regular hours, 12 hours of overtime, and then up to 16 more hours on weekends.

Not good for their intrinsic motivation!

The culture of long working hours is so entrenched in South Korea, that the government said it would offer transition support for small businesses, including wage subsidies.

Employers that break the rules can face up to three years’ imprisonment and 20 million won (US$17,600) in fines.

Thanks very much for tuning in. You can follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for the latest news on the podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast streaming program.

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