First, there was the vacation. Then, with the great recession came lots of talk of the “staycation.” Take the kids to that local museum you’re always vowing to go to, set up the beach chairs and tent in the backyard, or dive into a binge session of Netflix. Not quite the same as an old-fashioned family “vacation,” but way better than nothing (and way less expensive).
But now, there’s a new frontier: the “workcation.”
What the heck is a workcation?! You might ask. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms? The whole point of a vacation, whether it’s local or faraway, relaxed or adventurous, is that you’re not working.
The new “workcation” trend is just what it sounds like: an attempt to blend work and vacation. Employees intent on “workcationing” take their work on the road, traveling to, say, a beach resort while working remotely and not using up precious vacation days.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that workcations are on the rise, pointing to statistics that regular vacation time has fallen dramatically in recent years. The average American worker took 20.9 days of vacation in 2000, but took only 16 days in 2013.
The whole idea of a “workcation” is, no surprise, polarizing. To some, it may seem like it misses the point of a vacation completely. Vacations are meant for unplugging, spending real face-to-face time (not just Facetime) with friends and family, getting re-energized and refreshed.
To others, a workcation may seem like the best scheme ever. During a cold January in Maine, convince your boss to let you work remotely for a week from Puerto Rico or Palm Beach, and not even use up your vacation days? Sign me up. Some websites even give detailed instructions on just how to pitch the still-somewhat-unorthodox idea to your boss.
But alongside this debate is the polarizing (and often not acknowledged) truth underlying the whole idea of a “workcation”: this is not an option available to every worker. Higher-income, white-collar professionals may have the chance to take a workcation, but that just isn’t a possibility for many lower-paid workers. Just try getting your boss at a Walmart or paper mill to agree to a “workcation.”
This inequity is particularly harsh because workers in lower-paid positions also typically have less (or no) paid vacation or leave time and less flexibility around scheduling. A recent government report revealed the vast disparities in access to paid vacation across occupations. Over 95% of employees in management, business and the financial sector get paid vacation, whereas only about 55% of employees in the service industry get any paid vacation at all.
I’m all for a workcation for those who can get it – as long as those workcation days take the place of regular workdays, not vacation days. But let’s not forget that it’s a privileged few who will have this option. For the rest of the workforce, what we really need is good old-fashioned paid vacation.