The rise of ‘workations’

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The negative effects of the gruelling nine to five, day in day out, in the same workspace, have been well documented over the years. According to a 2019 survey by Rescue Time, people in work average under 3 hours of productive tasks a day. This highlights the issues brought about by the repetitiveness which has become the norm in our daily lives. In an era where efficiency is becoming the new obsession, why continue like this when the routine is completely flawed? One suggestion: ‘workations.’ 

The routine is completely flawed

It is a word that is completely new to most people, but this new concept has seen a surge in popularity during the pandemic. An amalgamation of the words ‘work’ and ‘vacation’, it refers to the practice of travelling to new places, as if you were on holiday, only you take your work with you. In recent years, it has become a method that many people have begun to try out and, due to the rise in technologies allowing us to work remotely, it has become even easier.

However, while there is no doubting people’s new-found love of this pursuit, it is yet another representation of our issues with maintaining a good work-life balance. The very word itself is contradictory and encapsulates the nature of what humans have become in this modern-day society, which brings a demand to be constantly connected. Nevertheless, our current working situation is hardly getting the best out of us, so clearly something has to be done. 

Nowadays, we find ourselves stuck in a vicious circle when it comes to work: the endless cycle of commuting, arriving at the same office, and returning home the same way. This is now known to not only cause problems with productivity, but also mental health. 

Spending hours on end for 45 plus weeks of the year, in the same place, exacerbates the already well-known problems associated with overworking, including stress, high blood pressure, and insomnia. Taking a ‘workation’, on the other hand, allows you to look after different aspects of your life at the same time. Moreover, a change of scene is a very effective way of improving your mental health, which in turn, boots productivity. 

While it might at first appear like a good idea, however it has the potential to exacerbate a huge problem already existing in today’s world: our inability to switch off. As a result of the pandemic, there has been more and more enthusiasm for putting an end to the monotonous working hours we currently have, and making them ore flexible.

Nevertheless, blurring the boundary between the two is actually not as good as it might seem. Due to the new flexibility of working hours and the fact they are no longer organised into work and rest, many struggle to fully take their minds off work. Professor Mark Cropley, author of The Off Switch, notes that ‘Physiologically, people who can’t switch off are tense and irritable, they have high blood pressure, [and] a high heart rate.’

Blurring the boundary between the two is actually not as good as it might seem

Recently in Belgium, to combat this, the government has introduced a law prohibiting civil servants from being punished for not fielding out-of-work-hours calls. This is a huge step in the right direction and follows on from similar actions in other countries, such as Portugal, where you can actually be fined for attempting to contact employees when not during work hours. 

So how do you solve the problem? A potential solution which has been discussed widely is, of course, a shorter working week. Trials in Iceland which took place between 2015 and 2019 proved to be an unrivalled success. Those taking part noticed feeling much better mentally and at less risk of burning out. This was undoubtedly caused by the increased time with family and ability to take themselves fully out of the working environment.  

The work-crazed society in which we are living is not one which often gives us the time we need and while ‘workations’ clearly have some benefits, in the long-run, they might just be adding to our problems. It is time to look elsewhere for a solution, and there seems to be one staring us in the face.

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