There has been increasing reports in the British press about the rise of the ‘workation’ as more and more professionals feel under pressure to take a working holiday.
Gone are the days of employees switching off their phone and leaving their laptop behind, as the workation continues to become the norm. It means employees are spending an increasing amount of vacation time fixed to the hotel’s Wi-Fi, reading more emails than paperbacks, and, in some cases, joining conference calls from the beach.
There are a number of reasons for the shift. Firstly, the rise in smartphone and tablet dependency means the thought of leaving them behind for an extended period of time will strike terror in the hearts of many. Couple this with the abundance of free Wi-Fi connections in hotels, restaurants and shops and suddenly you’re answering work emails when you should be topping up your tan.
The increase in flexible working policies has also contributed to workations becoming more common. Flexible and remote working has been on the HR agenda for a few years now, and while the benefits of employees being able to work from any location are clear to see, it certainly doesn’t promote a positive work-life balance.
Who’s Taking a Workation?
But, is a workation really that common, or are employees in certain sectors more likely to feel the pressure? We’ve seen trends come and go in the recruitment industry for more than twenty years, but the workation is unfortunately something that looks here to stay and certain roles are more likely to fall into the trap such as those in the finance and legal profession.
Of course, the advancement in technology and availability of Wi-Fi plays a significant part but the economic downturn resulting from the now dim and distant credit crunch is the true culprit. Companies in the SME sector that made redundancies are still operating on a skeleton staff to keep costs down, meaning the level of workload has increased exponentially. It has also led to employees having no staff to pick up their work over a holiday.
Is a Workation Bad for Your Health?
Although employees feel like they’re doing the right thing and helping the company by continuing to work over a holiday, they may actually be causing more harm than they think. According to research undertaken by the Mental Health Foundation, three in 10 employees are at risk of experiencing mental health problems in any one year, due to a poor work-life balance.
In other countries across Europe, governments have enforced ‘working hours mean working hours’ rules. Businesses in Germany consider that employees shouldn’t be doing anything other than work while at work, and vice versa. This means that German employees are generally far more productive in less time than their UK counterparts. Likewise, the French Government introduced the 35 hour week, or Loi Aubry, in 2002. More recently, the French Government attempted to pass a law which banned employees from checking work emails after 6pm and before 9am. Although this idea didn’t catch on, the ethos remains a staple of French business.
It’s ultimately the responsibility of the employer to recognise that their staff need time to relax and switch off from work. Companies need to monitor their own staff, using methods such as the Bradford Factor, and, if necessary, put working restrictions in place. For those employers who do feel their staff are overworked it might be a good time to look at hiring additional staff to ease the burden on their team. Getting by on less staff is a short-sighted way of saving money and employers are likely to pay the ultimate price if good members of staff burn out and leave.