Working on holiday – how common is it?

March 21, 2022

They call it a “workation” – based on work plus vacation – but it’s not a word we much care for, so this is the penultimate time we’ll use it. In fact, we don’t need a word for it. Instead, we’ll call it working-on-holiday or, for short, WOH. It’s something more of us appear to be doing than ever before.

In the past, many of us were happy to receive an occasional phone call or send a quick email while on holiday. We’d think nothing of it. But today working on holiday has become a different exercise. It’s become big business for the tourist sector too. Just search the web, and you will find numerous travel agents offering to sell you a “dream workation” that won’t affect your employee holiday. But is working on holiday such a great idea? Does it genuinely offer a better work-life balance, or does it mean your work is compromised and your holiday fails to satisfy you because of the extra stress you are under from work?

Remote working kick-started working-on-holiday

Many of us were initially forced into remote working by the pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns. While today hoards of office workers are heading back to their desks, most of them are still working from home at least one or two days a week. Few office workers would be happy to return to our pre-pandemic office working patterns. And those that have returned to the office have adopted different work ethics, such as ditching de rigour formal work attire.

Working remotely is now so firmly entrenched in our collective psyche that we may never return to full-time office working.

Working from anywhere

With many people working remotely, initially working from home and rarely visiting the office, it wasn’t long before they realised that they could work from anywhere. As long as they had a laptop and access to the internet, they could work just as well in Melbourne, Bangkok, Prague or Budapest. So why not travel to exotic places you have always dreamt of visiting and work from there? There is still ample time to make the most of your new location out of working hours. It’s the opposite of a staycation – rather than taking time off work to holiday locally, you work full time while spending time in your holiday location. And, of course, the additional advantage of not having to enter it in your holiday planner.

Ideal – so what could be the problem?

One potential downside is the cost. While travel agents are encouraging the practice of working-on-holiday, for the traveller it means spending significant sums of money travelling to exotic destinations along with accommodation costs just to spend the best part of the day working. And it’s not only the travel companies muscling in on the trend. Some businesses offer working-on-holiday tourists accommodation and workspaces on the beachfront, including superfast broadband connectivity.

Another downside is the potential effect on your work-life balance. The working trip on its own requires considerable juggling. Keeping your mind focussed on the job and away from the beach requires significant willpower, and if partying is part of your typical holiday scene, curtailing it to mesh with your work commitments might prove too much to handle. So what you might consider as the best of both worlds could soon turn into the worst of both.

Then there is your boss’s and colleagues’ perspective. How can you convince your colleagues back home that you remain committed to the job and work as hard as usual? Any errors you might make will surely encourage criticism of your current lifestyle. You can almost hear them grumbling that they always said that work and play don’t mix. So when you finally return home, will you feel satisfied, or will you also feel a little guilt?

Travel broadens the mind

Rather than ending on a downer, there are also upsides to working-on-holiday. As they say, travel broadens the mind. As Mark Twain put it more eloquently:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

The mind-broadening experience of visiting far-flung places can transpose into new insights that inspire your work. Thus you can work harder, smarter, and more productively, with no need to make an entry in the online holiday planner.

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