Why work and vacations need to remain separate

The pandemic-induced shift in working has led to a rise in workcations, blurring the line between work and holidays

Fintess & lifestyle
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The Covid-19 pandemic has completely changed how we work. Opportunity to work remotely means employees need not uproot their lives to join a new organisation. One can still enjoy the benefits provided by a company without going through the trouble of relocating.

While working remotely has helped us save time on commutes and brought some closer to their families, it may mean that we can never really be off work.

This has led to a new trend of workcations. As the term implies, it means a vacation where one would work; away from the office but not from work.

Last week, a colleague who works in the travel industry, told me how resorts are tapping into the trend of workcations. With so many desperate for a change of scenery, the packages provide remote workers the opportunity to work from a relaxing destination at competitive prices.

The workcation, though, is not a new concept and is one of the past year’s popular travel trends. Last year, I came across workcation packages in the Caribbean, enticing those who worked remotely. Families with children attending school online and parents working from home opted for the package, where they worked and studied by the beach on weekdays and enjoyed the island life at weekends. Another acquaintance who works for a luxury resort in the Maldives told me that many guests who arrived to spend the Christmas holidays have chosen to stay on at the resort.

Hyatt hotels introduced “Office for the Day” packages that are available through to September this year at destinations worldwide such as the US, Singapore and Hong Kong. With packages starting at $75 per day, guests can enjoy a standard guestroom from 7.00am to 7.00pm along with a workspace and facilities such as a printer, scanner or fax.

Remote work has been a blessing for many but it also meant that many of us have been finding it hard to really be “off work” and workcations make it harder. I recently hired an intern, who still sends me work emails on weekends despite it being against our company’s policy. She said that she’s been finding it hard to draw the line between work and her personal life, especially when working from home.

While working by the beach may be relaxing, it can also be distracting. Or one could be working and not really enjoying the stay. Personally, I would be more distracted by the scenery when I should be working. In essence, I don’t believe that work and vacations can be perfectly combined together.

These workcation packages may be ideal for creatives who would like to spend a few days in a cabin in the woods occasionally to seek inspiration. But romanticising work and vacations and encouraging people to work while on holiday shouldn’t become our new normal. In fact, it could be jeopardising employees’ health, especially if they end up working long hours.

Remote working and an economic slowdown increased the health risks linked to working long hours, officials at the World Health Organisation said earlier this month. A report published in association with the International Labour Organisation found that long working hours led to 745,000 deaths in 2016, a 29 per cent increase since 2000.

As we emerge from the pandemic, managers should have clear work guidelines for remote working. Employees should know what is expected from them and when. Management should ensure their employees' health and well-being by drawing a thick line between work and personal space.

And as for workcations, I prefer to stick to the traditional definition for a vacation: away from the office and work.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi.