Across the country, one of the more recent trends in vacation use by employees is the staycation. That compound word was coined to mean exactly what it sounds like: staycation = stay + vacation. It’s vacation time spent at home, instead of on an actual vacation that depends on traveling away from home. The staycation trend started during the recession as a way for people to save money. Staycations were still able to take a break from work, without all the expenses of travel.
While they are designed to save money, staycations don’t always provide the mental time off that is generally a primary reason for a vacation. Vacations are supposed to provide a break from work, as well as a reprieve from everyday tasks like cleaning the house or running errands. Vacations are supposed to leave you relaxed and refreshed so that you can return to work ready to hit the ground running.
One of the greatest risks of a staycation is that, instead of being time away from work, the vacation time ends up being used to do more work, whether to get ahead, to get caught up, or to meet a deadline. When people stay home rather than travel, they are far less likely to disengage from work. Being in the same environment where they habitually check work emails or respond to work calls, they are likely to continue with their habits. Being in the environment where they’d normally do a load of laundry, wash the dishes, or clean a bathroom means that they’d likely continue that behavior, too. Staying home and doing office work and housework isn’t much of a vacation, after all.
When an employee takes a staycation and does not fully disengage, it hurts them in the long run – and it also hurts the employer. Employees who return from “vacation” unrefreshed, unrelaxed, and still in need of a vacation are likely to fall into slumps more quickly. Their need for a genuine break from work may lead to disengagement and lackluster productivity.
It’s important to make sure that whatever employees do with their time off, they do truly disconnect. If a full-blown vacation is not within their budget, suggest they take a trip to a more local destination that allows them to get out of the house. Make sure that work duties are well-defined, and as part of this definition, vacation time requires employees to disconnect from work.
Of course, it’s important for employers to understand that they cannot control their employees’ personal lives. While employers can do their part to make sure employees disconnect from work, there is no way to guarantee that the employee will disconnect from other things as well. That is a responsibility that must be left to the employee.
The prevailing organizational culture has a lot to do with whether employees take real vacations or just staycations. Of course, there are employees who do take legitimate vacations – even travel abroad for pleasure – and still don’t fully disconnect, bringing their computer and workload along with them. Again, it falls to the employer to create a work environment and culture that encourages work while employees are on the job, and a complete disconnect and break while on vacation. Whether someone takes a vacation or a staycation, when this proper balance is achieved, employees will return to work relaxed and refreshed, as intended.