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Home Vacation Many Americans worked during vacations and holidays in 2023

Many Americans worked during vacations and holidays in 2023

by Staff

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Many of us worked during vacations and holidays in 2023, surveys show, a finding that suggests a gradual blurring of the line that separates leisure from toil in the remote work era.

A large majority of employees, 68%, admitted to working on vacations in a recent survey of 2,300 workers in the United States and Canada by the online learning platform ELVTR.

Nearly half of non-retail employees expected to work during the 2023-24 winter holidays, according to a pre-holiday survey of 1,014 workers by CalendarLabs. Of those surveyed, 24% planned to work on Christmas Eve, 12% on Christmas Day and 19% on New Year’s Day.

Much of that holiday work will happen from home. The CalendarLabs survey found, for example, that remote workers were much more likely than their onsite counterparts to be working on Christmas.

Remote work makes it easy to log in on vacations and holidays

“Working from home makes it far easier to work remotely, as you are set up to do everything without needing to be in the office,” said Nick Bloom, a Stanford University economist and work-from-home expert. “So, for sure, millions more Americans will be working over this break than in, say, 2019.

“I am also not sure it’s so bad,” Bloom said in an email. “There are only so many family gatherings, Christmas movies and football games we can watch. If you can get ahead by doing a few hours of work over the break, it will make the January start a lot more bearable.”

Many of us, presumably, would rather not work while on vacation. Yet, some of us build work into our vacations.

Nearly half of workers have taken a “workcation” in the past year, according to another recent survey, from the travel site Price4Limo. That poll reached 1,010 workers.

The idea behind a workcation, or “hush trip,” is that you quietly decamp from your home to somewhere nice and report to work from there, remotely.

Four-fifths of workers would consider working remotely from a vacation spot if it meant a longer trip, according to a 2022 poll of 2,000 employees conducted by OnePoll for Marriott Vacations Worldwide.

Remote work proliferated during the pandemic, and the workplace revolution appears to be here to stay. More than one-quarter of all American work now happens at home, according to WFH Research, a scholarly data-collection project. The figure has held fairly steady over the past year.  

Most workers love the freedom and flexibility of telework, research shows. According to Gallup polling, more than 90% of people who can work remotely prefer to do so, at least some of the time.

Part of that freedom lies in the option to work when and where one wants, even if that means toiling over the holidays.

“I am sure many people are, like me, doing some work over the holiday break,” Bloom said, speaking on the day after Christmas.

“Today is Boxing day in our household, and while my kids are asleep, I’m catching up on a bit of email and things I should have done last week before the break. Others will be pushing to get ahead to avoid a horrible January rush.”

Bloom’s own research has shown that hybrid and fully remote employees “are much more likely to work in the evening and on weekends,” he said.

The ‘workcation’ has soared in popularity during the pandemic

The workcation seems to have soared in popularity since the dawn of the pandemic. In the last few years, hoteliers, airlines, casinos and theme parks have been urging the American worker to set up shop at vacation spots.  

The dark side to the workcation, it seems, is the unintended workcation.

In the ELVTR survey, nearly half of respondents said they struggled to “switch off” from work while on vacation. Many workers said they felt bombarded by work-related email and text messages while on vacation. Some felt “an implicit expectation” to work during time off.

Working during vacation could mean spending a few minutes deleting emails over morning coffee, or it could mean losing half the day. In a 2022 survey by the software platform Qualtrics, roughly half of the 1,000 employees surveyed said they typically worked at least an hour a day on vacation, while 24% said they logged at least three daily hours.

The impulse to check your email or text messages on vacation isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In the same ELVTR survey, 27% of workers said they “love their jobs” and really don’t mind doing work on vacation. More than half of respondents said they get anxious if they don’t check their work email.

“I feel FoMO from missing out on work” during vacations, said Ben Zweig, CEO of Revelio Labs, a workforce intelligence company, invoking an acronym that means Fear Of Missing Out. “I sort of dread the idea of coming back not having looked at email in three weeks.”

Zweig, like Bloom, said he is working this week even though he is technically on vacation. He thinks the prevalence of workcations illustrates that work and leisure are not mutually exclusive.

“We have real relationships and friendships at work,” he said, “and maintaining that feels good in some way.”

When people are given a choice, they tend to choose to extend their work into holidays and weekends, thus lightening the load during the work week, said Gleb Tsipursky, CEO of the hybrid work consultancy Disaster Avoidance Experts.

More: 2023 was the year return-to-office died. Experts share remote-work trends expected in 2024

Working during vacations and other downtime “can become a problem,” Tsipursky said, “when the company has expectations that you’ll be on all the time. The opposite is true if it’s something you’re choosing to do. It’s a question of choice.”

The danger of working on vacation lies in burnout, experts say. Work too much on your days off and you risk sacrificing relaxation and rest, essential elements of any vacation.

“If you feel like you are always ‘on,’ you’re thinking about your work all the time, you’re thinking about your work when you’re with your family at Christmas dinner,” Tsipursky said, “that is a bad sign.”

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