How do telecommuting and workations work together to help employees and small business owners in particular find a healthier work-life balance?
As smart phones and other mobile devices have rooted themselves in our lives, we have become tethered to work. Undeniably, it has become almost impossible to separate work life from home life the way generations before us lived. Now there is the experience of what Wainhouse research refers to as “life slicing,” where multi-tasking goes beyond the task and into actual “professional” parts and more “personal” parts of our lives occurring back and forth in a more fluid manner throughout the day. We check our work email after hours, we shop online and run virtual errands while we’re at work. It all flows together because it’s all at our fingertips.
Small business owners in particular can take real advantage of both workations as well as telecommuting as their lives can feel overwhelmed by the businesses they are trying to build. Finding time for their personal lives can be a real challenge, so the flexibility of working from home or working from anywhere they need to be gives small business owners the ability to extend themselves in new ways. Small business owners are often on the cutting edge of driving many of these virtual tools out of need because they have to be in seventeen different places at once. Workations give small business owners the opportunity to find time and ways to balance their dream to build a business with their responsibilities to their family. Generations ago the “mom and pop” small business or family farm would integrate the entire family – children would work in the store or in the fields, it was a family affair. A new way to understand small business today is to see small business owners as having a flexibility to work from anywhere. That can include their family, and even if their family isn’t a specific, active part of the business, they can be a part of the environment and not feel detached from fathers, mothers, loved ones and life.
Telecommuting cushions employees and small business owners alike from the hassle of the “daily grind.” The hour in traffic each way to and from the office. My home office is a happy place because it’s a part of my home. And workations feel like the flip side of that coin or at least a powerful compliment to telecommuting. Workations are not a true vacation and they shouldn’t be treated as such; they’re a hybrid where you give certain things up – primarily deep relaxation and detachment – but you don’t come back to an inbox with 643 messages and an overwhelming feeling of guilt either. It’s a compromise.
The fact is that 75% of Americans expect to stay connected to the office on vacation and 66% will be checking email while they’re away. Workations are here whether we want them or not. Managing expectations internally and with our families a vital part of a successful workation – when you let people know your intent and boundaries, they are usually very respectful. I just had a great experience of getting a ton of work done on our house remodel (an unending project anyway so it was great to make some headway there) and because I usually have 5-6 hours of meetings in a typical workday, letting go of that for a few days as well as the daily barrage of email was a significant stress relief. I now feel more creative and energized and the chances of me moving into my new bedroom sometime this century have improved.
How to make a workation work for you
Workations are an outgrowth of our heightened connectivity. We are highly mobile society. All those fun apps staring up at you, begging for interface. Or perhaps it’s the blinking red light on your smartphone that never shuts off, nagging at you, can create an ongoing sense of guilt that you should be “on call.” The alerts and alarms may have once made you feel connected now have devolved into an exhausting, engrained habit. On a daily basis, I’m personally not a fan of being on call 24X7 as a knowledge worker – I think it’s best to set a prescribed time to turn off your phone and leave it off. Quit staring at screens of all size, frankly. Most studies show that if you just take two or three days off work, you’re not getting the same stress-reduction benefits as vacations that last one or two weeks. I think if you want to enjoy a successful workation, you should try doing a few things:
- Cancelling as many meetings during those days as you can, and the meetings that you must keep, use a virtual meeting tool like iMeet or GlobalMeet with integrated mobile apps that allow you to access from anywhere using either an iPad or a smartphone
– If you’re enjoying a “stay-cation,” be a tourist in your hometown and experience new restaurants, museums, experiences that are out of your routine
– If you’re out of town, use the hotel’s business center facilities or make sure that you have a good Wi-Fi connection so you at least aren’t frustrated when you are working
- Plan fun for the family and only work during a prescribed time
- Yes, be available – bring your cell phone but put it on vibrate and change the settings so that emails arrive periodically rather than constantly throughout the day
- Set your out of office email reminder, but in it, let people know that you are open and available for contact, but that there will be a delay in your response.
Telecommuting allows employees to make a choice. About being productive and creating value. Telecommuting improves work/life balance by bringing freedom into our lives. The freedom to take time back by avoiding the daily commute. To spend more time with our families or working or pursuing creative outlets or even starting a new business. When work and life are out of balance, employees can feel fatigue, a loss of creativity and productivity, and definitely frustration that they are losing time with friends and loved ones. There are many ways to understand what makes a productive worker, and the combination of telecommuting and workations can act as complements to each other and act as a tremendous “breather” if your resources or team are constrained or if you’re just need to take a couple of days off.
Want to learn more about the many aspects of telecommuting, workations and the future of remote work? Check out our free eBook exploring the benefits and challenges of this growing practice today!