Is the Workcation the Next American Travel Trend?

P:TO Takeaway

Workcations may have value, but they are not a substitute for actual vacations.


When Americans like things, we put them together. This is the nation that gave us a burger between grilled cheese sandwiches. The spork for when we can’t be burdened with two utensils. And the Sharknado, because a tornado isn’t scary until there’s a great white in the mix.

The next great portmanteau to enter the national consciousness may be the “workcation.” It may not be what you think. A workcation isn’t when you end up working during your vacation. It is going away with the intent to work a full schedule.

The idea has caught some interest in recent years. The Wall Street Journal highlighted the concept in an article title that almost beckoned employees to try it: “This Summer, How About a Workcation?” Vanity Fair’s Tina Nguyen asked if workcations were a “sad trend or awesome concept” (ultimately concluding that “the only truly offensive thing about the concept is its dumb portmanteau name”). The Muse mused that a workcation was “something you need now,” but author Erin Greenawald qualified her endorsement by noting she was not “advocating workcations in lieu of actual vacations.”

But is this a great combination of work and vacation or a lackluster option that shortchanges both?

The idea is not a popular one. The latest State of American Vacation report revealed that just 10% of people say they have taken a workcation. And a decisive 70% of Americans say the concept is unappealing to them. But—there’s always a but—the minority that had taken a workcation are far more likely to find the idea appealing (55% say they would want to again).

The appeal also goes up based on generation. Millennials have a much keener interest in the idea of a workcation. Nearly four-in-ten (39%) Millennials say they find the idea of a workcation appealing. From there, interest declines as age rises: 28 percent of Generation X and 18 percent of Boomers feel that a workcation is appealing.

Workcations may also be a way to kill two birds with one stone. Employees who are concerned about looking less dedicated or replaceable are far more likely to find workcations appealing than those who do not fear the optics of vacation (37% to 27%). Of those who feel they have a hard time getting away due to workload, 34 percent say a workcation is an attractive option, compared to just 27 percent of those who say their workload does not make it difficult to take vacation.

The workcation may be a way to satisfy our unfulfilled wanderlust. Because even though American vacation usage is on the rise, less than half the days taken are used to travel. That’s not because we don’t want to. More than eight-in-ten say that it’s important to them to use their vacation time to travel. But nearly nine-in-ten admit they haven’t seen enough of their own country.

It’s a disconnect that is worth repairing because travelers have an advantage. Americans taking all or most of their vacation days to travel—mega-travelers—report dramatically higher rates of happiness than those using little to none of their time for travel. They report being 20% happier with their personal relationships and 56% happier with their health and well-being than those who travel with little or none of their vacation time.

Those who travel more show greater evidence of success—and enjoyment—of their careers. Those who travel with all or most of their time are 28% happier with their companies and 24% happier with their jobs than those that travel with little to none of their vacation days. Frequent travelers are also 18% more likely to report receiving a promotion in the last two years.

All those numbers mean one thing: Americans should be traveling more. And anyone who wants to enjoy the advantages mega-travelers are already realizing should reach for their calendar. Planning once again proved to be the best way to take more vacation time, travel with that vacation time, and enjoy longer breaks at once.

More than half of Americans left vacation time unused last year. We have the days to use and the reasons why we should travel—now we just have to put them together.

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