The COVID-19 pandemic has given birth to the remote-working culture. This has left many of us stir-crazy and in desperate need of a break away from our routines and day-to-day responsibilities, now more than ever. It is that time of the year, when organisations should look for ways to encourage overworked and potentially burned-out employees to take a break.
The idea of a ‘staycation’ is to do all the things you would do if you were to travel somewhere, but finding ways to incorporate those experiences within your own home. Re-creating those relaxing vacation vibes at home can help decrease stress and strengthen your mental well-being. Hands down, employees can happily, still score that vacation feeling without ever leaving the house.
“The entire concept of remote working today is on the way to becoming a way of life in the years to come. The distinction that earlier existed between work and home, is now missing in the lives of many employees. As a response to that, the concept of ‘staycation’ will emerge and employers will have to help employees distinguish between work and personal life, in order to create an effective and productive workforce in the new normal,” says Sailesh Menezes, senior director & head – HR, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India.
“In a couple of years, employees will get used to remote working with the changed paradigm. In the coming times, employers will need to make a special effort to ensure that their employees take time off. As most of the organisations are now rethinking strategies, the idea of staycation may be looked at as a possibility.”
For Menezes, ‘staycation’ now makes sense due to the pandemic, as many employees have not taken leave this summer.
“It’s important for employees to take leaves, because with work-from-home, there is no boundary between work and office. You are available 24/7, and as a result, expectations have also increased. Organisations should now make it mandatory for people to take time off and relax at home, as going out is not an option at the moment,” asserts Reetu Raina, CHRO, QuickHeal.
Right now, it is nothing better than injecting some fun and relaxation into your home when employees already have several leaves pending. Before the year ends, it is the perfect way to dial back some of those negative associations and make your home feel like home again.
Anil Mohanty, head-HR, Medikabazaar, rightly believes that as employees have several leaves pending, it is better to utilise them and take breaks with families before they lapse. “It is obvious that no one has taken any leave during the pandemic,” he adds.
“Confined within the four walls, it has all come down to managing home and work. It is an altogether different way of working, with a lot of pressure when it comes to deliverables. Employees cannot survive on just virtual conversations.”
Importance of ‘time off’ from work
No one wins when employees do not take time off. Taking vacations is correlated to experiencing less stress, decreased absenteeism, and increased job satisfaction.
Call it a human tendency, people generally tend to neglect a few things when busy. They have come to forget to give time to themselves. Be it stress or mental pressure, humans have always searched for happiness outside home.
“Organisations should urge employees to take leaves and communicate that the remaining leaves will not be carried forward. This step may seem forceful, but the tendency to not take leave and work round the clock will not vanish otherwise.”
According to Raina, “The biggest learning from the pandemic has been to stay indoors and avoid stepping outdoors. People are bound to be anxious with frustration and mental pressure, which is why this is the best time to spend some quality time with yourself, at home and create your own space.”
Raina further explains, “The trend of staycation will soon pick up. It will not just be about chilling or relaxing but it will be more about your own mental window in which you will be able to be with yourself and away from work.”
All these years employees believed that work should be done at the workplace alone, and fun and leisure were associated with a vacation, somewhere far away from home. Menezes believes that the minute we break that notion, employees will be able to work remotely and cease to struggle with the idea of whether or not to take a break. “Most of the employees find it difficult to make the mental transition about such aspects. Employees today are facing a mental gap. The fear that taking leaves will affect productivity needs to go,” he adds.
In fact, Raina stresses on the fact that if employees fail to take time off, it may result in fatigue and poor engagement, which will then impact productivity.
For Mohanty, the current situation is extremely grave, as people are neither going out nor meeting anybody at home. “Confined within the four walls, it has all come down to managing home and work. It is an altogether different way of working, with a lot of pressure when it comes to deliverables. Employees cannot survive on just virtual conversations,” he adds.
How should organisations react?
For countries such as the US, the work-from-home concept was successfully tackled over the years. In India, it is a relatively new concept. Most employees here used to work from the office, and hence, there was a clear demarcation in the mind between work life and leisure time.
Menezes believes, “In a couple of years, employees will get used to remote working with the changed paradigm. In the coming times, employers will need to make a special effort to ensure that their employees take time off. As most of the organisations are now rethinking strategies, the idea of staycation may be looked at as a possibility.”
Experts suggest that if the high pressure and longer work hours have been taking a toll on health lately, and if one needs to experience better health and increased job satisfaction, short breaks, once in a while, are better.
The pandemic has forced people to go without leaves or breaks for a longer period of time, as the entire work culture has transformed. This has caused a lot of fatigue and stress among employees.
“Employers will have to recognise that work-from-home as the new normal will come with a very different paradigm. They have to look at processes in terms of employees’ downtime,” points out Menezes.
Interestingly, for Raina, policies and guidelines are more about the mindset of the leaders and the managers of an organisation. “Organisations should urge employees to take leaves and communicate that the remaining leaves will not be carried forward. This step may seem forceful, but the tendency to not take leave and work round the clock will not vanish otherwise,” she adds.
Managers need to play a key role here. They need to first accept the fact that employees should take their time off and there can be several ways of doing it.
“Organisations should make it compulsory for employees to utilise their leaves by figuring out their work and planning it in a phased manner. Employees can select the days and not be a part of any calls or meetings held during that time,” Mohanty adds.