I always enjoy a healthy debate and looking at issues from all sides. Today’s post is a counterpoint to an earlier post, “Be Prepared as Digital Natives Demand the 4 Hour Work Week Lifestyle“. Special thanks to Amy Fowler of Boom Online Marketing for this guest post.
‘Remote working’ is a hot topic right now, and if you believed everything you heard, you’d be convinced that within five years, offices will have been resigned to history books, and we’ll all be gallivanting around in some 21st Century hippie-come-techie lifestyle and working from wherever the hell we happen to be.
Yet I’m not sure this is realistic, or even desirable.
This didn’t come from nowhere; I was spurred on to write this after reading this fantastic post from Nichole Kelly.
When I started reading I thought: a four hour work week, yes please! Sounds perfect – you still do some work, your life still has that all-important purpose to it, and yet pretty much all your time is yours to do with what you want.
How many of us will ever be fortunate enough to live this way? Probably not many. And even if we did, I’m not sure the lifestyle would quite live up to the expectations.
Not that Nichole’s article was really about Timothy Ferriss’ extremely sensationalist book; I took Nichole’s article to be about the freedoms that modern technologies and progressive attitudes could offer us in the near future.
This isn’t about two hour-long working days spent lounged across the sofa in your favourite pyjama bottoms; this is about the freedom to work whenever we want, from wherever we want.
“There is a wave of employees who want to be “free to move about the country” or better yet the world. We want to be able to travel and live in a perpetual workcation.”
Sounds fabulous doesn’t it? Forget stuffy offices and management peering over your shoulder every five minutes. Fancy working on a crisp white beach? Or In the window of a New York coffee shop? Well you could.
But I’m not convinced a permanent workcation is the utopia it initially appears to be. If we’re always on a workcation, where does our work end and where does the vacation begin? Will we ever manage a real holiday when we’re already, in a sense, on one?
For me, this blurs the lines between a work and life balance too much. Even if you said to yourself, “right, I’m having a real week’s holiday – starting now”, do you really think you’d be able to stay away from work entirely, when you’d become so accustomed to working in the sun? Or that your clients and colleagues would ever be able to take your break entirely seriously, and not try to get in touch with you?
You’re always going to struggle, at least a little, to get in touch with your colleagues. Of course, modern technologies offer some great solutions:
“We meet virtually if we need to thanks to tools like Skype, GoToMeetingHD Faces, and Google Hang Outs.”
But these are never going to be as quick, easy, and straight-forward as leaning across your desk and talking to your colleague there and then. Not to mention the fact that Nichole is not only advocating flexibility in where you work from, but when you work.
“So if I’m not a morning person and decide I want to start work at 10 am and end at 6 pm, I will. But tomorrow if I decide to go visit the pyramids in Egypt and want to cut out at 2 pm I may start at 6 am.”
But what happens when the colleague you need to speak to has just signed off to go playing in pyramids or diving into the Great Barrier Reef?
Of course, you can always have:
““core hours” that require all employees to be available for certain times during the day while leaving the rest of the schedule up to the employee.”
But there are countless occasions where I need to talk to a colleague there and then, and if they’re not there, it can cause a massive set-back, and result in a task taking far longer than necessary. Core hours are a good idea, but to really be efficient, you need to be in easy reach of your colleagues as much as possible.
Not to mention the question that: is a workcation even financially viable?
Rent and mortgages are expensive. In most regions of the world, endless hotel stays are much more expensive.
Of course, you could always rent an apartment for a few months while you stayed put in one place, but if this is really a workcation, surely you’re not going to go out just on weekends? And save money by cooking most your meals at home? Making the most of your travels isn’t going to be cheap, so, unless you’re fortunate enough to earn an envy-inducing salary, how sustainable is a long-term workcation in reality?
I can’t help but think this is a bit of a case of ‘the grass is greener’
For those of us who work 9 ‘til 5, Monday to Friday, from the same office, the idea of all this freedom is without doubt, very appealing. Yet I can’t help but think that the reality might not quite live up to the dream.
Please don’t take this to think that I believe no flexibility in working hours or locations is the ideal; I think there are loads of benefits to offering leeway in working hours, and equipping staff with the apparatus needed to work from locations other than the office.
In fact, I’d like to think that I’m completely wrong. I’d love to go on a permanent workcation. I just can’t ever see it working in reality.
Please feel free to comment and tell me I’m wrong!
Amy Fowler is an online marketing executive at UK based digital marketing firm, Boom Online Marketing. Amy works within Boom’s SEO team and is also responsible for social media.