Lucy Kellaway: Scrap holidays, bring on the 'worliday'

Businessman half-ready for holiday Fixed holidays are an anachronism for people who do not work fixed hours

Has the arrival of smartphones, laptops and mobile internet fundamentally changed the way people should take holidays? Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times thinks it has.

For most of this summer I'm on "worliday". This is a new word I have just made up to describe something I've been doing for a few years, and now seems in need of a name.

Worliday is a bit like holiday and a bit like work. It's the future for most professional workers - and actually, contrary to what most people would have you believe, worliday is really rather nice.

Here is the sort of thing I did when I was on worliday 10 days ago in north Cornwall.

I would wake up, do a few emails and then go for a walk by the sea. Later, I might write an article sitting under a window with a view of a stream. After that, I'd go outside to light the coals to barbecue a sausage.

Cold turkey

Most people will tell you that worlidays are psychologically unhealthy. It is surely terrible that we are all chained to Blackberrys and in touch with offices even when supposedly having a break in the sun (or rain).

Start Quote

Lucy Kellaway

The worliday means you should be able to go away more often to compensate for the fact that you are still (sort of) working when absent”

End Quote Lucy Kellaway

Taking time off completely, stress experts say, is essential if we are to connect with our families and with our souls and recharge our batteries.

But in my experience it doesn't work quite like this. A human battery is a funny piece of kit, and doesn't always respond well to a sudden, cold-turkey immersion in idleness with the family in a strange place.

Intellectual stimulation charges my batteries more reliably than sitting in the rain with bored teenagers.

Back in the old pre-internet days when holidays represented a forcible break from work there was a wild dash to get everything done before you left.

Then you arrived at your destination shattered and with a mind stuffed full of work concerns. It used to take the first week to relax and stop worrying about what was happening at work.

By the time you had stopped fretting, it was time to go back to work, and then further discombobulating acclimatisation was required in the other direction.

No records

The first great thing about the worliday is that there is no stark transition between the two states.

Better still, the worliday means you should be able to go away more often to compensate for the fact that you are still (sort of) working when absent.

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However, the mass adoption of the worliday doesn't mean everyone ought to be given longer holiday entitlements. It means that holiday entitlements should be scrapped altogether.

The current arrangement only makes sense for people who work fixed hours - they clearly need fixed holidays too.

But for professionals who have not worked set hours for decades, fixed holidays seem an anachronism.

Netflix, which has a famously groovy culture, worked this out some time ago. Its employees are allowed to take whatever holiday they feel like taking - no-one keeps records.

And on that happy note, I'm about to pack my bags and head off cheerfully with my family to Yorkshire for a few days.

In my suitcase will be my sunglasses and Wellington boots - as you never know with the weather up there - as well as my Blackberry and computer.

A selection of your comments

It may work for some people but the majority of people I know are addicted to their smart phone. I know wives who made sure that the smart phone was left at home so that hubby could concentrate on spending some quality time with his family. And sorry, NOTHING is so urgent or important that it a) can't wait or b) someone else can't deal with it. It's all a question of organisation and trust in your work colleagues. Holidays should mean a rest for body and mind!

Franziska, Sevenoaks

I also keep in touch with work when I'm on holiday, no arguments or complaints from either side, as I just make sure I deal with any urgent emails or issues first thing in the morning followed by a quick check after lunch if I'm not busy - I just don't let it interfere with the break too much.

Matt, Edinburgh

I am a person who works to live, and does not live to work. My only way of getting through the year is planning and looking forward to my next holiday to see something new, have a break to do nothing or something different with people I love spending my free time with, family, partner and friends. And I love my job!

Sarah, Leeds

Great idea in theory, but who looks after the kids while you're 'worling'? Depending on their age, they're either moping around, bored, complaining that they're being neglected on their summer holidays or having to be looked after by your spouse who then resents you for burdening them with childcare!

Matt, Leicestershire

Philip Larkin referred to work as a toad. But it's obvious for some people, the electronic age has evolved it into an octopus or anaconda just squeezing their humanity out of them. Worliday? Do us a favour! The word is holiday which, for normal people means getting away from work and relaxing; completely.

Tony Cooley, Walsall

Hugh Dennis phrased it best. When we say: "I'd better check my mail, they can't cope without me" what we mean is: "I'd better check my mail, they CAN cope without me".

Eddie, Edinburgh

I'm back at work today and because I had my work smartphone with me while I was on holiday last week I could see what was going on and there were no 'surprises' this morning! There was no rude awakening when I got to the office this, no 382 unopened emails, I knew where my team where and what they were doing, and what to prioritise this morning. Much less stressful than returning from leave used to be.

Sam, Glasgow

This article brought me no joy, and I wonder if there are other isses here? Workaholism perhaps? This pattern may be ideal if you have to take time off during the long school holidays for childcare and family activities, but as pattern for 'normal life' does not appeal. Thankfully I shall be vacationing on the West Coast of Scotland with NO mobile reception, NO internet and if I'm really lucky I will be spending time with basking sharks, otters and white tailed eagles.

Janet, Stirling

My holiday routine is do 20-30 minutes a day to check in with the office (I work in a small business). It achieves peace of mind and ensures that I do not return to hundreds upon hundreds of emails. I am up to speed with what is going on and am not be in need of another break two days after I return. For the other 23.5 hours a day of my holiday I am completely relaxed and can focus on family etc.

Jem McDowall, NY, USA

I just finished a family vacation in North Carolina's Outer Banks. Each morning, myself and two other dads, would fire up our laptops, drink some coffee, manage work email, and generally keep tabs on what was going on in our respective work places. I even chatted with two clients... They seemed apologetic about "bothering me" when they discovered I was on a family vacation. However, I told them to the contrary, I liked my work greatly and I didn't need a vacation from it. I only needed a vacation with my family (a key distinction).

Matt DeReno, Pittsburgh, US

I have been the unhappy company to someone who decided to take a 'worliday' and I can honestly say that I wish they had never bothered coming at all. There is no-way that you can fully engage with your family, particularly your children, while running off to check your emails all the time. It is not fair on those you go with and it isn't at all healthy. I would much rather use those rare holiday days to truly enjoy my new location and make the most of being with those who I love. Smart phones and laptops will be banned from my breaks.

Sam, London

Great news... As a teacher, can I join in?

Khris, Northants

Those of us who freelance have always done this. Feels normal. What feels odd is the idea that on a break you have to 'engage fully' at all times with your loved ones, and that on a break is the only time it can be done.

Simon Brown, Sheffield, England

Online comms are having a profound impact on society. Most of us find it harder to relax without technology than with. This is a cultural shift that needs to be acknowledged by all.

Carole, London

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