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

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Businessman half-ready for holiday
Image caption,
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).

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.

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.

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