Here’s a claim you probably haven’t heard many people make in 2020: since COVID-19, Stephen has been living the dream. 

As a 32-year-old marketing manager at a cloud solutions company, Stephen was among the 42% of American office workers sent to work from home during lockdowns. But rather than work from a claustrophobic apartment, as many were forced to do, he used the opportunity to get away from it all.

After his return-to-work date was extended—and then extended again and again—Stephen took advantage of his new remote working arrangement and relocated to his family’s vacation home in North Carolina. 

It may not technically be a vacation—Stephen is still on the hook for all his work and targets—but it looks a lot more like one than his pre-pandemic daily lifestyle did, with a more relaxed work-life balance and better cost of living, to boot. And he might be onto the solution to a major problem facing the workforce: chronic vacation deprivation.

The problem with too little vacation

Anyone who’s ever felt desperate for a getaway isn’t alone. Compared to other nations, Americans take a minuscule amount of time off.

For starters, workers in the US typically get fewer paid vacation days than those in other countries. Unlike Canada, the UK, and countless other nations, there’s no legal minimum for paid time off or public holidays in the United States, though 76% of private industry workers do get some paid vacation days. 

Even so, days off are fewer and further between than paid vacation elsewhere: after one year on the job, the average American worker banks just 10 vacation days. Compare that to Australia, where workers accrue four weeks of vacation for each year of service with their employer, plus eight annual public holidays.

What’s more, workers in the US aren’t taking full advantage of what little vacation they do get: last year, Americans forfeited roughly half their vacation time, or a record 768 million days in total.

What’s the toll of slacking off on using vacation days? It’s more than just leaving hard-earned benefits on the table. Research shows that workers who don’t use their time off are less productive, more stressed, and less healthy. One study even found that men who don’t take vacations are 30% more likely to have a heart attack. The rate is even higher—50%—for women who don’t use their time off.

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Seeking better work-vacation balance

But just as the coronavirus pandemic has challenged so many norms in such a short time, it also has the potential to upend America’s poor record on paid time off. 

The work-from-home movement has blurred the lines between work and life, making Stephen’s North Carolina family vacation home, a remote office in Barbados, or even an extended stint at an overwater bungalow in the Maldives not the out-of-reach fantasies they once were. 

Many obstacles stood in the way of using time off pre-COVID-19. In some cases, workers may have been concerned about a lack of face time in the office, especially when it comes to taking a longer break (often necessary for a longer getaway once travel days and jet lag are factored in). Research also shows that Millennials are more likely to take “microcations”—vacations of four or fewer days—which may allow for more frequent breaks over the course of the year, but don’t provide the same ability to recharge. 

Workcation

With some companies extending work from home policies for another year, if not forever, some employees are taking their work away from home and into new areas. Workcation destinations are popping up all over the world, with workers spending weeks or months working in a getaway.

If not a getaway, many also left their work cities and returned to their hometowns while they wait for offices to reopen. And they have the freedom to travel and work from anywhere without having to request vacation hours like previously.

Cloud technology is the key 

There are, however, some prerequisites for making work-from-anywhere arrangements, well, work. To make extended work-vacations successful, employees must be able to perform optimally during their working hours, so they can unplug and enjoy their new location when they’re not on the job. 

This requires an internet connection, obviously, but also technology that allows employees to work when they feel most productive, collaborate effectively with their colleagues from wherever they are, and reduce the headache of managing too much technology. Such low-value work can waste time—to the tune of an hour per day—without moving the needle on actual organizational goals. 

One of the most fundamental requirements is a communications platform that allows workers to connect and collaborate seamlessly. When their employees go remote, many businesses quickly discover that using a fragmented patchwork of solutions—instant messaging apps, video conferencing, phone, fax—simply won’t cut it. 

Solutions like RingCentral Office® combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single platform that workers can access from anywhere in the world. It acts as a central app for all communications, making collaboration effortless for employees regardless of their location.

Whether they choose to work from home, on vacation, or a mix of both, they’ll have the technology to accommodate their new normals.