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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has popularized "workcations" — going on a vacation, but working while there.

Why it matters: Just because work-from-anywhere means we can work on vacation doesn't mean we should. Experts warn that the pandemic's upending of work-life balance could drastically worsen burnout in the U.S.

What's happening: 74% of Americans who are working from home said they’d consider taking a workcation, per Harris Poll data reported by Axios.

"The kind of work that more and more people do doesn’t fit neatly into time and place," says Michael Leiter, a professor of psychology at Acadia University. "It’s not like you stop thinking about it when the clock hits 5pm."

  • Pandemic-era remote work has only accelerated the uncoupling of work from time and location, and that means the line between working and not working is increasingly blurry.
  • And when work can happen anytime and anywhere, boundaries aren't automatically set. "You have to make that happen," Leiter says.

The big picture: Americans have always underused vacation days, and we're working even longer days during the pandemic.

  • American workers also work 50% more than those in Germany, France and Italy, per a National Bureau of Economic Research paper. But "there's no sign that the U.S. is more productive because of that," Leiter says. "It’s not doing us any good to work all the time."
  • In fact, Stanford researchers found that workplace stress costs the U.S. around $190 billion a year.

It's not just on individual workers to prioritize vacations, experts say. Companies and managers need to encourage their employees to unplug — especially during times of economic strife like the pandemic, when workers may be worried about job security and are reluctant to take time off.

  • Strategies include implementing company-wide days off and encouraging workers to take time off for mental health even if they don't have trips planned, Sabina Nawaz, a CEO coach and consultant, writes in the Harvard Business Review.
  • "It starts at the top," says Darren Murph, head of remote work at GitLab, the world's largest all-remote company. "GitLab executives visibly take time off and will share in public channels. Disconnecting from work has to be celebrated at the highest level to set the tone for everyone else in the organization to recognize that recharging is supported and encouraged."

The bottom line: Vacations enrich your potential to contribute at work, Leiter says. When you stop thinking about work, "it just opens your mind in a whole different way. That distancing is part of how you recover your energy."

  • You can't reap any of those benefits on a workcation.

Go deeper

1 hour ago - Health

First Texas doctor sued for performing abortion in violation of new law

Abortion rights activists march to the house of US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh in Chevy Chase Maryland, on Sept. 13, 2021, following the court's decision to uphold a stringent abortion law in Texas. Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

A San Antonio physician is facing a lawsuit after he admitted performing an abortion considered illegal under Texas' new law.

Why it matters: The civil suit, filed by a convicted felon in Arkansas, against Alan Braid is the first such suit under the law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a pregnant person obtain an abortion after six weeks.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Democrats propose raising debt ceiling through midterms

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House and Senate leadership announced on Monday that they plan to attach a proposal to raise the debt ceiling through Dec. 2022 to a short-term, government funding bill. The bill must pass before the end of the month or Congress risks a shutdown.

Why it matters: Democrats are taking a huge risk by trying to force through an increase of the debt limit in its must-pass funding bill. The move is wishful thinking on behalf of Democrats who are hoping they can get at least 10 centrist Republicans to balk, as well as an effort to put Republicans on record opposing it.

Biden to stress U.S. does not seek new Cold War in UN speech

Photo: Al Drago/Getty Images

President Biden will use his first address before the UN General Assembly to lay out his vision for an era of "intensive diplomacy" with allies and "vigorous competition" with great powers — without a Cold War with China.

Why it matters: Biden will take the podium in New York on Tuesday with his own international credibility in question after the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan. His administration also is struggling to build international momentum to fight climate change, the pandemic and rising global authoritarianism.