BURLINGTON, Mass. Tim Philman is entitled to two weeks’ paid vacation from his job as a software engineer for Infomatrix, and like most private sector employees he can’t carry over days he doesn’t use each year. “I’ve been burned a couple of times,” he says with a trace of bitterness. “One year I rented a place on the Cape and it rained all week, and my girlfriend broke up with me.”
“The candy machine is out of Chuckles.”
But he isn’t interested in a “staycation,” an approach used by some employees who don’t want to risk large sums on vacations and instead hang around their homes for a week or two and take day trips. “I don’t have central air,” Philman says, “and I’m home every other day of the year, so that’s no fun for me.”
Elaine Mumford: “Well, I can’t find any rule against it, so I guess it’s okay.”
The other alternative is a “workation,” where someone takes a laptop with them on a trip and stays focused on a steady stream of emails while trying to relax, but that doesn’t appeal to those like Philman who are alienated from, rather than invested in their professional lives. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to be bugged long-distance by someone I spent thousands of dollars to get away from,” he says.
So Philman, like others who find themselves in a similar predicament, is opting this summer for a “break-ation” and will move next Monday into the break room at his company, where he will enjoy free wi-fi, cool air conditioning needed for his company’s large computer servers, and a rotating array of snack foods and soft drinks in well-stocked vending machines.
“I don’t have a lot of friends outside of work,” Philman says. “Why go to the beach and listen to a bunch of screaming kids when I can goof off while my co-workers slave away at their mindless, boring jobs?”
The National Association of Human Resource Professionals, the “gatekeepers” for unusual vacation requests, says most companies have no policy prohibiting “break-ations” and so are caught off-guard when an employee requests the accommodation. “Personally, I don’t see the attraction,” says Elaine Mumford, President-elect of the trade group. “I don’t like to toss the word ‘loser’ around lightly, but how can anyone stick around here when this country has so many wonderful Six Flags amusement parks to see before you die?”
In-house and private corporate security firms say that “break-ations” create a risk of property crime, with petty larceny high on the list. “I urge any company that tolerates this sort of thing to add extra plainclothes agents between now and Labor Day at our very reasonable overtime rates,” says Jim Sturgis, Chief of Police in Muncie, Indiana. “You let just one of these perps stay overnight and all of a sudden, next day nobody can find any 8 X 14″ legal pads or pink Post-It Notes.”