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the future of work

The first day back at work after a long holiday always feels a little like an out-of-body experience. Your office and colleagues may look familiar, but for some reason, you aren't quite sure why you are there.

At least, that's how I felt after two weeks in the Caribbean. Perhaps being on holiday felt so natural since most people I met seemed to be from Ontario. Our WestJet pilot jokingly referred to our destination as Punta Canada and for good reason.

Of course, now that I'm back, my instinct should be to whittle down the pile of work that awaits me, but as I do, I can't seem to resist keeping one browser window open to scan for new holidays deals. Apparently, I'm not alone.

According to a new survey by Kayak, a travel search engine, Canadians are more than happy to use their work time to plan their next vacation, especially during the midday slump between noon and 3 p.m. Torontonians in particular do the most planning at work, followed by Montrealers and Vancouverites. Canadians seem to love their holidays so much that a quarter are prepared to lie to their bosses in order to skip work for a dream vacation.

Considering the trend in North America where many don't use all their allocated vacation days – an survey last year showed the average Canadian only takes 14 of their 17.3 vacation days a year – I can only view this surreptitious planning as progress.

David Solomito, who runs North American brand marketing for Kayak, agrees.

"When you are connected to work 24-7, it's becoming far more necessary to get personal 'to dos' done during work hours and what better way to tackle the afternoon slump than to get that vacation you've been meaning to plan on the books," said Mr. Solomito, who is based in Stamford, Connecticut.

It's not all bad for employers, either. Planning a trip makes people happy, even happier than the trip itself, according to their study.

"So, there are far worse ways you could be spending your break time at the office," he added.

The Kayak survey data also suggest that Canadians are taking more holidays. Vacation searches for March break increased 21 per cent over last year and Canadians appear to be planning longer trips and to farther-flung destinations, such as Greece, Iceland and New Zealand, compared to our British and American colleagues. Over all, there was also a 10 per cent increase in flight searches year over year in 2016, indicating that more Canadians are choosing to get away.

A report by Travelzoo, a global deals publisher with 1.5 million members in Canada and over 28 million members worldwide, also demonstrated that Canadians are not only increasing their travel, but also looking at more exotic destination. Ninety per cent of their members say they will travel as much if not more than last year, with 69 per cent of members saying they will plan two domestic holidays this year and 71 per cent eyeing two international holidays this year.

Susan Catto, head of publishing for Travelzoo in Canada, said that short getaways are also very popular with their Canadian members.

"There's a lot of interest in weekend trips and overnight stays at hotels and resorts within driving distance of Canada's major cities … trips like this don't necessarily require much time off work, but they can reinvigorate and inspire us, which can only be a good thing from a workplace perspective," said Ms. Catto.

"Personally, I think taking a break from our daily routine and our jobs is essential and makes for a stronger work force. It's not just about the rest that a holiday can provide, though that's lovely and important. It's about broadening and sharpening our minds through travel and developing a more global outlook," she added.

Still, some employers may feel miffed about employees using critical work time to plan their next holiday. While it may be frustrating, if you look at the big picture, it's beneficial not only for employee health but productivity. Studies show that vacations – even very short ones – have a positive impact on an employee's health and well being.

Jessica De Bloom, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Tampere in Finland, reports that, even if the postglow of vacations remains short-lived, the associated memories of it may help build up a personal buffer against future stress.

"Studies have shown time and time again that people who take their vacation days are more productive," insisted Mr. Solomito, who calls on "all the bosses out there" to make sure their teams are getting the time off they need.

"It will be good for productivity and for making sure you don't have too many folks playing hooky on you," he quipped.

Leah Eichler (@LeahEichler) writes about workplace trends.