Gap Adventures just released a survey of Canadian attitudes towards work-life balance and their interest in taking a career break. And it looks like Canadians would love to take a break to travel.
Background of the Gap Adventures 2011 Labour Day Poll
I provided input to Gap Adventures during the creation of the survey. There is a lack of any recent scientific surveys on the career break market. What does exist is typically from the UK which has the most developed market globally for career breaks. But for countries that are seen as up-and-coming career-break travel markets, there is precious little.
So, to have a major travel company take interest in this market and seek to find out more about it, and publish it to raise awareness about career breaks was very exciting to me. What I really like about this survey is that it directly polled working Canadians on their attitudes towards career breaks. To be honest, I was really surprised by the results. Here are my reactions and analysis about what we learned from the survey.
The data was gathered between May 12th through May 22nd, 2011 through Harris/Decima’s weekly teleVox, the company’s national omnibus survey. Results are based on a sample of 1,087 employed Canadians, and the corresponding margin of error is ±3.0%, 19 times out of 20.
The Results and My Commentary
Finding 1: ¨Nearly half (47%) of employed Canadians feel they don’t have enough work/life balance.¨
No surprise that many people feel they don’t have enough work-life balance. My biggest surprise was that this number wasn’t higher! This is probably a reflection of being from the US where it’s hard to find people who feel they have enough work-life balance.
Finding 2: ¨Majority (64%) of Canadians feel overwhelmed or stressed at work at least occasionally.¨
Given the gyrations of the economy over the past few years, this number is hardly surprising. While the Canadian economy has generally performed better than the US and Europeans economies since 2008, workers are still subjected to the same pressures: do less with more. We’ve all had that feeling where we felt like something had to give and we couldn’t take one more project to manage. I would love to meet the Canadians that never felt overwhelmed or stressed at work. I want that job!
Finding 3: ¨Half (51%) of Canadians often think about taking a career break.¨
This finding surprised me in a good way. It showed me that a significant portion of the Canadian workforce really finds the idea of a career break attractive. This fits squarely with what we already know about the modern career. It will be a collection of jobs and work experiences. It will not be a linear process of entering employment and staying with that employer for 20-30 years. A career will be fluid and constantly changing. In that context, taking a break for a month, three months, even a year, doesn’t seem so outlandish after all.
Finding 4: ¨Majority (89%) of Canadians feel personal development is just as or more important than professional development. Females and males share the same opinion (91 and 88% respectively).¨
This finding reminds me of James Howell’s old saying. ¨All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.¨ We know that working those long hours is often necessary. But, when we do it too much, we just feel dead inside. Your work-life balance starts to feel out of whack, like you’re missing something. Or, you feel disconnected from your personal passions. This is where a career break comes in. It allows you to step out of your environment to put all that energy and passion you’ve dedicated to your career into yourself. A career break may not be for everyone, but it looks like Canadians are increasingly thinking that it is a viable option.
Finding 5: ¨Budget/affordability, security/safety and being alone would be the biggest concerns about travelling during a career break.¨
This finding confirmed what I have suspected all along about why people don’t take career breaks. People are concerned about money, security and, to a lesser extent, traveling solo. The biggest questions I get about how to take a big trip revolve mostly around these issues. Luckily there is a lot more information about all of these topics these day available to those wanting to take a break.
Finding 6: ¨Three quarters (74%) of Canadians would take a career break if nothing stood in their way. Females (79%) more likely to take a career break if nothing stood in their way; compared to males (70%).¨
I found this finding fascinating. 3 out of 4 Canadians would take a career break? Really? Wow! It makes me wonder how we as a society remove those barriers to let people take time off. I’m sure not all would travel. Let’s face it, it’s not everyone’s dream. But imagine a cultural shift in attitudes about work that says it’s fine, it’s expected, to take a career break.
Also, one of the career break secrets I have known for a while is that there are a lot more solo female travelers out there than is recognized. This result doesn’t tell us why taking a career break to travel is a bit more appealing to women than to men (and it was never intended as part of the scope). But, it does confirm what I’ve seen out in the traveling world. I am actively on the hunt for the answer to this question.
My Bottom Line Conclusions About the Results
So, what does all this mean. Here is how I interpret the results.
- Taking a career break to travel is not a foreign concept to Canadians.
- Career breaks are highly appealing to all Canadians, with slight more appeal to women than men.
- Working Canadians are extremely interested in developing themselves outside the office. Coupled with strong interest in taking a career break to travel, Canadians may opt to use a career break to accomplish both their travel and personal development goals.
- Coming to terms with budget, safety while traveling and how to travel solo can help more Canadians see how it is possible for them to take a career break to travel enabling more of them to do it.
Disclosure: I am serving as the Gap Adventures media spokesman for career break travel. While this series is part of a broader campaign to raise awareness about career break travel, all opinions, tips and advice are mine.