Workations can help people see the world and get the job done
Just a few years ago, workations were the domain of a select few digital nomads, roaming the world in search of a good Wi-Fi connection and a place to chill after the workday – or worknight. But it’s a new world now. For tens of millions of people, a job no longer means being tied to a specific place. Just about any where can be an office, and once the work is finished, workers have a whole new place to explore in their free time, and they don’t have to use up all their PTO. It’s a very attractive proposition.
It’s so attractive that a 2021 poll found that about three quarters of Americans were considering workations, and a 2022 Censuswide poll found that a third of workers in the UK were planning them. Depending on the employer, workers can go for a few days, a few weeks, or even a few months. The change of pace can restore a sense of work-life balance and even make workers more productive, but there are challenges to consider to ensure the work gets done.
Benefits and Challenges
It’s well-established that the decompression and new perspectives vacation can provide can reinvigorate employees. Outside their normal routines, they come back with fresh ideas and recharged, ready to take on new challenges. Can the same occur if they’re in a new place but still spending their days on the clock?
Well, 86% of respondents in a Passport Photo Online survey of more than 1,000 Americans said a workation boosted their productivity. More than 80% said they became more creative at work, a phenomenon related to all the new pathways the brain creates as it processes new information about people’s surroundings. More than 80% also said it helped stave off burnout; and 69% said their workations made them less likely to quit their jobs.
So in an era of increased competition for talent, employers who allow workations can gain a leg up on retaining their best talent. But they do still have their concerns. Atop the list is wondering how much work and how much vacation is going into the workation. If employees are in vacation mode, how much are they actually working, and are their minds focused on the task at hand or on after-work activities?
It’s a very hard mindset for employers to let go of, so employees need to demonstrate they can duplicate the quality and volume of the output when on workation. Employers, for their part, need to be open to the concept and to trust data that shows remote work and flexible hours make employees more productive.
There’s also the juggling of scheduled and coordination of time when people scattered all over the world need to meet, and the potential for becoming disconnected from the team that long absences can bring. It takes a lot of trust, communication, and flexibility from all parties.
Where to Workation?
Once a workation is agreed upon, the question becomes, ‘Where to?’ Quite a few countries, particularly in the Caribbean and Europe, have leaned into the trend of workations, offering remote work visas to encourage visitors to come spend their money.
With relatively low costs of living, places such as Spain, Portugal, and Greece have been popular destinations for workations. People trying to escape the rat race have found a sense of calm and a slower pace that agrees with them.
“Living on an island has immediately slowed down my pace of life,” 25-year-old Londoner and software startup employee Toby Feldman told the Spectator. “I now walk a dog on long lunch breaks and spend afternoons working from botanical gardens.”
From early in the pandemic, Barbados has offered a yearlong Welcome Stamp that exempts remote workers from tax requirements if they earn at least $50,000 annually. This is a major lure given that normally workers living in a country for more than half the year are on the hook for taxes in that country.
The short-term rental market soared in 2022 with people on workations both renting and putting their own homes up for rent. In the top 50 European cities, demand was up by more than 25%.
The city of Pacifica just south of San Francisco is offering gift cards to remote workers who spend at least two nights during the week at local hotels. The city promises good workspaces, fast and free Wi-Fi, free parking and proximity to nightlife, shopping, and the beach.
Some organizations are leaning in wholeheartedly to workations, with Australian design software company Desygner sponsoring a 12-day “hackathon” in Bali last year for employees and prospective employees.
“Instead of just investing in traditional startup slacks and ping-pong tables in the office, we are going one step further and investing in places people want to work from, in dream locations,” CEO Alex Rich said.
Other companies looking to attract top talent might consider offering workations as a perk. You never know what the benefits may be.