Prepping for a workcation

What is a workcation and should I take one?

Workcation: a working vacation

I think it’s fair to say that lots of things have changed over the last year. We’ve all learnt a lot about ourselves, whether that’s to appreciate nature more, how to bake the perfect banana bread or that we can ace a zoom quiz.

However I think one of the biggest changes many of us have had to come to terms with is the way we work.

A few years ago I asked the HR team at my company if I could work one day a week from home. I was feeling worn out by my daily four-hour commute and wanted to spend Fridays at home instead.

At first they weren’t keen. There were concerns about meetings I would need to attend, team talks I would miss out on and visits to clients I wouldn’t be able to do in person. In reality, it wasn’t really the done thing and, while no one would admit it, I think there was always the feeling that I might slack off at home.

Eventually it was agreed on a trial basis and those Fridays became my most productive day of the week. I loved waking up at a sensible time, sitting down at my desk by 9am and being able to log off and get on with my weekend as soon as the clock ticked past 5.30pm.

Now if the past year has taught us anything, it’s that many of us really can work from anywhere. Obviously there are certain jobs which will always need to be done at a specific location, but for the rest of us who can just as easily work from our kitchen table, why can’t we also do that job from a villa in Spain or a hotel in the Maldives?

The rise of the workcation

As we begin to look ahead to the world reopening, travel companies are already gearing up for a rise in requests about working vacations, with some now specifically advertising in this area.

Working vacations, aka workcations, are expected to rise drastically due to a number of reasons. These include people wanting to spend more time with family they may not have seen for a long time; people reprioritising their lives during lockdown and a greater awareness of our impact on the environment, which means people will take fewer trips for a longer period of time.

Why take a workcation?

As mentioned above, there may be a number of reasons why you would choose to take a workcation. If you have family who live in a different part of the country, or even abroad, the chances are that you won’t have seen them in person for quite some time. Taking a workcation while you stay with, or near, them will enable you to have a longer trip, rather than a rushed visit. After completing your working day, you’ll be able to spend evenings and weekends together, and may even be able to squeeze in other moments like a lunchtime catch-up. If you do decide to stay with family or friends for a workcation, make it clear to whoever you are visiting that you do need to work during your designated hours, otherwise it could be easy to get distracted.

Likewise, a year in lockdown may have made you prioritise what’s important to you. For us, we’ve realised how much we miss the little impromptu weekends we used to take, such as camping as a family. If you feel you’d like to spend more time exploring the world, but don’t have many vacation days available, then maybe a workcation could give you the best of both worlds. For a week away you could use three vacation days and work two days, for example. 

I also think that a year without travel has made many of us consider our impact on the environment. Personally in the future I see us taking fewer trips, but for a longer period of time, which will hopefully help us to reduce our carbon footprint. If you feel you’d like to embrace slow travel more, then a workcation may be a good way to do it.

How to ask for a workcation

I think it’s fair to say that we are going to see the world of work change a lot in the future and I hope this means that companies become a little more flexible. 

The first thing to do when requesting permission from your boss or HR team to take a workcation is to be honest about why you want one. Also, in the same way as if you are asking for a sabbatical, think about how it could work in reality. Be ready to answer questions about how you’ll attend meetings or work with other colleagues.

Make sure you have actually thought all of this through before you ask for a workcation, so that your company can see that you are taking it seriously.

Where should I go on my workcation?  

If you do decide to take a workcation, there are some things you should consider first. Although technically we can work from anywhere in the world, there are certain things that will have an influence on just how effectively we are able to do so. The biggest one is probably Internet and mobile phone connection. If your job includes lots of online meetings, you need to be sure you’re not going to be dropping in and out of video calls, as that will just become frustrating for everyone involved. Likewise, for most jobs, you need to make sure you’re available on the end of a phone when needed.

Something else to think about is the time difference of the place you’ll be working in. If you’re just planning to work from somewhere with an hour or two of time difference, you should be able to adapt your working day accordingly. However, if you decide to go to the other side of the world, that could make things more difficult if you are expected to be working in the same time zone as your colleagues. 

Another consideration is the kind of place you want to base yourself in. Remember, you will be there to work, so it may not be good to be somewhere too full of distractions. For example, if it’s somewhere you love to spend time partying, consider whether that will actually make a good base for an office. Remember it needs to be somewhere you are comfortable and happy working, not somewhere where you feel like you are constantly missing out. 

Things to consider

Before making a decision about whether to take a workcation, it’s worth thinking about your own personality and the way you like to work.

Do you enjoy spending time by yourself or will you get lonely if you don’t have people around you? If you like the buzz of a working environment, it might be worth considering places which already have remote working communities, like Bali or Thailand.

You also need to make sure you have the willpower to stay motivated and keep meeting deadlines. If you’re not sure if a workcation is for you, why not try a short trip in your home country first to see how it goes?

If you do plan to work abroad, something else to consider is whether you require a visa. While some countries will allow you to enter and stay as a tourist for a number of weeks/months, others will expect you to apply for a visa. However, as a result of the last year, a number of countries are now activitly trying to encourage remote works. Countries such as Barbados and Mauritius actually now offer year-long remote working visas.

The cost of living is another thing you need to think about. While an apartment in a European city might sound idealic, the costs could soon rack up. Make sure you work out your budget ahead of time and allow for any costs you will continue to incur back at home.

Finally, if you do decide to take the leap, don’t forget to aim for a work/life balance. When I spent a month working in Qatar, I wanted to make the most of every opportunity to explore, but had to remind myself not to burn the candle at both ends too often as I still had a job to do each day!

Are you thinking about taking a workcation this year? I’d love to hear about it!