Amid all the problems caused by a global pandemic, there have also been some positive side effects. Employers are realising that people don’t need to be chained to an office chair in order to get work done. Society is waking up to the fact that remote working can be more effective than rigid office arrangements. Harnessing this shift in working culture, people all over the world are grasping the opportunity to combine work and travel by taking a ‘workation’ – and they are reaping the benefits.
There are many advantages to a change of surroundings: it helps with productivity, you can get out of the city, enjoy a better work–life balance, and return home refreshed afterwards. But don’t just take our word for it. In this article, we explore the benefits of workations (also known as workcations) through the stories of people who have taken them during these tumultuous times.
Taking a workation improves your productivity
The opportunity to change up your working environment while exploring outdoors in a new location can help bring a sharper focus and enhance your productivity. Alison Plattsmier, CEO of AQP Consulting, took some time away from her Nashville home last year to travel across nine US states, working along the way in between hikes and visits to the beach.
“A change of scenery really leaves you more refreshed and productive,” she says. “The monotony of living and going to work in your home can get exhausting, so workations can help reinvigorate you both personally and professionally.”
“Rather than making me less productive, it made me much more able to focus and make the most of my work.”
Marja Verbon is the founder of job recommendation platform Jump.Work and is based in London. In 2020 she swapped life in the city to work in Italy through the summer, from the beaches of Sardegna, the lake vistas of Como and the tranquility of the Alps.
“I went from living in a basement flat with the daily highlight being the walk around my square, to doing yoga on the beach in the morning and going for an afternoon swim in the sea,” she says.
“Rather than making me less productive, it made me much more able to focus and make the most of my work. As an entrepreneur and founder, it can be incredibly hard to switch off, and you can often find me working any time of day or night. Switching off by going outdoors was just amazing, and something that the city will never be able to fully provide you.
“Once you’re back at your computer, you’re inspired not just to be more productive and prioritise well, but also to come up with creative solutions on problems you can be stuck on.”
Return home with fresh energy
The geographical separation from your everyday professional environment on a workation brings many of the same benefits as taking a complete break. Many workationers describe returning home refreshed, with a new sense of energy and purpose.
Jake Irving is the owner of Willamette Life Insurance, which he runs from Portland, Oregon. With offices closed last year, he made several impromptu trips out to Sunriver, a four-hour drive from the city, where he could intersperse work with walking, hiking and biking.
“I found the experience each time so great for a bit of a mental reset,” says Jake. “Getting out into nature is grounding, relaxing, and energising. Even just looking out the window at different scenery while working inside is a welcome change from the everyday view of my working-from-home office space.
“Upon returning to Portland I have a new energy as though I just went on an actual vacation, even though I was working a majority of the time.”
Escape the city and disconnect
Many people who live and work in big cities tell stories of how quieter, natural surroundings are a powerful respite. Peter Lavelle works in Madrid as a travel visa expert at Byevisa. Last year, he rented a cottage in the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range outside the city.
“I went to the Sierra, first because the temperatures really rise in Madrid in July and August, so heading to the mountains is a popular way to beat the heat,” says Peter. “As well as working, there’s excellent hiking, and the area was teeming with butterflies, so I took dozens of photos. I also went to a couple of restaurants, enjoying traditional Spanish dishes.
“The experience was definitely worthwhile to disconnect from the city after the Covid quarantine, and to breathe some fresh mountain air between video calls!”
“It gave me a lot of new perspectives and new ideas to think about.”
Ewelina Robaczek lives and works in Berlin, as the founder and CEO of marketing platform Vouchery. In October she set off for a two-month workation in Peniche, a small village in Portugal just north of Lisbon.
“I was way more productive working from a sunny location, a few minutes away from the ocean,” Ewelina recalls. “The surfing vibe of the village was encouraging to be more active – I was running, taking yoga classes and surfing. Although I met many people, the hostel provided many hidden spots for book reading and self-inquiry.
“It was great to get to know people from different environments and backgrounds. It gave me a lot of new perspectives and new ideas to think about. I will definitely do workation on a regular basis, even after the pandemic.”
See places you’ve always dreamed about
Jill Anderson works in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as the senior director of marketing for Meet Minneapolis. After the organisation moved to 100% remote working last March, she took three extended workations: two separate adventures to in a lake cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin, and a 1,700 mile road trip to Scottsdale, Arizona.
“We would have never had the opportunity to work remotely in the ‘normal world’ so we tried to take full advantage of this temporary freedom.”
Between getting work done, Jill and her partner filled the trips with hiking, boating, horse-riding, biking, exploring small rural towns, trying out bars and restaurants, campfires and karaoke.
“We would have never had the opportunity to work remotely in the ‘normal world’ so we tried to take full advantage of this temporary freedom,” she says. “We live in a small 800-square-foot condo that was not meant to have two adults working from home full-time, so to be able to get away and see different scenery and have a whole new world to explore when the work day was done has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience!”
Take control of your working hours
Combining work with a programme of leisure activities on a workation can help to optimise your working hours. Rather than watching the clock tick down on unproductive office afternoons, you can focus on effectiveness and getting the most important things done with minimal distractions.
Jessica Ulloa lives in Poland, but works for San Francisco-based company MyPerfectResume as a community manager. Due to the time difference and flexible arrangements, her work is evaluated on results rather than the number of hours she puts in. “This gives me a lot of flexibility in setting up my schedule, and provides me with ample opportunities to go for workations,” she says. “The last workation I took was a week-long ski trip in the mountains. During the trip, I went hiking, skiing, took advantage of the resort’s facilities, and of course, worked.”
Jessica plans her work sprints ahead of time to get the most out of her workation experiences. “Take a look at the activities you would like to do and set up times for them,” she says. “For example, I knew that hiking would take me four hours, so I scheduled this activity as early in the morning as possible. This way, I had the rest of the day to focus on work.
“The same applies to work. I made a list of the tasks I had to take care of during the week, highlighted the most important tasks, and added deadlines to each. Being aware of this made it possible for me to arrange my schedule in a way that allowed me to finish my tasks, but also enjoy my trip.”
When things don’t go according to plan…
As with any kind of trip, workations can be affected by adverse circumstances and events beyond your control. Beth McCallum, based in Glasgow, Scotland, is a freelance writer for the cleaning website Oh So Spotless. Her summer 2020 workation to the seaside village of Largs was disrupted by the elements.
“Unfortunately, the weather was miserable so I couldn’t go for hikes or swims,” she says. “I didn’t even go to the famous ice cream shop as it was too cold!”
Beth learned the hard way why choice of accommodation is crucial to an enjoyable and productive workation. “The place I stayed was not equipped for working from home,” she recalls. “They didn’t have a table or chairs, so I had to work from the couch or bed.
“I would recommend workations for people if they’re considering it, but make sure the place you’re booking has everything you need for a productive workday.”
Workation benefits: further reading
Ready to start planning your own remote working adventure? You can begin with our ultimate guide to workations.