What is a workation?

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The term workation is a combination of ‘work’ and ‘vacation’ and refers to when people work while on a trip away.

The term ‘workation’ is a combination of ‘work’ and ‘vacation’, and refers to when people work while they are away. A workation occurs when employees take advantage of their remote or hybrid work models to work away from home – usually in a holiday location. It’s important to note that a workation does not mean that employees are off work. However, it does mean that employees can work in non-traditional environments, such as on the beach or in the cruise ship bar. Depending on company policy, workations can be short (less than a week), medium (a few weeks to a month) or long-term (a few months to a few years).  

History of workations 

The term ‘workation’ is likely to have made its way into the business world through Vanessa Van Edwards, founder of Science of People. In a 2013 Huffington Post article, Van Edwards recounted how she and her husband took a six-year workation – during which they managed to bring their virtual work set-up to 24 locations across the globe, including the Chilean fjords.  

While workations are typically associated with independent workers that are not tied to an office or permanent location, the rise in hybrid and remote work models brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have made workations widely accessible, although many companies are still not offering them. Employers that do offer workations must consider various legal implications, such as labour law, social security law, tax law, data protection law and residence law. Employees, on the other hand, should register their workations well in advance and check the legal requirements within the country of employment. For example, employees working outside of the European Union will need to obtain work and residence permits to do so and may be required to provide documentation, such as a certificate from a health insurance provider, before moving.  

Recent trends in workations 

During the pandemic, lockdown prevented people from going into the office – which led to the growth of online communication and video platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. These platforms, and their accompanying mobile apps, have made it easy to conduct online meetings and work remotely – ensuring that team members can be reached during work hours even when they’re on the go. This has caused many employers to become more comfortable with the idea of employees working remotely.   

As the pandemic subsided, many workers either continued to work remotely or adopted a hybrid-work model that allowed them to split their time between home and the office – both of which have enabled more people to take workations. In the UK, one third of office workers expect to take a workation this year. Motivations for taking a workation may vary from person to person, as some may take a workation to visit family and friends while others may use their workation to experience a new culture, country or way of life.  

The average workation length is 2 months, which is estimated to cost close to £2,000. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many of the people who are not planning a workation this year cite accommodation costs and childcare responsibilities as factors within their decision. To go further, roughly a third of workers are too worried to request a workation as they believe their boss will react negatively – while nearly half said they were not allowed to work remotely at all. While some companies do not allow for remote or hybrid work, others have gone in the opposite direction by offering business-wide workations intended to build team spirit and morale.  

Advantages of workations 

  • Workations can boost employee satisfaction and productivity.  
  • Workations can improve the relationship between an employer and employee as it shows that they are trusted to deliver their work targets whether they are in the office or not. 
  • Workations can improve employee retention, as one study found that 39% of employees would consider quitting their job if their bosses were not flexible about remote work. 
  • Workations can improve employee wellbeing and reduce burnout. 

Disadvantages of workations 

  • Rules and regulations surrounding workations have yet to be clearly defined.  
  • Employers and employees must be clear on whether workation days are registered as full working or holiday days, as confusion may arise.  
  • Issues surrounding cybersecurity must be dealt with as employees log in to work from unsecure networks or different countries. 
  • As they are only possible for white-collar workers, workations could create a cultural divide in business.  
  • Workations may cause dissent in the workplace between workationers and stationary employees.  

Use case 

In October 2022, Australian martech group Desygner launched the first event in a series of company-sponsored workations in Bali. The 12-day ‘Global Hackathon’ hosted the global Desygner team, which consists of over 100 employees, as well as talented digital nomads and students working as developers, marketers, designers and sales professionals. The event – which offered all-inclusive accommodation, meals and entertainment – was designed to “steer away from the traditional notion of work being physically tied to offices or company headquarters” and recruit talent for open positions in Bali, London and the Gold Coast. “Post-pandemic, as most organisations are experimenting with hybrid and remote working models, Desygner stands to lead by example in creating better work-life experiences to attract and retain talented staff to tackle global talent crisis as they grow,” the group said.  

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