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Working from a beach hut under the Caribbean sun surrounded by palm trees or from a remote mountain refuge with jaw-dropping views over the surrounding peaks is every employee’s fantasy. With remote work, fantasies of working from anywhere in the world have turned into reality.
Workations allow remote employees to combine work and leisure while staying in a holiday destination of their choice. In many remote-first businesses, annual group workations to bring their globally distributed team together and give them a chance to bond with their coworkers have long been common practice.
Also for companies that are new to remote work, workations can be a great opportunity to prevent monotony in the workplace and encourage team bonding. However, they might find it hard to come to grips with the idea of sending their teams abroad.
In this blog post, we’ll tell you why you should make workations happen, and highlight possible pitfalls to watch out for - along with some tips on how to avoid them.
The term “workation” (sometimes also spelled “workcation” or “worcation”) is a portmanteau word formed from “work” and “vacation” and basically means working while on holiday, or mixing business with leisure. While you perform your normal job in the morning and afternoon, you use the evening to enjoy your surroundings, hit the beach and unwind. Basically, taking a workation is all about going somewhere new, while taking your work with you.
In this sense, a workation isn’t a holiday in itself, but is rather a break from your normal life without taking paid time off. Workations can last for as little as a couple of days to as long as several months, and can either be initiated and planned by the employee themselves (as a solo workation) or organized by the company (group workation). If organized by the company, workations often take on the form of a get-together for otherwise distributed teams.
If done properly, workations are beneficial for both the individual employee and the company. In fact, companies can leverage workations to improve their employees' work-life balance and mental health, which will ultimately also be beneficial for the business. Here’s how businesses and remote employees profit from the workation trend.
Workations are the ultimate opportunity to visit new places and get a well-needed change of scenery. Most remote workers work from home, which can become quite boring and monotonous after a while, and even turn into a feeling of being stuck, which is a real killer for innovation and creative thinking. Going somewhere new is a great way to shake things up and break out of the normal routine, which can enhance creativity and encourage new ideas.
Despite the fact that the employee will be working from wherever they go, it will still feel like a holiday once the workday is over. Being in a different location opens up vast possibilities for recreational activities after work and provides the necessary motivation to venture out - even after a long workday.
What’s more, getting out there and spending a few weeks of workation in a different country (or even just a different city in your home country) while meeting new people can help employees overcome the social isolation faced by many during the pandemic. Social interaction promotes personal well-being. The workation location itself also contributes towards the employee’s well-being. Working in a peaceful place somewhere in nature or near a beach is far better than spending eight hours in the office staring at a blank wall or working in a busy, stressful environment.
And since personal well-being is crucial for top job performance, we have yet another argument why companies should encourage their remote teams to go on workations. Employees who feel like they are performing well at work will be happier and experience a greater sense of satisfaction and fulfillment in their job. They will feel more connected and dedicated to the company they work for and deliver better results than coworkers who haven’t experienced the well-being boost that comes from a workation.
In a nutshell: Workations make for happier, healthier employees who are more satisfied with their job.
In the long run, the workation benefits experienced by employees will also have a positive impact on the business. After all, there is a reason why employee happiness is crucial for company success. Happy employees work harder and are more productive than employees who aren’t. A study conducted by the University of Warwick showed that happiness made people around 12% more productive.
Employee well-being, job performance and business success are equally correlated. If your employees are feeling well and energized (which is the intended effect of a workation), they will deliver better results. They will also be able to solve problems faster and think outside the box to come up with creative solutions.
Furthermore, allowing your remote team to go on workations will boost employee motivation and morale. Nothing motivates employees more to get their work done than the prospect of wrapping up the workday on time and enjoying a nice evening on the beach. And after a particularly stressful and difficult project phase at work, a workation might be just what it takes to restore your team’s morale.
In addition to these performance-related benefits, workations play an important part in employee retention. Remote work and flexible working arrangements are among the top benefits employers should offer. In fact, the 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey by Ernst & Young revealed that 54% of the 16,000 employees questioned would consider leaving their job if their employer didn’t provide post-pandemic workplace flexibility. With the workation trend gaining more and more traction, allowing your employees to join the hype will be a major plus for your employer branding.
Also, implementing a workation policy shows your team you care about their well-being, which increases their loyalty towards the company. This is particularly true if you treat your team to a group workation. Seeing that their employer goes to great lengths to ensure their mental and physical well-being will install a deep connection with the company, and your employees will be eager to pay you back by being super motivated and engaged.
When working with a globally distributed team, companies can further leverage workations for team building purposes. Since interactions between remote team members are limited to emails, Slack messages and the odd video call, organizing virtual team building activities is particularly important. Taking the whole team on an annual workation gives them the chance to get to know each other and bond with teammates based on the other side of the world. Instead of bringing the whole team together, you can also arrange for specific work units to go on a workation together. For instance, you could organize a workation for your marketing team to give them time to brainstorm together and get some deep work done.
In summary, workations increase employee motivation, productivity and creativity, which leads to better performance and increased business revenue. They also boost employee satisfaction and talent retention. If organized as a remote team workation, they can further help foster team spirit and improve collaboration between team members.
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While most companies have started to see the overall positive effect workations can have on their remote teams, there also are voices claiming that workations are counterproductive. They argue that remote work has already blurred the lines between work and leisure time, and that going on a workation only makes it harder to really unplug after work and to achieve a healthy work-life balance.
They fear that working while on holiday could increase psychological strain on workers and ultimately lead to decreased productivity rates and less engagement, since employees will no longer be able to use their vacation time to fully disconnect and recharge their batteries.
Others argue that it’s a waste of money to travel to a nice place and then spend most of your time there working. Not to forget that it takes a lot of discipline to concentrate and focus on your tasks when there are so many new and exciting things that can cause a distraction. Moreover, poor connectivity in remote areas may prevent employees from working effectively while on workation.
In the end, it’s probably fair to say that workations aren’t for everyone. Some employees might find it harder than others to draw the line between business and leisure when working from an amazing beachside resort. However, this doesn’t mean that, as an employer, you shouldn’t offer employees the possibility to try and see whether workations work for them.
Regardless of whether you plan to arrange a workation for your remote team or whether you simply need to approve a workation request forwarded by one of your remote employees, there are several things to keep in mind.
If your team is globally distributed, this will probably not cause any problems since your organization is already set up to enable asynchronous communication. But if your team is usually distributed across similar time zones, suddenly having some team members working from the other side of the world might disrupt communication and workflows and cause delays in project times.
As tempting as it may be for employees to go on a workation in the middle of nowhere to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, remote locations can come with poor internet connection. Since a stable internet connection is key to working remotely, this is a pitfall that should be avoided at all cost. If you plan on taking your remote team on a group workation, make sure to check if there is good wifi.
Again, this is something remote-first companies with globally distributed teams are already used to, but for all other businesses, keeping track of employees that go on workations across the globe can be challenging. Even if you allow your employees to work remotely, you still have a duty of care towards your employees and should therefore be aware of their whereabouts.
Compliance is without a doubt the major concern companies have when organizing group workations or approving workation requests from employees, especially if the workation is intended to last for several months. Working in a foreign country while on a tourist visa may result in problems with local authorities, which could also have a negative impact on the company. What’s more, depending on the length of the stay, a working vacation could have complicated tax implications that need to be sorted. Not to forget that remote employees carrying out certain business activities abroad can trigger permanent establishment in some countries.
Workations are on the way to becoming the next flexible working trend, and given the numerous benefits they provide for both employees and companies, every company should think about taking their team on a group workation, or at least allow solo workations if requested by team members. Here are a few tips on how to make workations work.
Develop a workation policy: A workation policy is intended to outline the general rules concerning workations taken by employees in your company. In your workation policy, you can outline certain criteria the chosen location needs to fulfill in order to guarantee that it’s workation-friendly (i.e. stable internet connection, proper workspace etc.). You should also request detailed information about the intended stay so that your HR team can evaluate potential compliance risks.
Check for remote work visas: There are many countries that have implemented so-called remote work visas. Those are temporary visas which provide an adequate legal framework for remote workers to stay and work in the respective country during a fixed period of time without facing unwanted tax and legal implications.
Offer employees the necessary flexibility: One of the major pitfalls with workations from employee perspective is not being able to enjoy the vacation part enough. If work takes over the major part of their stay and prevents them from joining in with local activities, the desired benefits of the stay (i.e. recharging the batteries, increased well-being etc.) won’t be achieved. What’s worse, being in a beautiful place and not being able to enjoy it can quickly turn into frustration. In order to avoid this, you should give remote employees on workation the flexibility they need to really make the most of it.
Get legal advice if needed: Visa requirements, tax implications and permanent establishment aren’t necessarily familiar to your HR and compliance teams if you only just started to make remote work part of your company culture. Since these compliance mistakes can turn out to be quite costly, it’s usually worth reaching out to legal experts to be on the safe side.
Ensure compliance during longer workations with an EOR: An Employer of Record (EOR) is a global employment solution that allows companies to compliantly employ workers abroad without having to establish a legal presence. While EOR services are mainly used for hiring global talent, they can also assist with remote employee relocation requests and guarantee compliance during long-term workations.
At Lano, we work with a network of trusted Employer of Record partners covering 150+ countries. To find out more about how Lano can help you manage long-term workations for your remote team in full compliance, don’t hesitate to book a demo with our expert team.
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