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What is a Workation? A Complete Guide to Working Abroad in 2022 (and Beyond)

Justin Mitchell
January 6, 2022

You might be familiar with the term “workation.” It’s not a new concept, but COVID-induced cabin fever has put it under the spotlight. 

When the Coronavirus pandemic forced most businesses to work remotely in March 2020, it became clear that businesses really can thrive outside the office building. So far, studies show that 36.2 million Americans will be remote by 2025. 

Because of the additional flexibility that remote working provides, traveling while working is expected to become more popular. In one survey, 43% of respondents say they plan to take a workation in the near future. 

With the sudden rise in popularity of working on vacation, it’s understandable that both employers and employees want to know more.

We’re going to cover everything you need to know about workations. We’ll look at the benefits, the drawbacks, and why asynchronous communication is the key to effective workations

First things first, what is a workation? 

Before we go any further, let’s be clear about what a workation is.

A workation (sometimes spelled “workcation”) combines work and leisure while temporarily in a holiday destination. It could be a new city, country, or just anywhere that’s not your usual work-from-home setup. 

It is not the same as a vacation (more on this in the next section). 

So, why has the idea of a workation become increasingly popular for businesses and freelancers? 

Here’s what we know based on recent trends and data: 

  • A desire to travel. The restrictions at the outset of the pandemic kept a lot of people in one place for a long time. As more companies have adopted remote work policies, and restrictions have slowly been lifted, people are eager to explore new places.

Why a workation isn’t the same as a vacation 

Some sources suggest a workation is a leisure trip that involves some work. But there’s an important distinction between a workation and a vacation: having to work. 

Sure, you’re in a different location, but you haven’t booked in time off. You’re not just checking in on emails from time to time. You’re still working. 

Where a workation involves working in a new or different location, a vacation doesn’t involve any work at all. You leave your work behind and take a break. A workation and a vacation are not the same, and we believe they shouldn’t be the same.

Steve Sanchez from Branches, a work and wellness resort, shares our beliefs that workations and vacations should be two distinct concepts:

“I’m a real advocate of vacations. The wrong kind of workation is one that interrupts or replaces a vacation.”

When you need a break, you should be allowed to fully unplug. But if you just want to work in new surroundings and experience the local culture alongside your usual tasks, you should be allowed to do that too. Steve calls this “paid time away” to complement “paid time off.”

Here’s a quick breakdown to really solidify the difference: 

Workation Vacation
Pursuing a change of scenery for productivity, creativity, curiosity, and mental health purposes. Completely stepping away from work for a period.

So, while there’s a growing body of content referring to the workation as “the new vacation,” we’re putting our foot down. We love both of these activities, but they are not the same.

The U.S. is the only advanced economy that doesn’t guarantee paid vacation, and Americans are leaving more vacation days on the table (55% of Americans didn’t use up their vacation time, which translates to 768 million vacation days unused). 

We want to make sure that vacations are kept sacred. Work-life balance is crucial, and people need to take breaks to avoid burnout.

Workations, on the other hand, most certainly have their place (as you’ll see from the rest of this article). But employers should do all they can to avoid the danger of confusing these activities.

What are the benefits of workations? 

We’ve briefly touched on how workations can help productivity and improve mental health, but there are many advantages to both businesses and employees. 

Let’s take a look at some of them.

Employees put their time and energy into deep work and increase productivity 

Working in a new setting has been known to increase productivity. Research has shown a 65.2% increase in productivity when employees stay in remote getaway location (mostly three or more hours from their homes) to do their work.

Did your work productivity increase or decrease during your trip?

A new setting helps to break bad habits that workers pick up at home or in the office, such as being distracted by colleagues, watching Netflix, or getting lost on TikTok. 

During a workation, these distractions are less likely to occur. 

According to Parkinson’s Law, if there’s a time limit in place, people are more likely to get their work done within that period. Remote workers on workation create their own temporal boundaries with planned activities. 

They might try to complete tasks so they can see the sunset from a new vantage point or try a new area for dinner. Being able to explore their new surroundings motivates them to complete their work.

With old habits left behind, workations offer an opportunity to create a deep work schedule. 

If you’re not familiar with the term, deep work is the process of focusing on a single task for an extended period without distractions. Workationing employees can build their daily routine around periods of deep work to get quality work done.

Deep work prevents context switching (constantly switching between emails, tasks, and chats) and allows workers to focus on tasks in-depth during their workation. As a result, they produce thoughtful, detailed work that might have taken longer had they been around distractions in the office or at home. 

Workations are great for productivity. By allowing employees to take workations, businesses could see better performance from their staff. 

Increase trust and boost morale

Allowing employees to work from new locations shows that you trust them. And when an employee feels valued in this way, it boosts morale and engagement. 

For a business, having engaged and happy employees is vital to your success. When comparing top-performing and low-performing companies, Gallup found that engagement improved other parts of the business, too.

Benefits of High Employee Engagement

And yet, Gallup reports that only 35% of U.S. employees fall under the “engaged” category.

Losing and hiring employees costs businesses a lot of money. When an employee leaves, it costs the company on average 33% of the employees’ annual salary. In a 2020 report from the Work Institute, they placed the cost of turnover in the U.S. at $630 billion.

By showing employees that you trust them to do their work wherever it suits them, you're investing in the success of your business. 

All business leaders want to have engaged staff on their team. But it’s also helpful to know that happy, engaged employees contribute to the overall growth and development of the company. 

What about the downfalls? 

Although there are benefits to workations, there are some drawbacks to be aware of if your organization is not already a remote-first company.

To clarify, a remote-first company is one where working remotely is the default way of working for all employees. If you’re remote-first, you likely already have more flexible arrangements in place, like asynchronous communication.

However, if you’re not remote-first, say you’re in more of a traditional office-bound model or a hybrid model, then you may run into more issues with workations unless expectations are shifted beforehand.

For instance, we’ve talked about how workations can increase creativity, well-being, and even productivity in certain cases.

But what happens if you’re used to a culture of being always on simultaneously, and suddenly your employees are in different timezones? How will you keep things running smoothly, prevent bottlenecks, and avoid frustrated colleagues?

While it’s important to allow workations as part of your remote work policy, you’ll want to include communication expectations ahead of time for both working remotely and working at home.

This means setting up a workation policy that outlines exactly what a workation is in the eyes of the organization, when it is not a good time to take one, how to communicate while away, etc.

Businesses that are already set up with asynchronous communication tools, like Yac, will be able to slide more seamlessly into workations. But companies that are still holding too many meetings in real time may struggle to organize changing schedules.

Workations can also be a challenge for workers with families, especially young children. Let’s look at this in more detail. 

Workations present challenges for families (but can be navigated) 

Solo travelers can thrive on workations. But what about workers with families? 

Ultimately, it comes down to the workationing employee’s time management and organization. Setting expectations with family members will be key. 

Employees can plan when they’ll dedicate time to their family, such as in the mornings or evenings. They can also plan to work this way for a few days (workation) before taking a few days completely off with the family (vacation).

For example, let’s say an employee is going on a business trip to Orlando for two days. The employee decides to bring their family along and stay in Orlando for five days. They spend two days at a conference, one day working after the conference, and two days off with the family at Disney World.

So, although there might be challenges to overcome, workers with families can still make it work with a little preparation.

Should remote teams be using workations? 

Whether you use workations entirely depends on your business, your remote work policies, and your communication guidelines. It should be decided on a case-by-case basis, so you’ll need to spend some time figuring out if it’s right for you and your team. 

To give you a helping hand, here are a few of the key areas you’ll need to consider: 

  • The employees. Workations aren’t for everyone. If employees are going to take workations, it’s best if they are self-motivated and organized with their time. Workations work really well for teams that can work autonomously, without the need for micromanagement.
  • The location. Your workers must pick somewhere “remote friendly” to work. That could mean a city with plenty of coffee shops or an AirBnB with a solid internet connection. If they choose to work in a remote cabin with spotty Wi-Fi, there is plenty of chance for problems. Guidance on recommended and unacceptable places to work can be written into your official workation expectations.
  • The time and duration. Will your employees work in a different time zone? And for how long? You’ll need answers to these questions to avoid bottlenecks and make sure operations continue to run smoothly. Companies using asynchronous communication tools will find it much easier for employees to pick up and move around as needed (more on async in a moment).

How to make a case for workations 

If you’re an employee wanting to take part in workations, how should you go about pitching the idea to your boss?

If your manager isn’t aware of workations, show them how and why it’ll benefit the business. We’ve outlined a couple of steps you should follow to make sure you get your pitch just right. 

Highlight existing remote-friendly locations 

We’ve already covered the common misconception that workations are the same as a vacation. If your employer isn’t familiar with the concept, they’ll have this perception too.

To get leaders to approve a workation, show them that it’s not just a way to get more time off. Here are a couple of ways you can do this: 

  • Highlight the increasing popularity of remote-friendly locations. Show your boss that workations are already pretty common by highlighting locations that are welcoming remote workers with open arms. Take Croatia’s Digital Nomad Valley as an example. This village is the first digital nomad community in Croatia, driven to provide accommodation, workspaces, cafes, and resources for people who want to work in Croatia. We cover more of these types of places in our 2022 Remote Work Predictions article.
  • Use real-life examples of workations. If your boss still isn’t convinced, show them examples of real-life workations. Websites such as Nomadlist and Nomadx have created a community of over 30,000 digital nomads working globally. They break down the pros and cons of individual locations, helping remote workers find and book places that suit their requirements. There are also sites such as repeople that offer quick quotes for coworking and living stays in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

By presenting this information to management, you should be able to reassure them that workations aren’t just an excuse for more vacation days. They’re a legitimate way to work remotely and experience a new location at the same time. 

Show your boss how a workation can work for your company  

If you aren’t already defaulting to asynchronous communication, you may need to be prepared to show your boss how workations can work without interrupting operations. 

Help them draw up realistic expectations to keep things running smoothly. Without this information, there’s a chance they might still feel wary about the concept.

You can help leadership feel more comfortable with the idea by prototyping a workation policy. Include suggestions like:

  • Traveling to a destination with a strong internet connection is a must.
  • Travel days where communication is severely limited (i.e. no internet access) for more than eight consecutive hours should not count as a workation day.
  • For any necessary calls or meetings, make sure you’re in a distraction-free location (i.e. not at the beach or a loud restaurant).
  • You don't need to check in with colleagues at set times, but you must aim to respond to queries a minimum of twice a day (at your chosen time).
  • Manage your tasks on your own time, but let colleagues know if there will be any delays as far in advance as you can.
  • If you can, tell colleagues waiting on tasks to be completed when they're likely to expect them in their local time.

Show your bosses that you’re open to a discussion about workations. Traditional offices will have more hurdles to jump, and therefore may feel inclined to limit the number of workation days to a set amount.

Remote-first organizations who opt for asynchronous communication will not likely see much difference in daily operations. Still, it’s important to set communication expectations so everyone is on the same page.

Using asynchronous communication as the ultimate workation enabler 

If you’re changing your surroundings to inspire productivity and enjoy new locations, you need measures in place to make sure work is still getting done efficiently. This includes finding a smooth and efficient way to communicate, no matter the work schedule or location.

Asynchronous communication is ideal for any business communication, but it’s also the best solution for workation. 

Asynchronous communication allows teams to communicate at different times. Anyone can send a message or share an update with their team without needing an immediate response. 

Colleagues in different time zones can leave feedback for you while you enjoy the evening in a new place. Then, you can respond to comms when you log in the next morning.

It’s a fantastic way for workation-ers to stay in touch. 

Take a look at Yac as an example. 

With an async platform like Yac, remote teams can even host meetings without being in the same place at the same time. 

Meeting leaders and team members simply record a voice message (which is automatically transcribed), or share a screen recording, and send information to their team. 

Yac helps teams do things like sharing feedback about a customer call, delivering progress updates, and requesting support on a project task, all without blocking up schedules with real-time meetings.

It should be clear that team members don’t need to respond urgently to asynchronous messages. Whether they’re abroad or at home, they can digest the information and send a comprehensive response at a time that suits their schedule. 

Using voice over relying on text-based communication, like email or Slack, adds the benefit of detectable meaning behind messages. It’s not always easy to glean an understanding from text, but with the nuances you hear with voice messaging, it’s much easier to understand motivations.

Simply put, async communication allows teams to easily communicate and collaborate without having to be available at specific times. For teams working in different locations at different times of the day, this is an asset.

Key takeaways

You should now have a pretty solid understanding of what a workation actually is. You know the benefits of them, the drawbacks to be aware of, and how to figure out if workations are right for your business.

If you decide to allow your teams to combine work and travel more often, make sure your business is equipped with the right tools. If you’re not prepared, productivity could take a hit. 

Take a look at Yac’s asynchronous platform to get the ball rolling. With our platform, you can collaborate with your team, share updates, and communicate on your own time. 
Sign up for free or book a demo to see how it works.