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Workation explained: What it means and how it works

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(Last updated on: 08/04/2022)

Going on a workation seems to have become a part of our ‘new normal’. Comprised of the two concepts- work and vacation- a workation seems somewhat contradictory at first glance. Surely if you are working you are not on a vacation? Well, with the growth of remote working and the new freedoms that this has allowed us, we have the development of a new phenomenon- the workation.

In this article, I will introduce you to this new concept. I will first discuss what is meant by the term workation and why this has grown in popularity so quickly. I will then discuss the different types of workations and the best destinations for this type of ‘holiday’. Lastly, I will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of a workation before concluding with some tips and advice on how to have a successful workation.

Want to know more? Keep scrolling…

What is a workation?

Workation
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A workation, also sometimes spelt workcation or worcation, is an out of office experience that encompasses both work time and leisure time.

To put it simply, a workation is a combination of work and a vacation. The idea is that you can take a break somewhere, but still continue to work as you do so.

With workation being such a new term, there isn’t a formal definition that I have been able to locate just yet. In fact, it isn’t entirely clear how much ‘work’ one must do to be able to claim that they are on a workation. Does picking up a few emails once a week count? How about if you produce 50% of your usual output? Or do you need to work the same or perhaps more hours than you would at home? In fact, why do we even need to travel? After all- the staycation is pretty big right now!

None of the above is clear just yet, meaning that the term workation remains unclear and subjective. I’ve talked a lot in my articles about definitions of various concepts, most notably the definition of tourism itself. Thus, in attempt to clear things up a little bit, I will propose the following definition.

‘A workation can be defined as a holiday, during which a substantial amount of time is dedicated to work.’ Dr Hayley Stainton (2020).

The growth in popularity of workations

2020 was a year of destruction in so many ways. Far too many lives were sadly lost, the global tourism industry was all but decimated, our freedoms and liberties were stripped away from us and we experienced economic downturns not seen since World War 2. I think we can safely say that this wasn’t our best year.

But, every cloud has a silver lining, right? And there were some positives that came out of the global pandemic. Health and hygiene standards have been improved around the world, technology now makes things more efficient in all sorts of ways and we are no longer tied to our office desks in the way that we were in 2019….

Workation
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The concept of the workation has evolved in response to new freedoms that many of us have been awarded at work. We have proved to our employers that we do not need to be constantly watched and that we can work independently. In fact, many employers now encourage remote working in attempt to reduce overheads (e.g. rental on office space).

Technology has enabled us to change the way that we work for the better. We no longer need to pollute the environment by commuting to work or travelling half way around the world for a business meeting. We simply switch on our laptops and connect with each other virtually. In actual fact, I don’t understand why it took a global pandemic for us to realise this- it seems pretty obvious to me!

Anyhow, I digress… The point here is that the working world will never be the same again. People, can work from more rural areas or even from other countries if they choose to. I expect that this will become more and more common in the years to come. In turn, this may reduce the economic disparities between regions and countries. But I am not an economic expert, so I won’t delve too much into that right now.

Remote working has caused the boundaries between work and home life to become blurred. For some, this is ok, and for others it is not. But what it does allow, is for us to design our own lives- a liberty that few of us had prior to COVID-19. We now have the flexibility to work at the time that suits us best- not a morning person? No worries. Want to be there to collect the kids from school? Sure. Prefer to work Sundays instead of Monday? Do it. Want to find a cheaper way to live? A workation could just be the answer.

These blurred boundaries have worked their way into our vacation time too. We can merge our holidays with our work and design this in a way that works for us. THIS is the workation.

Types of workation

Workation
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Not all workations are the same. In fact, they can take many different forms and come in many different shapes and sizes! Generally though, we can catergorise workations into the following three groups:

Short-term workation

A short-term workation is one that only lasts a few days. It could be a weekend break or a three day mid-week trip, for example.

Short-term workations are probably taken relatively close to home. It may involve taking a train or a short flight to a nearby area. A person who is based in London may, for example, travel to Cheddar in Somerset, Murcia in Spain or maybe even to New York for a few days.

Medium-term workation

A medium-term workation is likely to last a few weeks.

A person based in London could choose to spend some time by the coast at Burnham-on-Sea or they could spend a month in Iceland or Thailand, for example.

Long-term workation

Long-term workations are the most talked about. A long-term workation is when a person temporarily relocates to another area, using this as their base from which they can work.

Long-term workations often require special visas or permits, depending on the destination. Fortunately, many parts of the world are now offering remote-work visas in response to this new trend.

A long-term workation could take place anywhere in the world, from the east coast of the USA to the beaches of Fiji. This type of workation would usually last between a few months to a couple of years.

The best places to go for a workation

Workation
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Now that many people are familiar with the concept of a workation, they want to go on one! And the first place to start is deciding on where to go…

There are many wonderful places around the world that would make perfect workation destinations. Each person is unique and has their own personal preferences, however, common things that people are looking for in a workation include:

  • Peace and quiet
  • Low cost of living
  • Excellent internet access

Where a person can spend their workation will depend on a number of factors, including:

  • How much money they have to spend
  • How easily they can access the destination
  • Whether they have any other commitments
  • Whether they will require any special visas or permits

Countries that offer remote-work visas

Workation
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Remote-work visas are increasing around the world. Some people call them digital nomad visas, but the reality is, that since the onset of COVID, you don’t need to be a digital nomad to be able to work remotely. This pandemic has opened up a wealth of opportunities for people in all sorts of lines of work to operate from their laptop from any location that they choose.

More and more countries are introducing remote-work visas all the time, and this trend is expected to continue. These visas are not given to everyone though- some require a minimum monthly salary and proof of income, amongst other requirements.

Here is a list of all of the countries that are currently offering remote-work visas:

  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Anguilla
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Bemuda
  • Cayman Islands
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Dubai
  • Estonia
  • Georgia
  • Germany
  • Jamaica
  • Mexico
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Spain

The benefits of a workation

Going on a workation can be a brilliant idea if you you know how to work abroad effectively. Workations can have lots of benefits, from helping workers to relax to increasing the quality of their output. Here are the main benefits of a workation:

Increased productivity

Going on a workation can help to increase productivity. If a person is more productive, then the company can make more money- so this seems like a pretty big benefit to me!

A person can be more productive for two main reasons. The first, is that they do not have many of their home commitments- no/fewer chores to do, no unexpected visits from friends and family, no daily commute.

Secondly, we often have less distractions when on workation. There are no colleagues knocking on the office door and no extended lunch breaks with friends.

Of course, there is an element of self-discipline required with a workation, but research has proved that working remotely can make workers more productive.

Want to know more about how to effectively work remotely? Tim Ferriss’ 40 hour work week is an absolute game-changer- I learnt a lot from this book! And I have never worked in quite the same way since…

Enhanced quality

Wortkations can also help to improve the quality of work. When people have less distractions, less pressure and are more relaxed they produce better work.

There is a reason that people go away on ‘writing retreats’….

photo of woman writing on tablet computer while using laptop
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Increased creativity

People can also be more creative while on workation. Again, this is because there are less distractions.

Many people claim that being amongst nature can help to enhance creativity. It is for this reason that rural tourism areas are often popular workation bases.

Improved staff retention

When people are happy at work they are less likely to leave.

Maslow covered this topic really well in his work on motivation. He proved that when staff are happy and healthy, they are less likely to quit their jobs. This goes for digital nomads, the self-employed and those who are employed by an organisation.

Improved staff retention saves companies money on recruitment and training. It also enables employees to undertake staff development to make them even more productive and successful at what they do.

The disadvantages of a workation

While there are certainly many benefits of a workation, it does also come with its disadvantages. The lines between work and leisure become blurred, you may not have all of the necessities that you need to hand and the required paperwork may be more than a person is willing to commit to. Here are the main disadvantages of a workation:

Loss of work-life balance

Aren’t we supposed to have a break from work when we are on holiday? Nope, not with a workation.

The reality is, that by amalgamating the two concepts the boundaries between work and leisure become increasingly blurred. When does work time end and leisure time begin?

Whilst some people are great at separating the two, by creating schedules, not checking emails after hours and having days off, others begin to merge their home and work lives.

Having a break from work is good for productivity and quality. If workers don’t have this time, a workation may actually have a negative effect on their work.

woman in black tank top and blue denim jeans sitting on brown sand
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Away from home comforts

When a person is away from the office they may not have access to things that they need. Whether this is a strong Internet connection, a printer or computer software, not having these things to hand may hinder the worker’s ability to get done what they need to.

Personal logistics

There are also personal logistics to take into consideration, such as mortgages, schooling etc. Not everyone can just uproot and head off to a new location for a few weeks or months.

Visas and work permits

Legally working overseas can be a bit tricky. Most countries that will allow people to enter on a tourist visa, do not provide rights for these people to work.

Now, exactly what constitutes ‘work’ is subjective. Can a person check their emails whilst lying on a beach in Thailand? Can they catch up on the task they they didn’t quite finish while sat around the pool in Costa Rica? In most cases, the answer is technically no, however this rule is infrequently enforced.

As I mentioned earlier, there are now many countries that are offering remote work visas, and this trend is expected to continue, thus opening up the world to remote-workers in a way that we have never seen before.

Taxation

Taxation is another tricky subject. If you are living overseas, should you pay your taxes in that country or in your home country? Or somewhere else? The rules are not simple and this will really depend on where the person is based for their workation.

In some instances, the person pay be required to pay taxes in both countries- so this is definitely something that the individual needs to research before travelling.

How to have a ‘successful’ workation

photo of people standing near plants
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I would like to finish off this article with some tips on how have a successful workation. By ‘successful’ I mean maximising the advantages and minimising the disadvantages. Here are some of my tips:

Plan your time

Planning your time is one of the most important things that you can do in order to have a successful workation.

Personally, I like to set specific working hours and I always have at least one day off each week. I use the calendar on my phone to plan how long I will spend on each task. I never turn on the TV until the end of the work day and I always give myself at least 45 minutes off for lunch.

As I mentioned before, the 4 hour work week is a great resource for teaching you how to get more work done in less time. I honestly cannot recommend it highly enough!

Bring the right tools

If you need specific items to be able to carry out your work, then it is obviously important to make sure that you pack these in your luggage.

This could include chargers, adapters, leads etc. It is easy to leave an important cable at home, so I suggest that you make a packing list a few days before you go- this way you are likely to realise if anything hasn’t been included in the list and you can add it on.

Organise your work space

Having a specific work area is important. Whether you prefer to sit out on the balcony listening to the sounds of nature, at an office desk or feet up on the sofa, it is important to establish a work space at the beginning of your workation.

If you are travelling with colleagues, family or friends, then you need to let them know which area is your dedicated work space too. My kids love to move my things around when I am not looking, so I would prefer a room with a lockable door!

Choose a ‘work-friendly’ destination

Choosing a work-friendly destination for your workation is also really important. Do you work better when it is quiet? Then maybe avoid big cities. Do you work better when you are around other people? Then maybe research co-working spaces. Think about what works best for you and go form there.

Workation: Further reading

The concept of the workation has been growing in recent years, but this notion was accelerated when the world turned digital during the COVID-19 pandemic. The way that we work is changing and (in my opinion) this is for the better. With remote-working opportunities opening up around the world, the possibilities are endless…

Want to know more? Here are some books that you might enjoy:

1 Comment
  1. Nayeon Kim

    To whom it may concern.

    Hello, My name is Nayeon Kim and I am a Korean University Student. I am currently studying about America culture and writing a report regarding ‘Worcation’. From my research the American ‘worcation’ culture appears quite impressive! I would like to implore (의미 -to earnestly ask a request) your kind consideration in answering the following questions.

    1. When did worcation begin in the United States? How much do you think this will create more job opportunities in future years?
    2. When preparing for worcation, what aspect do you pay the most attention to?
    3. Who are the customers who use this service? Can they be classified into age group, gender, or occupation?
    4. What are the reviews of customers who have used this service?

    Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.

    Yours faithtfully,
    Nayeon Kim.

    Reply

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