A workation — sometimes alternatively spelled as "workcation" — is a working vacation that blends leisure and productive time. According to HR Technologist, workations have emerged as a popular engagement strategy for organizations in the U.S. and Europe as collaboration tools and advancements in workplace productivity technologies (such as laptops, project management software, and teleconferencing) have made it easier for employees to stay in the loop on work while enjoying time off in remote locales.
What is a workation?
While the exact definition of a workation is a bit fuzzy, Michael Metcalf, a writer for Timetastic, says a workation generally entails working remotely while resting only at the usual times (after the workday or on weekends, assuming that you work a standard five-day week).
Metcalf draws a distinction between workationing with working remotely largely based on the amount of time spent on a workation versus working remotely. While a remote employee is completely offsite and works from wherever they're geographically located at all times, a workationing employee is merely working remotely while on a temporary trip away from the office.
Types of workations
- Vacation extension. If you're going on a family vacation and want to extend your stay by an extra week but either don't want or can't afford to take the extra week away from work, workationing the extra week while the rest of your family continues to enjoy their full vacation is a great idea.
- Travel abroad. As long as you're not traveling somewhere where time zones are wildly mismatched (or your job responsibilities are flexible enough to accommodate a time zone difference), a workation can be a good way to explore a new country while still working full-time during the regular workweek.
- Staying with family or friends. If your family or friends are especially far from where you work, short-term trips may simply not be feasible or practical. In such cases, workationing may allow you to extend your stay with these valuable people while also meeting your day-to-day responsibilities at work. If your plan is to simply hang out with people who also work full-time jobs during the day, a workation can make a lot of sense, since these people aren't available to spend time with you during their workdays anyway.
- Visiting a long-distance significant other. For those in long-distance relationships, workations can be a lifeline that allows them to visit each other more often without sacrificing their careers. Similarly to visiting family and friends, it's often the case that both parties have day-to-day obligations and can't be in full vacation mode for the full trip to begin with, so converting part of the trip into a workation is sensible for everyone involved.
5 tips for a successful workation
Many of the same principles that apply to successfully working remotely also apply to taking a successful workation. However, there are also a few tips that are specific to workationing successfully. These include:
- Plan around your work. Remembering the "work" part of your workation is the most important element of ensuring that you'll have a successful workation. Plan your days around the hours you need to work and the things you need to finish each day, then relax and vacation around those obligations.
- Make sure your destination is workation-friendly. If you can't stay connected while on your workation, your trip is bound to be a failure. Before you head out, check to make sure that the place you'll be staying at has a stable internet connection, good cell reception (or a landline) and anything else you may need to conduct your day-to-day business.
- Stay professional. Even if you've told coworkers and business associates you may be interacting with while away that you're going on a workation, they still want to interact with "work you" rather than "vacation you." This means being tuned in and focused when you're talking to them. In practice, this means no calls while eating out, making sure you're in a quiet place while on calls and responding to calls and emails at about the same cadence as you would while in the office.
- Establish a workspace. Setting a specific place — a desk, a corner of the living room, or even the patio — as your workspace has dual benefits. First, it establishes a place to set up your technology and other work essentials so you aren't moving them around willy-nilly. Second, it creates a clear delineation between your work area (the designated workspace) and the vacation area (everywhere else).
- Stick to a routine. Aside from maintaining your usual working hours, ensuring that your overall sleep and wake schedule doesn't deviate too far from your usual schedule while at home will help you stay mentally and physically able to workation successfully. If you aren't getting enough rest, you'll find it difficult to focus on work — which will make it very difficult for your workation to be successful.
Benefits of workationing
Workationing allows you to travel for longer periods of time than would be possible with traditional vacations. They also allow you to shake up your working environment and potentially gather inspiration from being in a new place. For people in creative or knowledge-based professions, this can be especially valuable. A change of pace can help you see problems in new ways and inspire new ways of thinking about the work that you're doing, benefiting your work and, ultimately, your career.
If you're in an industry with significant swings between busy and slow periods, workations can be a great way to maximize slow periods for travel without eating up all your vacation time. Rather than sitting in your office during ebbs at the office, you can take advantage of those slower times to get out of the office and recharge in anticipation of busy times when merely leaving the office — let alone going out of town — is a challenge.
Additionally, if you're unable to get traditional vacation time approved due to staffing issues, a workation is a potential solution that allows your employer to benefit from your work while you get to enjoy traveling.
Drawbacks to workationing
Depending on how you see them, workations might be yet another sign of the eroding boundaries between work and personal time. While you're on a workation, the balance between "work" time and "me" time can be even more blurred than it already is (and most people would argue the distinction is already razor-thin thanks to the constant communication that technology enables), so you run the risk that you won't be able to fully enjoy being out of the office during your workation.
Some of workationing detractors argue that the emergence of this trend merely speaks to how overworked and stressed workers are. Rather than giving up precious vacation time to work during they day, they argue, workers should simply treat their vacation time as sacred and stop feeling guilty (or unable) to do so.
If you're workationing abroad, there may be tax and right-to-work implications. Technically, if you're working in a country where you aren't a citizen, you need a working visa — and those are significant harder to to obtain than tourist visas. Admittedly, this is hard for authorities to track, and probably isn't an issue for relatively short workations, but if you land in hot water for this reason, it could be a headache to resolve.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that workations aren't right for everyone. If you're more of a homebody, a workation isn't right for you. Similarly, if you require the structure of an office to be productive, a workation also isn't right for you. Finally, if your work is heavily dependent on in-person interactions with your coworkers or clients, a workation may not make sense.
How much does a workation cost?
The short answer is, it depends. The long answer is that a workation's costs are largely determined by four major factors:
- Who organizes it (you or a structured paid program)
- Where you want to go
- How long you want to stay
- Your spending on accommodation and incidentals (such as food and entertainment)
If you go the DIY route, stay with family or friends for free, and don't significantly increase your spending just because you're somewhere other than home, a workation can be no more expensive than simply working at home. In fact, if you're workationing somewhere where the cost of living is lower than your home base, you may even find yourself saving money.
However, if you decide to workation somewhere where you'll be spending money on rent and other incidentals, the amount of money you can expect to pay during your workation can vary widely. If you choose to workation somewhere relatively inexpensive, such as Chiang Mai, organize everything yourself and stick to a fairly tight budget, Digital Nomad Soul estimates that you could likely workation for under $1,000 a month. At the highest end cost-wise, if you choose to workation through a professional program, Digital Nomad Soul reports that you should expect to pay $1,500-2,500 per month for the program, with food and other incidentals on top.