“Workation” (also known as “worcation” and “workcation”) is a team retreat that combines elements of work and rest or sightseeing. You can also see it as a team building activity that takes place abroad or in an unusual setting. If you are a freelancer, you can also go on a workation alone to boost your own creativity or work motivation.
But does it really work? Won’t I find myself lying by the pool all day with a cold Mojito in my hand and my computer tucked away in the suitcase? Or, on the contrary, won’t it be an even more stressful experience as I try to deal with all my important tasks from another city or country?
Here’s the deal:
If you do your workation the right way, it WILL work. As someone who has had several workations with my colleagues and alone, I can assure you that you’ll see a significant positive impact on your mind, well-being, and work performance.
In this article, we’ll look at why going on a workation is a good idea for any team – large or small, and how to organize it the right way.
Why go on a workation?
Besides the obvious reasons why workations are great (a chance to change your office scenery, travel while working and get new experiences with your co-workers), there are many other reasons why company founders should opt for going on a workation.
First of all, workations boost employee engagement. Why does engagement matter?
Because studies show that teams with high employee engagement rates are 21% more productive and show significantly less turnover and absenteeism.((Gallup: Managing Employee Risk Requires a Culture of Compliance)) In fact, engagement can be more important for workplace satisfaction than company policies and perks.
As 70% of the American workforce reports feeling “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”,((Gallup: Report: State of the American Workplace)) it’s no surprise that many employers seek to shrink this gap and better motivate their employees.
Workations are one way to motivate your team, and they have already evolved into an increasingly popular trend among startups. First, because workations are easier to do with a smaller team like an early-stage startup. Second, because they are a form of vacation for the busy startup founders who might find it difficult to unplug from work fully.
That being said, you don’t necessarily have to have a company to go on a workation. The concept of working from a different setting combined with relaxing activities afterward works just as well if you do it alone or join freelancer or entrepreneur retreats or getaways.((Dreamers//Doers: Relax & Retreat: Top Getaways for Entrepreneurs))
However, here we’ll focus on workationing as an effective and productivity-boosting team building activity. Here are the 6 main reasons why workations work great for teams both large and small:
1. You’ll get to know each other better
Not all of us are seeking friends at work – some just want to maintain a friendly, professional relationship with our colleagues.
However, research shows that employees who have friends at work have higher levels of job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.((Harvard Business Review: Having Work Friends Can Be Tricky, but It’s Worth It)) Furthermore, you don’t need to be a researcher to know that friendly colleagues make us happy to go to work every morning!
Common experiences with colleagues can:
- Create opportunities to get to know each other outside of a strictly professional setting and break the ice;
- Help new team members open up and fit in;
- Encourage employees to work together as a team when they get back to the office;
- Boost engagement and productivity;
- Increase loyalty and reduce employee turnover.
2. Your creativity will skyrocket
Physically removing yourself from work is a smart tactic if you want to come up with fresh ideas or new business strategies. Even more, there is actually no single perfect environment for doing creative work – the essence lies in changing your scenery time after time.
Here’s why we need to change the work setting to boost creativity:
Our memories are tied to the environmental context.
By reinstating a context, or coming back to the same place, you can remember more easily what you’ve done or learned in that setting.
However, if you want to find an original solution to a problem or think outside of the box, you might want to leave your workstation. Otherwise, you risk experiencing cognitive fixation and continuously coming up with the same associations.
Creative thinking and problem-solving often involve connecting seemingly unrelated ideas.
Receiving and accepting random stimuli can help the creative thinking process (maybe you’ve heard of random stimulation creativity techniques).
A good tactic for finding new stimuli is changing your surroundings and working from a different location.
Studies show that traveling and the exposure to different environments can change the neural pathways in your brain.((Forbes: 10 Reasons Your Landscape Can Boost Creativity))
By experiencing different cultures with diverse ideas, you can spark your own creativity and boost productivity.
Making nature and sunlight a part of our working day helps to regulate the circadian clock and improve sleep.((Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study))
Sufficient sleep is directly related to well-being and increased work performance.
Besides, going on workation is maybe one of the most pleasant methods for boosting creativity.
3. You’ll experience a productivity boost
Now, you’re probably thinking that I’ve gone too far. How can being on vacation with work elements improve your productivity? Surely, it must work the other way round.
But here’s why it really works, from my own experience:
- If you set your mind to purposeful working, for example by working in sprints,((Glassdoor: How to Plan a Productive Workation With Your Team)) you are likely to accomplish more work while dedicating fewer hours to it.
- As I mentioned before, your creative juices are flowing more actively and you come up with creative ideas easier.
- You will be more productive when you come back to the office, because your mind and body will be recharged.
While on workation you will be removed from everyday distractions like meeting with local business partners, answering calls and organizing the office life, ‘distraction management’ is also crucial during a workation.
For example, if you’re working on a designated project, consider switching off distracting notifications or not checking your regular work emails.
4. You’ll get a new perspective on things
Every retreat and adventure brings new questions and new connections. If you are “stuck” with your colleagues in an awe-inspiring mountain range or a sunny beach resort, you are sure to have conversations and ideas very different from those in the office.
I’m sure you’ll discover some really surprising things about yourself and your colleagues – and maybe even find new common interests.
5. You’ll become more relaxed
No matter how hard-working and efficient you are, your brain needs to rest – just like your body needs to sleep. If you ignore this basic need, your health will backfire sooner or later.
Allowing yourself to have a slower pace of life – even if only for a week – opens up new ways of thinking. Immersing yourself in this different routine can be really soothing for the body and soul – especially in our hectic times.
Sometimes we try to get a problem out of our head by going to the gym or going out with our friends. However, a change of scenery and a trip farther away from home may be just what your brain and soul need to relax.
6. Your work motivation will increase
Studies have found that demotivated employees are 31% less productive, 3x less creative and 87% more likely to quit than motivated employees.((American Psychological Association: The Benefits of Frequent Positive Affect: Does Happiness Lead to Success?)) So, motivation is that important, and especially intrinsic motivation.
Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity, rather than working towards an external reward. Therefore, to motivate your team, you must think beyond bonuses and additional pay. In fact, only when someone is personally interested in the result, they can work at the highest potential.
Some examples of intrinsic motivation:
Allowing flexible work hours, helping your employees grow and learn, having a pleasant workplace and – you guessed it!
Going on team-building events, like a workation.
Tips for a successful workation
Now that we’ve established why a workation is one of the best creativity-boosting and team building activities, let’s look at tips on how to make the most of it.
1. Choose a suitable place
First, pick a country or region that’s beautiful, but not too exciting to distract you from work. For example, our team of four content writers spent our vacation in a Tuscan winery((Truesix: How we wrote 49 pages in 5 days — tips and tricks from our workation in Tuscany)) – a perfect place for peaceful work and also great for hiking and sightseeing after work. For example, a busy city or a party resort may be too distracting and leave a negative impact on your productivity.
Regarding accommodation, I recommend staying in one place during the whole trip, because moving will distract you and steal precious productive hours. Pick a place with good Wi-Fi, enough desks, couches or alternative workplaces (terrace, standing desk, etc.).
Make the most of your surroundings, too. Consider working from the nearby cafes or parks (and why not have a brainstorm session on the beach?).
2. Have a clear goal, project or plan
Ideally, your workation should have a purpose and a clear goal – for example, to complete a certain project. In our workation, we set aside our daily tasks and set out to write an online course about blogging.
Other examples – you can agree to make new designs for your brand-book or portfolio, brainstorm about the upcoming marketing campaigns or even come up with a new roadmap for your company. Whatever your project, make it your primary focus for the duration of the trip, and don’t deviate from it.
3. Think about your schedule in advance
Before you pack your bags, think about how you’ll organize your work to achieve the best result. Then, if necessary, you can adjust your schedule on the fly, if you see it doesn’t work 100% as planned.
My colleagues and I initially had a plan to work three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon. But already on the first day of the workation we realized that morning hours are much more productive, while the afternoons are best dedicated to sightseeing and relaxing. So, we decided to work 4 hours in the morning and have one wrap-up hour in the evening.
Our strategy was to work in sprints – short, but intensive work sessions with a focus on one or two tasks. Generally, each day we had a different task and topic to write about, and the goal was to do as much as we can in order to be able to switch to another task the following day.
4. Plan leisure and fun time as well
Don’t forget the “ation” part of the word “workation”! Make sure you also let yourself and your colleagues relax and recharge your brain and energy levels.
If you are one of those people who tend to get too excited with work, make sure you plan leisure activities for the afternoon (hiking, swimming, sightseeing or simply sipping cocktails by the beach). My advice is to plan team building activities in nature that strengthen your team and provide you with common experiences and shared memories.
5. Track your time and productivity
Hopefully, you’ll feel recharged, energetic and newly motivated after the workation. However, how you feel is just one part of the equation. It’s also important to have objective data showing how your team was doing on these busy and leisurely days.
To follow our progress on daily goals and to measure our productivity, we all used a time-tracking app that was monitoring our productivity in the background. At the end of the workation, we could see that our productivity was close to the one at the office.
Furthermore, we counted that the four of us wrote more than 13 thousand words and edited 49 pages of text during 5 days of workationing.
Team bonding exercises are often met with a groan – very few people actually want to spend time playing awkward games with coworkers.
Workations, on the other hand, can be fun and enriching for everyone, even if the thought seems unusual at first.
If you follow these tips and suggestions, your workation will serve as the best team building activity where people won’t be forced to bond. Instead, they will open up naturally and at their own pace.
Pack your bags for the best team building activity!
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