In 2011, World at Work reported on a study by flexible office space company Regus documenting the fact that the majority of US professionals work during their vacations.
A more recent study by PGi, a provider of collaboration software and services, updated this information and expanded on it. PGi found that the number of professionals who work through their vacations has actually increased in the past four years:
- 82% connect to the office on vacation
- Smartphones are the #1 workation enabler.
- 40% use a smartphone to work on vacation
- 11% use a laptop
- 4% use a tablet
- 37% are hyper-connected, using smartphones, tablets and laptops to work on vacation.
Working on vacation is nothing new – rare is the tax preparer who does not have to stay in touch with the office or clients even during vacation. What is new is that, thanks to the Regus study, there is a name for a working vacation – “Workation.” Also new is that workations are building into a national trend, driven by a number of factors:
- Members of the millennial generation are seeking a greater balance between life and work, and see the workation as an attractive benefit.
- Conference and professional meeting planners recognize the additional attendance, revenue and social interactions made possible by having spouses and children as part of their events. Many have created a specific “family track” of activities to encourage such attendance.
- Resort destinations from Disney World to Turtle Beach Resort and beach spots around the world are responding with specific workation packages.
- Companies, likewise, are offering workations to groups of staff members. Different from the traditional “off-site retreat,” these are held in true vacation spots and last from 7 to 14 days.
There are three kinds of travel that are classified as workations. The first is the family vacation that includes work time built in. This helps to defray some of the costs of the vacation as a business expense, particularly if the trip includes a professional conference or trade show relevant to the business. The second is the solo workation, most often engaged in by solo practitioners, which may involve going to a resort specifically to relax while being creative. And the third is a group workation, in which the corporation sponsors a trip to a vacation destination as part of team-building, planning, or creative sessions.
Even for a new spin on an existing concept, this kind of working vacation requires some basic rules if it is to be successful. Here’s a list of 10 that will be helpful:
- Match conferences with vacation spots you wish to visit. Sadly, many conferences are scheduled for locations where the organization can get the best deals on meeting space and rooms. This can mean going to the Upper Michigan in winter, or Phoenix in August. Both are lovely places, but more so at the right time of the year. Choose a workation at a place that can be a real vacation.
- Stay disciplined. Work only half of the day, then step into vacation mode and leave the work day behind.
- Schedule project deadlines before leaving. It would be poor management to schedule a vacation just as a major project comes due. Conversely, it is poor management to schedule a major project deadline in the middle of a family vacation. While it is not possible to anticipate every crisis that might throw you into a work frenzy, there is no reason to schedule one. Get major projects out of the way before leaving, so the workday during vacation is routine.
- Use a Project Manager or Workflow Manager. A good management tool for workflow will enable you to collaborate, delegate, and share tasks with staff back at the office. The more you can delegate, the more you can build self-confidence among staff members – and reduce work stress for yourself.
- Decide where you will work. The options here are many, and growing each year. Regus, who kick-started the most recent trend, has inexpensive shared office space available in 900 cities worldwide. Many hotels have work rooms outside of their “business center” at a nominal cost, or provide facilities that enable you to work comfortably in your room. Choose a location with the services you need, where you will not be disturbed or disturb others.
- Make sure you have reliable Wi-Fi and collaboration tools. Just because the hotel offers free Wi-Fi doesn’t mean the network will be reliable or secure – or that it will support advanced collaboration tools such as video conferencing. Check the facilities in advance and make sure they will meet your needs. When possible, it is a good idea to use a Virtual Private Network or the Wi-Fi hotspot available through your cell phone to enhance security.
- Work early, play late. Get up and get work done in the morning, so the afternoon and evening are free for family or vacation time. The family can sleep in, have breakfast, or enjoy the resort until you break away to meet them for lunch.
- Set specific times you will be available for communication. If you fail to set times for contact, meetings, and teleconferences, the staff will depend on their ability to contact you at any time of day or night to make decisions. That can destroy your vacation and undermine their ability to make decisions in your absence. Remember to take time zones into consideration as well.
- Take the last few days off. Before heading back to the full-time work world, take a few days off to wind down and relax. This is, after all, a vacation.
Workations may not be suited to the needs of your firm, your staff, or your family. But where it can be accommodated, it provides an opportunity to stay in touch with your business and find time to relax.