Workations: Benefits and pitfalls

Nov 10, 2021
5 min read
Workation
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What better way to find out whether a workation could work at your company than just trying it?

But first, let’s define what a workation actually is.

What does workation mean?

Workation is a combination of the words work and vacation. It simply means that you are working online while taking a trip.ย ย 
With remote work being accepted more and more, workations become increasingly popular.

The experiment: working from Portugal for a month

Workation

A few Mooncampers set out to do a one-month workation experiment in Portugal ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ‡นโ˜€๏ธ๐Ÿ„๐Ÿป

Moonwalk the talk: We are not just about helping other organizations embrace the new World of Work with OKRs, but also frequently experiment with new work practices at Mooncamp ourselves.

Here is what we learned from working remotely in Portugal for an entire month:

Before the trip, we were particularly skeptical about a few things:

  • How will it impact our productivity? (focus, internet speed, equipment, routines)
  • How will it affect collaboration with other Mooncampers not working from Portugal?
  • We are all staying in one big house. What if conflicts arise and we don’t get along?
Workation

Benefits of workations

This is what we actually experienced:

๐ŸŒฑ A more engaged team

When working together in one house, each day becomes a mini-team event. We cooked together, went to the beach together, did groceries together, went out together, did yoga sessions together, and explored the surroundings together. This had a tremendous impact on our team. While we strive to always bring our whole selves to work, getting to know part of the team in their everyday life, talking about non-work related stuff and openly sharing dreams or vulnerabilities with each other, ultimately led to stronger bonds, increased psychological safety and a greater sense of belonging.

๐Ÿš€ Increased productivity

  1. Because we wanted to enjoy as much of the new environment as possible, during working hours, we were laser-focused and avoided any distractions that we previously too often allowed.
  2. Beach beats Netflix: With 27ยฐC in late October and the beach 5 minutes away, everyone was able to cool down from work and recharge for the next day a LOT more effectively.

โ˜€๏ธ Other benefits

  1. Higher creativity: This was a surprise. A few of us reported being more creative, just because they had new stimuli surrounding them (new country, new culture, new language, new accommodation, …).
  2. Sunlight and serotonin: Exposure to more sun and prolonging the summer by an entire month had a notable mood-lifting effect on our psyche.

Like with most things in life, there is a flip side, of course ๐Ÿ™ƒ

So, in the interest of full transparency, here’s what did not work well or what pitfalls we encountered when working remotely in this kind of setup:

Pitfalls of workations

โฐ Time difference

Being in a different time zone than other team members or your customers almost always causes transactional costs.

A few of us who are working in customer-facing teams like Sales or Support needed to adjust their schedule to be available for customers that live in a different time zone. Even finding the time for a brief Zoom call with another co-worker can quickly become a challenge.

To mitigate these coordination costs, we chose Portugal for setting up our temporary Mooncamp, which is only one hour ahead of Central European Time. Thus, working hours had a lot of overlap with our headquarters in Germany.

Also, at Mooncamp, we are avoiding meetings as much as possible and instead try to communicate asynchronously whenever we see an opportunity (e.g., 90% of all decisions happen in a Notion doc that is shared with each stakeholder).

๐Ÿšด๐Ÿฟโ€๏ธ Routines

You need to be prepared that some of your everyday routines won’t work anymore. At home, you probably have a well-established system of routines and habits. But now, being in a different country, many variables will change. Your gym or yoga studio isn’t around the corner anymore. Your favorite coffee place will have to be replaced. At Mooncamp, a few team members are on a vegan diet, which can also be challenging in some countries.

Bottom line: Accept that there will most likely be a trade-off and some things just won’t work in the new environment.

One piece of advice that we can share is to either arrive on a weekend or take the first day off to explore the new living situation and see whether you can plug in or adapt your old routines. It also helps to prepare essential routines before your arrival (e.g. check nearby gyms, outdoor workout spots, supermarkets, etc.).

๐Ÿ˜ตโ€๐Ÿ’ซ Introverts and extroverts

Some of us are more extroverted and some of us are more introverted, i.e. some of us get energy by being among other people, whilst others recharge by being alone. During our workation, around ten people were living in one big house at the same time. Even though it was mostly quiet, not having your “personal sanctuary” to let your soul breathe and your mind rest could sometimes be a challenge for some team members. As a result, next time, accommodation will match each individual’s preference.

๐Ÿ‘จ๐Ÿปโ€๐Ÿ’ป Work environment

This one is obvious: Before doing a workation, make sure that you have good co-working spaces in the vicinity or that your accommodation is properly equipped (office chairs, desks, coffee machine, …). Also, you need to be absolutely sure that your internet connection is fast and stable enough, e.g. by telling your landlord to send over internet speed test results.

Planning to do a workation yourself?

When working remotely, communication with co-workers can be tricky. Therefore, it is important to keep your remote teams aligned, wherever they are.

Turns out, OKRs are the perfect tool to enable collaboration and ensure alignment across different time zones. OKRs let you keep track of what really matters and serve as a north star of what everybody should be working towards.

Feel free to take Mooncamp for a spin and see what benefits a dedicated OKR software can offer.