How to take a productive workation

AboveBoard | Aug 09, 2023

Guidance for balancing time off and productivity.

Need to get away, but can't completely escape from work? It may be time for a workation.

Blending work and leisure isn't new, but the concept has certainly proliferated since the COVID-19 pandemic catapulted flexible work arrangements. It's easier than ever to take calls and check emails on the go, and for the eager jet-setter, there's even a growing number of amenities and offerings catered to working travelers, like Work from Hyatt passes, Marriott Bonvoy's Work from Anywhere offerings, and even work from paradise packages offered by resorts like Casa de Campo

Whether your workation is out of necessity or preference, we're here to offer pointers on how to take a productive workation. Ahead, we'll take a look at the pros and cons of taking a workation, offer tips for a productive workation, and consider the big picture of work-life balance.

The pros and cons taking a workation

Workations are not for everyone, nor are they for every role. Here are some of the pros and cons of taking a workation: 

The pros of taking a workation include:

  • Saving PTO. Combining both work and leisure has its perks, allowing you to tuck away some paid time off for a future date.
  • Taking advantage of travel deals. Flexible work arrangements can make travel more feasible, especially if you're able to hop on a flight or hotel deal during the destination's off-season.
  • Capitalizing on a new environment. Working in a new environment can offer a sense of inspiration, calm, focus, and even supercharge your productivity.
  • Reducing workload upon return. Staying on top of emails and tasks while you're away reduces some of the catch up work when you return to the office.

Some of the cons of taking a workation to consider:

  • It's still not a replacement for a vacation. Workations have their place, and so do vacations. Everyone needs time to truly unplug from work, and a half day of work and an afternoon of leisure are not always enough to mitigate work stress or burnout. 
  • Workations blur the line between personal and professional. If you're planning to take a workation, you'll need to be intentional about setting boundaries and communicating them to your colleagues. Otherwise, it could be a slippery slope between simply checking emails to taking on more responsibility than necessary or expected.
  • Being fully present at both work and vacation can be challenging. This may present itself differently depending on the individual, personality, and workplace/role. For some people, switching between work and play may not be entirely seamless, leading to a lack of presence at the work you manage to get done or with the quality time/activities planned.

Tips for a productive workation

Workation tip No. 1: Establish boundaries 

As discussed earlier, opting to take a workation is a choice to blend work and leisure. For a productive workation, you'll need to keep these arenas as distinct as possible. That's where boundaries come in. Prior to your workation, outline what your work parameters will look like, such as the type of tasks or assignments you can reasonably take on and the amount of time on the workation dedicated to focused work. The following steps can help you hone in on workation boundaries:

  • Define the scope of work for your workation. Set a reasonable expectation for what you'll be able to accomplish during your time away. This can help you prevent "scope creep," taking on more work than initially allotted. Defining your scope will allow you to be more focused during working hours and hopefully more able to enjoy yourself the rest of the trip. 
  • Use time blocking to your advantage. Use your scope of work to create a to-do list prior to your workation. Then, plan out your working hours on vacation using a time blocking system organized by task type. Since your time working will (hopefully) be limited, this is one of the best strategies to ensure a productive workation.
  • Create an email signature as a reminder of your boundaries. For example, you could leave a note along the lines of: "I'm sending this email while on a workation. My inbox will be checked once a day, and I will respond to you as soon as I am able. If this is an urgent matter, please contact [insert colleague name and email address]. Cheers!"

Workation tip No. 2: Integrate your itineraries 

For a successful workation, carefully weigh work responsibilities and planned/spontaneous activities. After all, that's the difference between a workation and a business trip. 

Now that you've outlined what your work will look like, it's time to think intentionally about the vacation aspect. What are your must-do activities at the destination? What type of memories are you hoping to make? Let the answers to these questions guide you as you plan leisure time. By giving equal weight to the work and vacation aspect of a workation, you're more likely to feel refreshed and recharged, even with a little work thrown into the mix.

Workation tip No. 2: Consider the logistics

For a productive workation, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is there a time difference between my company's offices and the destination? 
  • Will I have access to safe, secure Wi-Fi? 
  • Does my current phone plan include coverage at the destination?
  • And what's my back-up option if Wi-Fi or cell service are unavailable at a given moment? 
  • What quiet space can I go to if I need to take a video or phone call? 
  • Is there someone on my team or at my office who could field emergency inquiries or tasks?

On work-life balance and what workers want

According to Expedia's 2023 Vacation Deprivation Report, workers want more flexibility and more time off. Among survey respondents around the globe who identified as working too much with little time off—Expedia's definition of "vacation deprivation"—a vast majority said they wished their employers would "alter their time off policies." 

Time off from work is an essential part of work-life balance, and it's important for office leaders and policy makers to understand that time off is for more than tropical vacations. Time off can also be used for educational, medical, and personal purposes as well, including going to doctor's appointments, providing caretaking duties for family members, advancing one's hobbies, taking in-person or online courses, or distraction-free rest and relaxation.    

So, where do workations enter into the work-life balance conversation? For some people, workations can offer a stress-free blend of fun and productivity, perhaps managing email flow and light tasks reduces the post-vacation workload. If the job role is more involved, perhaps workations look more like a 50-50 blend of work and pleasure. Either way, workations have their place in work-life balance as sometimes circumstances involving scheduling conflicts, deadlines, conferences, etc. lend themselves better to working vacations. Still, know that workations are not a replacement for completely work-free vacations. Complete time off work is necessary to recharge and bring your best self to your roles inside and outside of the workplace.

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