Last week I was on workation in Italy, and those were probably the most productive days of my life.
Together with my team, we spent four days in a winery in Tuscany. Not only did we make all our social media friends jealous and drank a lot of wine, but we also got a serious amount of work done.
While on workation, we spent just 5 hours a day working but managed to get more things done than working 8-hours in the office. In fact, according to our time tracking app, we were 17% more efficient than usual.
That made me wonder:
What is workation?
In short, workation is a vacation that includes working.
Okay, I know what you're thinking:
All your vacations must be workations since you never really unplug and keep checking your emails while on holidays. But see, that's not workation - that's stealing yourself well-deserved time off.
Workation is something more than just casually checking emails while you travel. It means actually dedicating a specific amount of hours a day to sit down and work. Some hours of work in mornings and during the day, followed by sightseeing and other fun stuff in the evenings.
Why workations work?
Because it's an effective way to give employees the needed boost of productivity and motivation, as well as spur creativity and out-of-the-box thinking. Studies have found that surroundings affect how people think and see things. So, the more extreme environment changes are, the better chances employees will come up with unique and innovative ideas and solutions.
That being said, there are a few rules for a productive workation. Here's what we learned:
Rule #1: Stick with like-minded people
When you go on workation, it's important that you take your working mood with you. We found that having people from the office around you and the fact that they're on the same mission helps a lot when it comes to motivation and not getting off the course.
If you go alone on workation, with your family or friends, try to find like-minded people to stay around during your work hours. For example, if you visit some city, check if there's any co-working space you can go to. If there isn't, look for a coffee shop - that's another place where people with laptops hang out and where you can get the working atmosphere.
[Related: Employee Engagement Checklist and Calendar]
Rule #2: Set the right expectations
Look: when you say ''travel'', people hear ''vacation''. Therefore, before you leave for your workation, it's necessary that everyone understands that working is actually going to take a good part of the trip. In other words, make sure you and your travel companions have the right expectations.
Before our trip, we discussed with the team what we're going to do while away, and that helped everyone establish the right mindset. As a result, there were no disappointments when we had to stay inside and work, instead of going out to enjoy the sunny weather and beautiful sights of Tuscany.
[Related: Employee Retention Playbook]
Rule #3: Be picky about your accommodation
The place you stay will play a great role when it comes to your productivity. So, before you book your accommodation, go through this simple checklist to make sure it's suitable for working.
The bare minimum:
❏ a good internet connection (the most important thing you'll need for working remotely)
❏ a desk you can sit and work at
❏ described as ''quiet'', ''peaceful'', ''calm'' (read the reviews!)
Bonus points for:
❏ heating/air conditioning that you can regulate for your comfort (room temperatures matter when you need to focus)
❏ a coffee shop or similar place nearby for when you want to change your setting (for creative workers)
[Related: Benefits Employees Want Most]
Rule #4: Establish a routine
From the day one, try to set yourself a schedule and stick to it throughout your workation. A routine - as much as we try to escape it during our daily lives - is needed for productivity. Having the same schedule every day, helps us stay organized, plan our time more effectively, and avoid pushing things off for later.
During our workation, we used the Scrum methodology and worked in ''sprints''. Every morning we started with assigning everyone a task from our to-do list. Then, we spent four hours to get the most of the work done, and in the evening we had one extra hour to finish what we had started. What's important - every sprint had a hard stop time, which helped us stick to the plan and schedule time for other things, like sightseeing and relaxing.
Rule #5: Stay in the same place for the entire trip
Traveling from one place to another not only takes time, but it also requires a lot of energy. Besides, every time you arrive at a new place, you basically have to start everything from the beginning: get used to the new environment, find a spot you can work, establish a routine, etc. For that reason, it's best to stick to the same place for some time, and, if it's a short worcation, for the entire trip.
Our workation lasted for four days. On the first two days, we felt a bit out of place and needed some time to get used to the new environment and schedule. By the end of the trip, we had finally established a routine, and the last two days were the most productive of the entire time we spent away.
Our workation taught us how much we can actually do when we focus and work with purpose. It proved the old truth that the hours you put into work doesn't really matter, and that those who can balance work with qualitative breaks are actually more productive than those who work 8 hours heads down. You should try it for yourself, too.
Krista Krumina is a co-founder and writer at Truesix.co, a content marketing agency that helps European startups access English speaking markets. She's a passionate traveler and remote work advocate.