The world of work is awash with weird and wonderful words – mostly thanks to 'thought leaders' who like playing buzzword bingo in their Business Insider columns.

The latest in a long list of phrases you may have heard (but don’t quite understand) is workation – but what does it mean? Who takes them? And why? Let’s unpack it.

So, what is a workation?

Also called a ‘workoliday’ or ‘woliday’, a workation is exactly how it sounds. Working while on vacation (work + vacation = workation).

It’s combining business and leisure. Sending emails while sunning yourself. Hitting targets while hitting the beach, anywhere in the world. Working the hours while winding down.

As HR Technologist puts it:

‘A workation is a vacation that allows you to work remotely while integrating elements of leisure that let you unwind, relax and be more productive’.

In essence, a workation is taking a break from your usual place of work, but not from the work itself. Think of it as ‘work away from work’.

Digital nomads and remote work

Another term you'll have heard banded around is digital nomad. When we speak of digital nomads we're usually talking about freelancers who'll move around the world, no office required. The purest form of working remotely, all they need to work is their technology, a laptop and an internet connection connection. It's very popular with designers and software developers.

In some respects a workation is a way to sample that remote work lifestyle, without leaving your current employer.

Why workations are all the rave

With 47 percent of people allowed to work remotely full-time post-pandemic, we’re finally realising that some people are equally (if not, more) productive outside the office.

There's a heap of choice when it comes to communication and collaboration apps. MS Teams, Slack, Basecamp, Asana, Zoom, Whereby. Almost anyone can work from almost anywhere.

We've got the tech giants like Facebook and Twitter deciding they don’t give two hoots where work is done – as long as it’s done.

And besides, times have changed – along with attitudes. We’re coming to grips with the fact that the 9-5 office slog isn't for everyone.

I don't know about you, but commuting for miles every day to sit within the same four walls isn't my cup of tea, just give me an internet connection and I'm at work.

More to the point, studies have shown that offering flexible ways of working does wonders for productivity, happiness, loyalty and job satisfaction.

Who would’ve thought it!?

Opinions on workations

Like most work-related topics and new trends, opinion is divided and the jury still out.

Who can take a workation?

Anyone can take a workation. That said, they’re best suited if you can work remotely without it affecting your job.

This tends to be white-collar jobs – because in most cases, the work you do in the office can probably be done anywhere.

Clearly, jobs in hospitality, retail, or blue-collar professions aren’t particularly suited to workations.

On the other hand, those who work in creative professions are – especially those who rely on a change of scenery, new experiences, and inspiration to produce their best work.

Note: If you're struggling with spreadsheets to keep track of staff holidays, we'd love to show you how Timetastic can save you heaps of time. Here's a direct link to create a free 30 day trial.

What’s the difference between remote work and workations?  

Not much in a practical sense. But remote work tends to be a permanent arrangement, and most remote workers are actually based at home.

So in theory, a workation is less of a commitment than full-time remote - they're designed to be temporary trips rather than new lifestyles.

  • An additional week at the end of your family holiday where you switch to working and your family continue hitting the beach - not a bad way to make the most of the summer holidays.
  • What about a month off to head on a long haul flight to an exotic destination.
  • Or maybe even an extended stay with family or friends who've moved abroad.

Persuading a boss that it's feasible might be a challenge, but with the big switch to remote working through COVID maybe you'll find your boss more open to the idea. You're going to have to prove you can work away from the office, and show that it won't affect your productivity.

What are the benefits of a workation?

Believe it or not, workations can be a win-win for everyone.

If you offer unlimited holiday, they’re ideal. Instead of someone disappearing for weeks on end, they might take a workation instead.

It’s a good way to find balance with absence and productivity – keeping the wheels in motion while keeping the smile on people’s faces.

As one writer in Bustle puts it:

‘The workation was a great excuse to get outside on the deck or go for a short walk. It reminded me that it’s normal not to be chained to your desk all day’.

And I couldn’t agree more – being chained to your desk all day isn’t good for body nor mind. And besides, is our purpose in life really to spend all day in an office?

Workations also give you more time to travel than a regular holiday, so you can see the world and earn money at the same time. What could be better?

Other benefits of workations include:

  • Increase in motivation
  • Increase in productivity
  • Increase in creativity
  • Increase in employee retention

And the downsides of workations?

Downsides? Surely not?

Workations aren’t for everyone. Some believe that mixing business with leisure is counterproductive, or ‘oxymoronic’ as this tweet puts it: describes workations as ‘the saddest sign of our times’ – citing the loss of work-life balance and the absurdity of spending money to travel somewhere exotic only to waste it by working all day.

And to a certain extent, it’s true. You’ve got expenses to consider – travel, accommodation, food, and other living costs.

And with work in the way, you have to ask yourself: will I actually have time to enjoy myself?

From personal experience, workations didn’t work for me.

In 2018, I planned to build a business on the road while travelling. While being in a new place was refreshing, it was also distracting.

Coming home and finding a regular spot to work (even if it’s in rainy Manchester) proved to be the best thing for my productivity.

There’s also the risk that the lines between work and play become blurred.

Can you really enjoy the sun-drenched vistas of the Caribbean if your phone is pinging with Slack messages that you can’t ignore?

And then there’s the tax and right-to-work implications. Sometimes, getting a working visa is easier said than done. Especially now, for UK citizens looking to work in the EU.

Tips for making workations work

Now, it goes without saying that you’ll need to make your workation – work. So here’s some tips to help:

  • Plan your time carefully
  • Switch off when you’re not working
  • Do away with distractions when you are working
  • Organise your workspace
  • Bring all the right tools
  • Think about timezones
  • Make sure you’ve got good WiFi
  • Have fun – otherwise, what’s the point?

Workations at Timetastic

So what's our stance on the matter, do we allow workations?

The truth is no one at Timetastic has brought it up yet, no one has asked for a workation, so we've not had to confront it as a real thing, but perhaps they don't need to...

We're all remote workers anyway, we genuinely don't care where people work from.

And we have flexible work schedules, choose when you work (a slight caveat here with customer support, where we need to know key hours are covered).

So in that respect anyone at Timetastic could go and work anywhere in the world. And maybe with that flexability a speecific workation policy isn't necessary.

Note: We'd love to show you how Timetastic works, it's a much easier way to keeop track of staff holidays. Here's a direct link to create a free 30 day trial.

Final thoughts

Workations straddle a strange line between holiday, remote work, and sabbaticals. If you’ve got the option to take one, put some thought into it before jetting off – and always plan ahead.

And seeing you're all the way down here

You'll have spotted that we're strong believers in a healthy work-life balance. Time off, holidays, rest and recuperation are essential, so booking staff holidays shouldn’t be a headache. That's why we made a simple app to take care of it, the only headache is deciding what to do with your free time. Have a trial on us – it’s totally free to see how it works.