Jan 07, 2022

Why work from home when you can ‘workation’

workation
remote working
Entrepreneur
human capital
Kate Birch
9 min
Five-star hotels, travel firms and even countries are welcoming those looking to change up their WFH routine with Work From Hotel alternatives

Imagine signing off that last Zoom call at 3pm and walking out the door to the golf club, a surf lesson, a poolside bar where a cocktail with your name on it awaits. Imagine no more. 

The rise of remote working means you can now take advantage of the hotels, resorts and destinations luring remote workers with practical but playful remote working packages that give new and exciting meaning to WFH. Think an office with an ocean view.

Rise of the flexible working policy

Thanks in large part to the pandemic, and the acceleration of digital, flexible work is now a fact of life, with evermore companies offering employees the chance to work how they want and where they want. 

Firms are waking up to the realisation that remote working has many benefits, from improved productivity and happier employees to less spend on overheads, not to mention attracting and retaining top talent – the latter key in the current war on talent. 

Big Four firm PwC announced in December 2021 that it will permit staff in eight countries including the UK, US and India to work remotely for up to eight weeks, allowing them to take extended overseas trips. The move follows a similar initiative two weeks prior from Deloitte and KPMG Australia permitting extended overseas working holidays; while Deloitte UK is allowing its workers to choose how often and when they come into the office, if at all. 

A host of companies are letting employees work from home forever – among these, Twitter, Facebook, Square, Salesforce, Spotify, Zillow and Coinbase. Some firms are upping the flexibility offer with unlimited holidays (think Netflix, LinkedIn, GitHub, Roku, Visualsoft) while others still – Google, Microsoft, Amazon – are delivering a hybrid model, three days in the office, two at home meaning employees get a possible ‘work from anywhere’ window of four days, from Friday to Monday. 

These ultra-flexible working models mean employees can enjoy extended weekends away, take two-month-long family summer retreats, or work from a different destination every single month. 

People want a better work-life balance, time to travel

And people it seems are game. Not only have they become excited at the prospect of travelling once more, they are awakened to new working possibilities, one where there’s no daily commute or household chores, and which allows greater flexibility, a better work-life balance, more time with loved ones, and the chance to work in exotic locations and have new experiences. 

According to Slack’s Future Forum study, 93% of knowledge workers globally say they want the freedom to decide where and when they do their job. They also want to travel. Research from American Express reveals that more than half of travellers say the freedom and flexibility to live and work while globetrotting is more appealing now than pre-pandemic; while a Tui study finds that more than half of all UK office staff would welcome the opportunity for a workation and believe it would not only make them happier but also better at doing their job. 

“The pandemic has not only changed the way millions of us work, but it has also changed the way we feel about work-life balance. It has made us realise that life is precious and there to be enjoyed,” says Richard Sofer, TUI UK Business Development Director. “There’s absolutely no reason why workers can’t happily combine having fun in a lovely environment with working. Indeed, it’s likely that the happier they are the better they will perform and we should embrace this.” 

Piotr Kupiec, general manager of Sofitel Singapore Sentosa Resort & Spa believes that in 2022 and beyond, business is going to be very much linked with leisure – ‘Bleisure’, a group of long-staying, out-of-season workationers. “Bleisure is going to be about this synergy where people will decide when they are working or having leisure,” states Kuipec. 

Whether a workation (working in resort or hotel environment), flexation (hybrid of holiday and workation) or nomadation (on-the-go working), the opportunity to enjoy a better work-life balance is there for the taking.

Workation packages – from city hotels to remote resorts

Five-star hotels, resorts, travel companies, tourism boards and even countries have been rolling out the red carpet for those looking to change up their WFH routine with Work From Hotel alternatives. 

These packages, programs, visas and villages fuse function (work) with frivolity (play) and offer safe (Covid-free), convenient and work-friendly environments along with five-star perks and the chance to tick off bucket list entries, have out-of-this-world experiences, learn new skills, and even be part of a community.  

International hotel brands such as Marriott International, Hyatt, Hilton and Four Seasons have all introduced work from hotel programs with locations stretching from Venice, Bali, Las Vegas and Thailand to Cyprus, Brazil and Egypt; while travel firms, big and boutique, are also delivering. 

Following the introduction of its own ‘work from anywhere’ policy for employees, UK-based travel firm TUI recently unveiled a range of ‘workations’ with luxury 7, 14 or 21-day packages at more than 30 all-inclusive hotels across Spain, Greece, Portugal, Morocco and Jamaica. Expect private workspaces, super-fast WiFi and a focus on wellness and family with yoga at sunrise, cooking classes and kids’ clubs.  

For those who want to workation in different locations year-round, the Blueground Pass program offers an innovative solution. Available as a six- or 12-month option, this nomadic apartment lease gives you the freedom to seamlessly move between 250 neighbourhoods in 15 cities across three continents (the US, Europe, Middle East). You get access to perfectly placed, high-quality fully furnished apartments with all the work perk mod-cons and experience different places and cultures. 

And then there’s the world’s first digital nomad village, in Madeira, launched last July. Designed as a place to mingle, work and network, the village has already attracted more than 500 entrepreneurs, developers, lawyers, writers and consultants staying from a minimum one month up to three months. The village delivers access to co-working space, Slack, strong WiFi, a hosting team to facilitate your stay and exclusive daily events, talks and workshops. The village is located in the coastal town of Ponta do Sol, credited with being Madeira’s cultural hub and boasting breath-taking beaches, great dining and good hiking trails. Expect to see the concept replicated throughout Portugal in 2022. 

Five-star work and play perks aplenty

Global brand or boutique, city or beach, hotel or resort, one week or one month, the hotel and resort packages on offer give guests next-level work perks as well as the usual five-star luxuries, from the fastest WiFi, in-villa printers and private PAs, to tech hotlines and doctors, beachside cabana offices, networking cocktails and co-working spaces. 

Villas outfitted with computer setup and printers and regular in-room 20-minute neck and shoulder rubs are the work perks offered on the two-week Work from Village packaged from Belmond Hotel La Samanna in the Caribbean’s St Martin. Access to a PA and reserved poolside daybed that doubles as an outdoor office is on the table at Casa Chameleon Hotels, Costa Rica, which delivers a week-long workation. The hotel also offers a Work Bubble package for those who want to bring their team, not their family. 

Complimentary lap pads and iPads provided poolside, a roaming Screen Doctor to keep tech clean, 24/7 tech hotline, and pool or beachside work/study cabanas outfitted with WiFi, TV monitors and energising snacks are all part of the Knowledge for all Seasons Programme at Four Seasons Punta Mita in Mexico – designed for families who want to work and study together. Extracurricular learning includes surf sessions and Spanish lessons for kids and sea foraging and cocktail making for adults. Or shake off the workday with a float in the lazy river, or zipline through the tropical rainforest. 

There are work perks aplenty at five-star Sun Resorts, Mauritius, whose long-stay family-focused package (up to a year) offers dedicated business suites and co-working spaces (courtesy of co-working specialist The Hive) strategically nestled in the coconut groves. Feeling sociable? A members’ club delivers coffee networking in the morning and cocktails at night, while a dedicated concierge takes the stress out of daily chores. And once you shut up shop for the weekend, there are reefs and rainforests to explore and world-class golf courses to master. 

Top of the perks however goes to The Nautilus, Maldives, a workation package of up to 21 days where you can work in a luxury office in your beach house (think ocean-view desk, complete computer setup, private PA and continuous rollout of refreshments) or atop the resort’s secluded sandbank for a few hours each day. It comes with a desk, shaded sun canopy and portable high-speed WiFi – a scene sure to create a stir on any Zoom call. 

Long-stay visas and packages – join the digital nomad brigade

For those looking for long-stay remote working, a flood of digital nomad visas from countries worldwide has hit the market in the last 18 months allowing foreigners and their families to stay (and work remotely) from their soil (or sand) for extended periods, up to two years. 

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, business owner, freelancer or full-time salaried remote worker, as long as you can prove you have an income, you can travel. 

The visas are affordable, some free, take between 24 hours and a week to be granted, and let you take your family. You can leave and re-enter whenever you want (Covid restrictions permitting) and in most cases you don’t pay tax. 

The Caribbean islands, for whom tourism is a lifeline, were the first out of the digital nomad blocks after the onset of the pandemic – Bermuda, Barbados and Anguilla deliver visas up to 12 months, Dominica up to 18 months with its Work in Nature visa, and Antigua and the Cayman Islands up to two years. Mauritius in the Indian Ocean also offers a year-long program, while Indonesia recently introduced a six-month business travel visa. The tourism boards of the Maldives and Seychelles are luring workers to relocate their office to their islands for a year with incentives, discounts and personalised perks promised. 

As well as year-round sunshine, breath-taking beaches, warm hospitality, cultural diversity and a laid-back lifestyle, they all provide robust healthcare systems, frequent international flights and high broadband speeds. In fact, WiFi speed in Bermuda and Barbados are as blazing as their temperatures with Barbados boasting higher speeds than the UK, according to Speedtest Global Index. Not to mention that many of these islands have few Covid cases with Anguilla one of the world’s lowest and nearly three-quarters of its population vaccinated. 

It’s not the only pull though – while twin-island nation Antigua & Barbuda has 365 beaches (one for each day of the year), Bermuda boasts more than 400 wrecks ringed by coral reefs, making it a diamond diving destination, and Mauritius delivers 10 world-class golf courses, and the longest zip line in the Indian Ocean. Packed, yet?

But tropical islands aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Say hello to Costa Rica’s two-year visa Rentista, perfect for the adventurous; Dubai’s recently launched 12-month visa, ideal for city-dwellers; and Iceland’s six-month visa, one for the high-earners as you need to prove you’re earning quite a packet. 

There are also an increasing number of European countries rolling out year-long visas, including Georgia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta, Portugal and Germany, many proffering low-cost living, colourful cities and incredible mountain landscapes. 

Visa-buying fingers at the ready for Malta, which delivers nationwide 5G service; and for entrepreneurial Estonia (birthplace of Skype and TransferWise), which is one of the most digitised nations in the EU with free and speedy wireless internet almost everywhere including remote nature spots. Zoom call in the mountain, anyone?

Word on the digital nomad street is that Romania is up next, set to unveil its digital nomad visa in 2022.

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