By Mike LaLonde
Who has time for lots of real vacations anymore? As the world has become increasingly connected, the concept of how we work — and take vacations — has been evolving. While “disconnecting” is still important, the ability to work from anywhere with an Internet connection has increased our options when it comes to balancing our work and free time. And thus, the “workcation” was born.
If you’re not familiar, a Workcation is exactly what it sounds like: a vacation where you’re also working (without taking vacation time).
Mainly, because we can. Remote teams are almost commonplace now. As long as productivity can be minimally affected, it’s perfectly reasonable for many professionals to request working out of the office. And in America with our notoriously inadequate vacation time, anything that can help achieve a better work-life balance while remaining productive should be embraced by organizations.
The key to a successful workcation is trust with your boss, organization, and co-workers.
If you take a trip and are constantly unresponsive or don’t get your work done, that will be your first and last workcation (not to mention that you’ll probably ruin it for your colleagues as well). So, let’s get started with some tips for planning a successful first workcation.
Tips for Your First Workcation
1) Plan Your Itinerary More Than Usual
Maybe you’re one of those people that maps out every hour of every day of your vacations. I’m not that person. But when you’re planning your first workcation, you need to err on the side of over-planning. Sure, leave a little room for spontaneity, but the more knowledge you have about where you are vacationing, the less stressed you’ll feel.
2) Plan for Things Going Wrong
I’m not talking “your plane crashes on a deserted island” wrong or “contracted malaria” wrong (you’ll probably be canceling some plans in those cases). Rather, plan for the little things that could go wrong.
Your computer got wet or sandy and broke; is there a public computer you can use to work? Your phone or laptop charger broke; where can you get another one? You lost your international power adapter; where are the electronics stores? You need to make an emergency 2-hour international phone call; what’s the best way to do that? The WiFi in your hotel is broken; what places nearby will work?
For all those little things that can go wrong, have general ideas when it comes to solutions.
It’s best to assume everything won’t go absolutely perfectly.
Unless of course you’re one of those traveling types that springs for all the 5-star services, in which case you probably have to plan for less things going wrong than most people. Lucky you. But for the rest of us, it’s best to be prepared.
3) Set Expectations & Establish Boundaries with Your Travel Companions
If your family, friends, or a significant other is coming with you, proper expectations need to be set around your commitment to work. They need to know that you’re going to be working normal hours and shouldn’t expect you to break free from that. That’s why scheduling can be so important, but also set these expectations so your travel companions aren’t surprised or disappointed.
4) Set Goals & Establish Expectations at Work
The best way to keep the confidence of the team in the office is to tell them exactly what you plan on doing, and then follow through with it.
Set goals on what you want to accomplish during your workcation. Tell the team how you’ll be communicating with them, when, and how they can contact you if they need to (although you’ll probably be connected most of the time, it is 2016). At LDM, we rely heavily on Slack.
This not only benefits your coworkers back at the office, but can help you set goals and boundaries as well. You’ll be more likely to reach goals if you’ve planned and committed to accomplishing them.
5) Set Vacation Goals
You’re not there just to work, after all. Outline the fun things you’d like to accomplish as well, and make sure you do and see as much of your list as possible.
6) Expect Things to Take Longer Than You Think
When you’re on a regular vacation, completely unplugged, you can commit 100% to it. Now, you’ve got to turn on and off again. Remember that you’ll be working, and that it’s very difficult to put the hours in and then hit the vacationing hard. You’ll wear yourself out, unless you’re off on a yoga retreat or soaking up the sun on the beach and the only question is how long you’ll get to do it. But if you’ve got a strict itinerary of activities, don’t overbook. It will take you a lot longer to cross off your vacation bucket-list items if you’re also prioritizing work.
7) Find Places Where You Can Concentrate
Whether it’s staying in a nice hotel where you can shut yourself in and focus on work, renting a desk with a co-working group, or scouting out local coffee shops and libraries, do your research first and know you’ll have dedicated quiet, alone time for work.
All those photos of people sitting in their swimsuits in a beach chair on the sand holding their computer? I’ve tried it, and it’s not exactly realistic. It’s tough to focus and be legitimately productive in an environment like that, not to mention the sand everywhere or the insufferable glare.
8) Don’t Go To Your Top Bucket-List Destinations
Always dreamed of going to Paris? Want to dive the Great Barrier Reef? Peruse the Irish countryside? Experience Oktoberfest? I know that may sound strange, but skip your dream location destinations (especially if it’s Oktoberfest). If it’s someplace you’ve absolutely always wanted to do, save it for a real vacation.
Workcations, especially your first one, can be stressful at times, and you should be able to enjoy those other experiences to the full extent.
Not only that, but being in your dream city will make it awfully difficult to focus on work.
You’re better off choosing a more relaxing vacation, or a destination you can plan some events and activities for and be happy when you’ve done them. You’re probably not going to see all of New York City in a weeklong workcation, but if you plan to see a show on Broadway, go up the Empire State Building, and get some authentic pizza, then that’s something you can and should accomplish without losing your mind.
Ready? Go For It!
As a digital nomad for the past three years, I’ve essentially been on a permanent workcation. I’ve met a lot of people traveling and working, ranging from those who are completely relaxed and used to it to those extremely nervous about it. In the end, I think everyone I’ve met is glad he or she did it.
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