Workation: embracing the blurred lines between leisure and work
By Sion Lewis, General Manager EMEA, GoTo
April 20 2022 - Flexible working from home or in a co-working space has given many employees the freedom to better balance their private and work lives. As a result, the boundaries between the two are increasingly becoming blurred, and workers look to extend vacations into ‘workations’.
With new developments in hybrid styles, replacing dining al desko with Mediterannean al fresco can become a reality for many, when it has previously been the privilege of the super-rich. As work and play mix, what sounds like an idyllic vacation has become simply the new 9-5.
This modern flexibility is a benefit companies must offer in order to retain the best talent and ensure employees are content and motivated while online. According to a Virgin Media O2 poll of 2,000 UK office workers, more than a quarter are planning to take a remote working holiday this year. Of the respondents planning a remote working holiday, more than half (58%) thought that taking a hybrid holiday in Europe would improve their work life balance, while 44% reported simply wanting a change of scenery.
Overcoming hurdles for working abroad
Given that it’s a new precedent for employees maximising remote work potential, there is not yet a legal basis for workation in the UK. But if the employment contract contains an agreement for remote work, there is nothing to prevent the temporary relocation of the workplace, provided the employee is in his or her own country. However, if the place of work is abroad or the trip is a significant length of time, arrangements become more complicated.
Among other aspects, it must be clarified at what point the workation is considered a "move" abroad. Then the employment has consequences on the payroll, since the payroll department has to comply with the tax laws and conditions in the host country. Dealing with specific country tax regulations is an added complexity for HR managers to pick up and not something they’ll typically have the experience or time to manage for multiple employees relocating.
In addition, not all countries and infrastructures are designed for remote work. It is therefore important to check in advance what the accommodation looks like, and whether the workplace permits ergonomic and trouble-free working. The work discipline factor should also not be underestimated. Anyone who already finds it difficult to concentrate in the home office will be distracted even more quickly by the view of the sea. Workation - like remote work - is not everyone’s cup of tea. But if you embrace the following when planning, you can look forward to a relaxing break from the office routine.
Workation planning tips
- Assess the choice of the country and how it affects payroll - in the employee's own country, if there is an appropriate arrangement for remote work and if the job permits, the employee is free to decide from which location he or she works. If the place of work moves abroad, the tax law applicable there must be taken into account. There may also be important differences in social security when working outside the EU, depending on the agreements between the respective countries.
- Gauge whether there’s good WiFi capability - hotels and vacation apartments are often equipped with WiFi. However, it is important that the network is sufficient in your own room to be able to work undisturbed and participate in video conferences. Guest reviews can provide information about whether the WiFi is reliable, but consider contacting the reception or the landlord to be on the safe side.
- Ensure you have spacious working conditions - hotel rooms are often small. There is usually hardly any space next to the bed to put down a suitcase. However, the hotel may have a communal work area for guests. Of course, upgrading is also a possibility. Holiday apartments offer more space and fulfil the basic requirements for laptop work with a dining table.
- Keep wellbeing front-and-centre - workation is a way to escape from everyday office life. A workplace with a view of the countryside or the sea clears the mind and inspires productivity. Grey walls and an office atmosphere are familiar enough at home. However, the risk of distraction is also much greater; a high degree of self-discipline is therefore important.
- Account for time differences - work is made more difficult if the employee is in a different time zone. Whether it's a team meeting or a customer call, the time difference must always be taken into account. It may also be necessary to reschedule regular catchups because it they are not compatible with working hours abroad.
- Communicate & collaborate effectively - consider using asynchronous channels. Allowing the team members to exchange information instantly, regardless of location, can increase productivity thanks to fewer superfluous meetings and more control over time management. Teams can communicate and collaborate effectively without relying exclusively on scheduled meetings.
Work at the desired location: No problem with the right preparation
Apart from the time difference in the country of residence, employees should consult closely with their supervisors and HR managers before planning their work assignments. At least in countries outside the EU, there may be changes with regard to various tax deductions.
Despite planning efforts and challenges, a brief change of scenery away from the desk at home is worthwhile. A workation can trigger a boost in motivation and creativity and have an overall positive effect on work performance. Companies should be open and see workation as a welcome and, above all, beneficial change and supplement to the normal office and remote daily routine, to which people are then happy to return with fresh perspectives.
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