work vacation
Sustainable Activity

Spend Your Work Day at a Vacation Destination: Workation!

Dreaming of taking a vacation, but still have some months before you can take your actual holiday time? Tired of sitting indoors staring at the PC when the weather is so lovely outside? Work remotely at a vacation destination!

During the Covid-19 restrictions, many people have become accustomed to working remotely. Working remotely allows for a certain amount of freedom however, and this is where the possibility for a true ‘workation’ comes into being.

What is a workation? 

The term ‘workation’ may have been used in variable contexts throughout working life. However, in this instance, a workation is a corporate initiative in which employees have the possibility to take their working days outside of the traditional office and instead work remotely from a destination location. Some companies in Europe and the United States,  have incorporated some form of workations for their employees. Today we discuss the new government workation initiatives in Japan, which reach even further than the typical work away from office day and further into a sustainable nationwide initiative which not only helps companies, employees and the like, but also is working to compensate for lagging tourism and contributing to local environmental and cultural preservation efforts.

The Japanese local governments have begun the workation initiative along with companies, to give employees a break from the office, or home office and allow them to work from holiday destinations. Even going so far in some cases as covering some of the costs. According to Nikkei, “These working vacations let employees do their jobs from hotels and resorts, and enjoy a bit of vacationing in their spare time”.

There has formed an alliance of companies and the Japanese local governments, which is promoting or offering workations. One company example is that of Japan Airlines, which is currently offering their staff the possibility of work vacations.  Japanese airlines is cited to have plans in the works for an October 2020 joint startup project to send a group of their employees into rural areas for workations but which also involve farming and other activities, thus including corporate social responsibility elements into the mix. Contributing to small local business and farming efforts will introduce a truly sustainable community-based form of cooperation into this initiative, as well as providing valuable learning opportunities to the employees visiting these countryside areas.

Sustainability and benefits of the workation

An immeasurable amount of research has been funded by businesses and think tanks globally, into employee productivity and which methods, schedules and other things work best for increasing worker productivity and efficiency during working hours. It has been shown that not only with shorter working days, but also with companies that encourage their employees to take more vacations, have a corresponding pattern of higher worker productivity as well as a longer retention rate of said employees compared to businesses who do not encourage regular holidays. The workation initiative is hoped to not only boost productivity, but to improve employee morale as well. 

Part of this initiative is to encourage workers to take a work vacation while visiting some of the rural areas, or destination areas which are currently suffering from a lack of tourism and its accompanying financial benefits to the local communities, due to Covid-19 and travel restrictions. Allowing for workers to take a partial holiday while working, and in doing so help destinations suffering from a lack of tourism seems to be a win-win situation for all involved.

As workation destinations are currently specified as rural and certain destination areas, the income from the workation goes back into the local communities in these areas. This is one option for sustainable tourism in a form which offers multiple positives regarding bringing tourism wages to local communities, increasing productivity, helping small communities which are suffering from the Covid-19 restrictions and making a happy employee.  If the traveller would like to be even more sustainable, eating locally sourced food items is a great way to enjoy the immersion experience in local food and culture, and to contribute further to the local community.

What do people think about it?

The idea of being able to work on vacation while enjoying the view seaside, or waking up to have a cup of coffee and check emails on a mountain with an astounding view and booking an evening trek after the day is done, is for many, an ideal atmosphere for working. After all, lust worthy images of nomadic blogger lifestyles is what comes to mind. What a motivating way to enjoy the working day!

All in all, taking a workation, a vacation while one is working may sound like a dream come true. However, there are still many people who are having reservations about the idea. The fear may linger that this could mean that the worker eventually is expected to work during all vacations, as the practice does create a ‘grey area in the work-life balance. 

The workation initiative is still a work in progress. The initiative can be challenging and expensive for all companies to make it applicable for all workers. However, this is a good initiative and a sustainable option, so it should be an option at least given to workers as many people would prefer to be in a holiday destination for their working day instead of in the office. It will be nice to see how the workation initiative does when it becomes more commonplace. Could Japan have just changed the way the world goes to work in the future?

Necessary improvements

Improving and expanding the availability of Wifi access in remote destinations is an absolute priority, in order to accommodate for the possibility of these workations as well as for the convenience of all travellers. If many governments begin to promote workations, as is the case in Japan, it is a highly positive action to provide readily available Wifi access across these locations for all those travelling through the area. “It is necessary to support the Wi-Fi infrastructure so that people can work at hotels, as well as spread out holidays and encourage people to take vacations” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga is quoted as saying in the Nikkei article from 24 August 2020.

As an opinion, making a clear, initiative-wide distinction regarding the work – life balance during workations and regular holidaying periods could serve to reassure critics of the initiative that it would not serve as an expectation to work during all holidays.

As this initiative is a continual work in progress, it is only natural that improvements will be made throughout the process. 

Would you prefer it if your employer offered the possibility to work from a vacation destination as a way to motivate employees during their working lives?

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