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Is working from holiday destinations the new working from home?

Sofocles Socratous, VP Northern Europe at Poly, on the rise and rise of hybrid working

After two years of upheaval, hybrid working is the new reality for many UK organisations. Research reveals that 69% of office workers believe the 9-5 has been replaced by “anytime” working, while a similar number think the pandemic has caused office culture to change forever. But this new element of workplace flexibility is also bleeding into another domain where business and pleasure have historically been siloed: paid leave. Some 16% of Brits plan
to work from their holiday destination this year, and 6% will look for co-working facilities in their hotel. As summer approaches, many employers will be asked what their policy is on “workcations.”

 Integrating a “work from holiday” allowance into a general WFH policy might sound like a no-brainer to increase employees’ job satisfaction and improve mental wellbeing. But there are clear guidelines for employers to set out upfront such as what days staff will be working, how long they can work from a different country from tax legislation perspectives, what time zones and during which hours they’ll be expected to be online to avoid disrupting wider teams.  And, from a practical perspective, employers will need to think about what type of devices will be provided, so that staff can travel and work effectively, wherever they are.

There’s no secret to the growing popularity of workcations. The prospect of extending a holiday from one to three or four weeks by working for some of that time opens up a new world of possibilities for those with wanderlust. Many of us dream about working from a terrace during a sticky day, then hitting the pool or trying some local restaurants by night. Or using weekends to do some exploring then hitting the off button while friends and family back home rant about the British summer!

 It sounds like the stuff of holiday company brochures. But a growing number of companies, including traditional operators like TUI, are offering specialist packages for this burgeoning market. During the pandemic, the government of the Bahamas even began offering an annual residence permit for remote working travellers, which could be renewed for a maximum of three years.

 From an employer’s perspective, offering workcation options is a competitive recruitment advantage. Last year, three-quarters of global workers said they wanted flexible remote work to continue even after the pandemic had receded. And at a time of mounting skills shortages and intense volatility in the jobs market, no business leader wants their organisation to start haemorrhaging staff. More positively, enhancing workplace flexibility to include WFH options could benefit business. Research shows that 72% of organisations saw an increase in productivity as a result of remote and hybrid working, with productivity rising on average by 27%.

However, making workcations work is not simply a case of relaxing HR policy. It should be carefully planned to ensure no unwanted outcomes – productivity should be maintained, and wellness prioritised.

 The first step is setting clear boundaries. Research reveals that over half of employees feel that the rise of remote working has meant they are always on and always available, leaving them unable to relax or switch off from work. Anytime working shouldn’t mean “all the time” working. Paid leave is fundamental to recharging batteries – everyone deserves and needs a break from work.

The same dynamic could turn workcations into a demotivating slog which may be the final straw for already over-worked staff. So, employers should encourage workers not to look at corporate emails outside their allocated hours and to take breaks. This may require putting processes in place to ensure staff aren’t working long hours – whether on holiday or not.

 The second key ingredient to a fit-for-purpose workcation policy is the technology offered to employees. Everyone must have the same experience, irrespective of where
they’re dialling in, logging on and working from. That will not only maximise productivity for all but also reduce employee frustrations around user experience, which can often boil over.

 According to one study, 61% of respondents felt they got more done while working remotely during lockdown because of the peace and quiet. Noise cancelling headsets, for example, are a good way to mitigate the distractions workcation-ers would likely encounter. AI technology can also help to eliminate background noise in meeting rooms, such as noisy typing, to provide remote participants with an experience that’s equivalent to being in the room. From cloud-based collaboration software to speakerphones and cameras, there’s no shortage of technology innovation on the market. The key is meeting equality – ensuring everyone has the same tools and experience, meaning IT teams can also manage everything remotely, from a single portal.

Over half of organisations admit that a combination of skills shortages and The Great Resignation could put them out of business. Now that the pandemic has overcome most managers’ aversion to mass home working, the next step could be to make working practices around paid leave more flexible.

For those in a position to benefit, workcations could significantly impact wellbeing and job satisfaction. But to positively impact retention, recruitment and productivity,
it’s vital that employers are flexible to these requests and provide their teams with the right tech solutions.