The pandemic has shifted what we consider to be “the office.” According to a Pew Research Report, 71 percent of adults who say the responsibilities of their job can be done from home are doing just that. This has meant taking conference calls and scheduling virtual meetings from the bedroom, living room, kitchen—or, dare we say it, even the bathroom.
The situation has left many of us longing for a change in scenery, especially after more than a year of working (or schooling) remotely at home. It’s propelled a unique opportunity into the mainstream: the workcation.
A workcation is exactly as it sounds, a mashup of “work” and “vacation.” It’s not a vacation in the traditional sense, as there’s no signing out of email or declining conference calls to exclusively sip Mai Tais by the beach. Rather, it’s an opportunity to take your work (and for the kids, the e-learning) into a new environment, which very well could be a beach. Or a mountainside. Or a countryside. Or wherever takes you out of your bedroom, kitchen, living room, or bathroom.
Tempted? Here are some tips to plan your escape…er, workcation.
KNOW YOUR BUDGET
You’ve decided to take your work on the road. Way to YOLO. Before you begin making any reservations out of pandemic-inspired desperation, however, take a realistic look at your finances. You’ll likely still be paying rent or a mortgage during your time away, so have a firm grasp on how much money you can allocate toward the opportunity. It will help to determine where you can go and how much time you can spend away.
CONSIDER THE DESTINATION
What type of environment will rejuvenate your spirit yet still allow you to get work done? Do you have the means (and time) to go international or should you stay domestic? Some destinations are specifically promoting their workcation potential, such as Puerto Rico. It recently launched a campaign highlighting qualities that make it an ideal workcation destination: no passport or visa requirements; roundtrip flights from across the country; an extensive wireless network; U.S. cell phone service and U.S. currency; English as a widely-spoken language; and, of course, a tropical climate with beaches to ease any stress.
STAY ON TOP OF COVID RULES AND RESTRICTIONS
Have a solid understanding of the pandemic-specific travel advisories for entering your chosen destination, especially if it’s a foreign one. The rules and regulations around quarantining and COVID tests are ever-evolving, so make sure you’ve got the latest information from a reputable source. (Government websites should tell you what you need to know.) Also, be aware of what your hometown and the U.S. Department of State require for re-entry if you opt to cross U.S. borders.
CONSIDER THE TIME ZONE
Being strategic with this can pay off. Planning a workcation in a different time zone could mean mornings away from the computer—to perhaps experience the destination as a tourist—but only if you’re open to working into the evenings.
CHOOSE YOUR ACCOMMODATION WISELY
Hotels have stepped up their cleanliness protocols, and many—such as Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott—are offering workcation-specific packages to lure guests to their properties. The private rental home, however, has become the workcation accommodation du jour because of the built-in social distancing it affords: no rubbing elbows with guests outside of your own party. Sites such as Airbnb and VRBO offer an array of homes-away-from-home that you can rent for a few days or a few weeks, and many provide plenty of room to spread out. Whichever option you choose, however, be mindful that you’ll have an area of privacy to conduct your work, especially if you bring the family along.
CONFIRM THAT WI-FI SERVICE IS UP TO SPEED
There is such a thing as going TOO remote—especially when colleagues (and your boss) expect you to be online during regular business hours. Accessibility and quality are key when it comes to Wi-Fi. Don’t just take the hotel or property owner’s word for it: Check online reviews from recent workcation guests. It’s also worth asking about on-call tech support. Heaven forbid connectivity issues make your workcation un-workable.
CHECK YOUR CELL PHONE PLAN AND SERVICE
If you plan to travel internationally, know your cell phone plan’s coverage and costs. You don’t want any surprise bills from your smartphone while working from the beach. In some cases, you may be better off buying a SIM card when you arrive.
ASK ABOUT EXTENDED STAY DISCOUNTS
If you’re renting a private property, it never hurts to ask. Sometimes you might be able to negotiate a better nightly rate if your stay is more than one week. Some hotels are even sweetening the pot with deals like this. For instance, the Conrad Punta Mita offers a “Stay Longer & Work from Paradise” package with this perk: Stay two weeks and get a third week free.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF “WORKCATION” PACKAGE PERKS
Oh, the perks! On top of being in a setting that isn’t your home, many hotels are dangling sweet carrots that make the temporary transition to a new destination hassle-free. Perks range from complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi to a “Business Butler” who will assist with tasks such as printing and scanning. Hyatt Hotels was one of the first global hotel chains out of the gate with dedicated workcation deals. Packages include a dedicated workspace, food and beverage credits, complimentary high-speed Wi-Fi and much more. Depending on the property, you could also net a free pool cabana, free rounds of golf, a private cooking classes or free kids’ programs. So, it’s worth shopping around to see who offers extras that you’d use.
MIND YOUR HEALTH(CARE)
It’s an unfortunate reality of the times, but it’s important to research healthcare options in your destination in advance. Nobody wants to get sick while away from home, and it’s especially wise to be prudent during a pandemic. If nearby health facilities are scarce or non-existent, you may want to consider a new locale. Know where the nearest pharmacy is. Know what the destination’s COVID rate of infection is. And if you’re traveling abroad, contact your health insurance provider to understand what your coverage is like abroad.
RESEARCH FUN FOR NON-WORK HOURS
All work and no play makes for a very dull workcation—so don’t forget to have FUN. The silver lining to this new work environment flexibility is that you can seize an opportunity such as this. Research the attractions and diversions that make the destination unique and appealing, and devise a plan to experience them when you’re NOT working. In other words: Keep the “vacation” alive within your workcation!