Workcation 101: How to Successfully Combine Work and Play

/ 9 min read
Kat Boogaard

You’re tired of staring at the same four walls of your office. You’ve been sitting in your desk chair for so long it feels like a permanent extension of your body. Your daily routine is so ingrained you’re pretty sure you could do it in your sleep.

There’s no doubt about it—you’re ready to switch things up with some fresh surroundings. But, taking a vacation can often introduce some new stress. Time off means you need to work ahead and coordinate coverage while you’re away (not to mention the dreaded catch-up period when you get back).

That’s where a workcation comes in. Do it right and you can get the best of both worlds.

What is a workcation?

Combine the words “work” and “vacation” and you get “workation", a term coined for taking a trip to a destination where you can enjoy some leisure time without totally checking out from your work to-dos.

It’s not a normal vacation, as you’ll still get work done during your travels. But, it’s also not a business trip, as you’ll incorporate plenty of time for personal leisure, activities, and relaxation.

Put simply, a workcation is right in the middle and is often described as “a break from your usual place of work, but not from the work itself.”

Among travel trends, a workcation continues to gain popularity, especially with remote workers and digital nomads who have additional flexibility to decide where they get their best work done. In fact, in one global study, 65% of people said they planned to extend a work trip into a leisure trip (or vice versa) in 2022.

3 benefits of taking a workcation

So, why bother combining travel and work this way? How is this better than sticking with your normal routine? There are several ways that a workcation benefits workers, including:

1. Increasing your productivity and creativity

We’ll spare you a neuroscience lesson, but our brains crave novelty. Switching up your location causes your brain to release dopamine, which boosts your motivation. It also exercises your brain’s neuroplasticity, which helps you think outside the box.

2. Indulging in more leisure time

While you might have the best intentions for prioritizing work-life balance and incorporating downtime into your normal daily schedule, work obligations can quickly monopolize the hours you set aside.

That’s less likely to happen when you’re somewhere new and eager for fresh experiences. Those unfamiliar surroundings can inspire you to take an actual lunch break to check out that cafe down the street or use your break between calls to breathe in some fresh mountain air.

3. Using fewer vacation days:

If you don’t feel like using a large chunk of your precious vacation days on a trip, the workcation trend gives you the option to explore and enjoy a dream location—without completely draining your paid time off.

A workcation isn’t just about cranking through your to-do list with your toes in the sand. It can be a powerful step for improving your focus, motivation, and creativity.

Is a workcation right for you?

Workcations are awesome, but this is an important point: A workcation is not the same thing as an actual vacation. You aren’t unplugging from your work responsibilities, which means you aren’t benefitting from a real reset.

So, if you’re struggling with burnout or are in desperate need of some uninterrupted quality time with your loved ones, a workcation isn’t the answer. You’ll be better served by some alternative options (like, you know, some real time off).

However, workcations have their time and place. Here are a few instances when it might be the perfect time to consider combining your tasks with some travel:

  • You’re craving a change in scenery: The short walk from your desk to the bathroom isn’t enough to scratch your travel itch but you also don’t want to completely disconnect from your job for a getaway. A workcation switches up your surroundings while still allowing ample time for your work responsibilities.
  • You want to meet up and co-work with someone: Maybe you know another business owner halfway around the world. Or, perhaps you’ve connected with someone who’s also living the digital nomad lifestyle. Picking an inspiring location to meet up, co-work, and enjoy the sights is a great way to strike a balance between work and play.
  • You’re attending a business conference: Similarly, there might be an industry conference or event happening at an interesting destination. You can attend the planned activities and still reserve your personal time to relax and explore.

Workcations have their advantages and use cases. But again, actual vacations (we’re talkin’ the real ones where you dedicate absolutely all of your time to resting and recharging) are still crucial for your overall wellbeing. Even if you love workcations, don’t forget to plan some dedicated time off too.

How to manage your workcation: 5 tips to set yourself up for success

A workcation sounds like the happy medium you’ve been hoping for. Now, how do you make it happen? Here are five tips to make sure your workcation ends up being the best—and not the worst—of both worlds.

1. Carefully consider your destination

When planning a normal vacation, your location criteria likely involve things like climate, accommodations, and leisure activities.

Those elements can (and should!) play a role when selecting your workcation spot. But, since you also need to be able to get work done while you’re visiting, there are a few more aspects to consider:

  • Do you need reliable phone service? Is that available?
  • Does this destination have accessible WiFi and a speedy internet connection?
  • Is there a place (whether it’s a coffee shop or your hotel room) where you’ll be able to focus on work?

Picking a destination with all of that in mind means you can find a spot that meets all of your needs—both working and relaxing.

2. Think through your packing list

Packing for a workcation doesn’t only involve tossing some sunscreen or ski boots into your suitcase. You need to think through your work needs too.

While you probably aren’t going to pack your large monitor and entire desk setup, think through some of the things you need to work successfully.

From your blue-light-blocking glasses and noise-cancelling headphones to a portable charger and travel adapter, you want to make sure you’re equipped with the items that make your work life easier—especially if you’re going somewhere you won’t be able to easily purchase them.

3. Set clear boundaries

Remember that a workcation involves combining two things: work and vacation. Successfully striking a balance between the two requires that you set some firm boundaries—with yourself, your work team, and any loved ones you’re bringing along on the trip.

Having these conversations before you pack your bags or board a plane means everybody has shared expectations for what your trip will look like, which can prevent confusion, miscommunications, and even hurt feelings.

Not sure how to go about establishing these boundaries? Here are some questions to think through with yourself, your family, and your team:

Setting personal boundaries:

  • How will you split up your working time?
  • Will you stick to a routine or be more flexible?
  • How will you deal with any work emergencies?

Setting family boundaries:

  • How often will you be available to your family? When?
  • How will your family know when you’re able to be interrupted?
  • How can your family best support you in getting your work done?

Setting work boundaries:

  • When will you be available to your team?
  • What’s the best way to get in touch with you?
  • Who should they contact when you’re unreachable?

💡 Tip: You can take the guesswork out of your availability by using Paperform's appointment field to block off your calendar, so your coworkers know when to leave you alone.

4. Make the most of your work time

Getting work done in a new location can be invigorating, but it can also be a little distracting—and even frustrating.

You don’t have your usual home office supplies within reach. You’ve traded your ergonomic desk chair for a less-comfortable seat in a crowded coffee shop or co-working space. Wait, what’s your password again?

Especially when you want to be able to dedicate enough time to relaxation, exploration, and family getaways, you need to maximize the hours that you’ve reserved for work.

Plenty of the tips above—like setting appropriate boundaries and bringing the right equipment—will help you ensure your work isn’t an afterthought. But, if you still find that productivity is a little hard to come by in unfamiliar surroundings, here are a few tips to try:

  • Find a location that’s conducive to productivity: Do you prefer the hustle and bustle of a coffee shop? Or are you more focused in a quiet environment like a local library? It might take some trial and error to find a space where you thrive, so don’t be afraid to experiment. If you’re taking an extended workcation, it might be worth checking out some coworking spaces to see if there is a short-term and affordable option.
  • Prioritise your tasks: Maximizing your work time means focusing on the work that has the biggest impact, but that’s tough to do when random emails and requests throw you off track. Start your day or week by creating an Eisenhower matrix. It’s a simple tool that will help you visually separate the work that’s urgent and important from everything else.
  • Try time blocking: Time blocking is a productivity technique that involves separating your day into distinct blocks of time that are dedicated to specific purposes. It can be helpful for instilling a sense of urgency and boosting your focus. And, it’s especially beneficial during a workcation when you might be working in between different activities and commitments.

Read our guide to automating routine tasks to free up more time for leisure.

5. Schedule your free time

A workcation isn’t all about what you’re doing with your work time—you deserve to make the most of your leisure time too.

Make sure you reserve a block of time (whether it’s a few hours every day or an entire portion of your trip) that you can use to soak in the sights and enjoy your destination.

If you’re worried about sticking to your planned downtime, it can be helpful to schedule some activities. Whether it’s surfing lessons or dinner reservations at a local restaurant, those planned events will not only be enjoyable—they’ll hold you accountable for maintaining adequate balance during your workcation.

Take a workcation and get the best of both worlds

The concept of incorporating work into a vacation might sound groan-worthy at first. And it’s true that a workcation is absolutely no replacement for a real vacation that allows you to disconnect and recharge.

However, if you’re feeling drained of inspiration and motivation but don’t have the desire (or the ability) to take some dedicated and uninterrupted time off, a workcation can help you scratch the itch for some new surroundings and experiences—without having to check all of your work responsibilities at the baggage counter.

After all, there’s nothing like working from a sidewalk cafe, a beach chair, or a mountaintop cabin to make your to-do list feel a little more manageable (and maybe even enjoyable).


About the author
Kat Boogaard
Paperform Contributor
Kat is a freelance writer focused on our working world. When she’s not at her computer, you’ll find her spending time with her family—which includes two adorable sons and two rebellious rescue mutts.

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