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Why Workation Is the Best Team Building Activity That Boosts Team Work

Why Workation Is the Best Team Building Activity That Boosts Team Work

“Workation” (also known as “worcation” and “workcation”) is a team retreat that combines elements of work and rest or sightseeing. You can also see it as a team building activity that takes place abroad or in an unusual setting. If you are a freelancer, you can also go on a workation alone to boost your own creativity or work motivation.

But does it really work? Won’t I find myself lying by the pool all day with a cold Mojito in my hand and my computer tucked away in the suitcase? Or, on the contrary, won’t it be an even more stressful experience as I try to deal with all my important tasks from another city or country?

Here’s the deal:

If you do your workation the right way, it WILL work. As someone who has had several workations with my colleagues and alone, I can assure you that you’ll see a significant positive impact on your mind, well-being, and work performance.

In this article, we’ll look at why going on a workation is a good idea for any team – large or small, and how to organize it the right way.

Why go on a workation?

Besides the obvious reasons why workations are great (a chance to change your office scenery, travel while working and get new experiences with your co-workers), there are many other reasons why company founders should opt for going on a workation.

First of all, workations boost employee engagement. Why does engagement matter?

Because studies show that teams with high employee engagement rates are 21% more productive and show significantly less turnover and absenteeism.[1] In fact, engagement can be more important for workplace satisfaction than company policies and perks.

As 70% of the American workforce reports feeling “not engaged” or “actively disengaged”,[2] it’s no surprise that many employers seek to shrink this gap and better motivate their employees.

Workations are one way to motivate your team, and they have already evolved into an increasingly popular trend among startups. First, because workations are easier to do with a smaller team like an early-stage startup. Second, because they are a form of vacation for the busy startup founders who might find it difficult to unplug from work fully.

That being said, you don’t necessarily have to have a company to go on a workation. The concept of working from a different setting combined with relaxing activities afterward works just as well if you do it alone or join freelancer or entrepreneur retreats or getaways.[3]

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However, here we’ll focus on workationing as an effective and productivity-boosting team building activity. Here are the 6 main reasons why workations work great for teams both large and small:

1. You’ll get to know each other better

Not all of us are seeking friends at work – some just want to maintain a friendly, professional relationship with our colleagues.

However, research shows that employees who have friends at work have higher levels of job satisfaction, retention, and productivity.[4] Furthermore, you don’t need to be a researcher to know that friendly colleagues make us happy to go to work every morning!

Common experiences with colleagues can:

  • Create opportunities to get to know each other outside of a strictly professional setting and break the ice;
  • Help new team members open up and fit in;
  • Encourage employees to work together as a team when they get back to the office;
  • Boost engagement and productivity;
  • Increase loyalty and reduce employee turnover.

2. Your creativity will skyrocket

Physically removing yourself from work is a smart tactic if you want to come up with fresh ideas or new business strategies. Even more, there is actually no single perfect environment for doing creative work – the essence lies in changing your scenery time after time.

Here’s why we need to change the work setting to boost creativity:

Our memories are tied to the environmental context.

By reinstating a context, or coming back to the same place, you can remember more easily what you’ve done or learned in that setting.

However, if you want to find an original solution to a problem or think outside of the box, you might want to leave your workstation. Otherwise, you risk experiencing cognitive fixation and continuously coming up with the same associations.

Creative thinking and problem-solving often involve connecting seemingly unrelated ideas.

Receiving and accepting random stimuli can help the creative thinking process (maybe you’ve heard of random stimulation creativity techniques).

A good tactic for finding new stimuli is changing your surroundings and working from a different location.

Studies show that traveling and the exposure to different environments can change the neural pathways in your brain.[5]

By experiencing different cultures with diverse ideas, you can spark your own creativity and boost productivity.

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Making nature and sunlight a part of our working day helps to regulate the circadian clock and improve sleep.[6]

Sufficient sleep is directly related to well-being and increased work performance.

Besides, going on workation is maybe one of the most pleasant methods for boosting creativity.

3. You’ll experience a productivity boost

Now, you’re probably thinking that I’ve gone too far. How can being on vacation with work elements improve your productivity? Surely, it must work the other way round.

But here’s why it really works, from my own experience:

  • If you set your mind to purposeful working, for example by working in sprints,[7] you are likely to accomplish more work while dedicating fewer hours to it.
  • As I mentioned before, your creative juices are flowing more actively and you come up with creative ideas easier.
  • You will be more productive when you come back to the office, because your mind and body will be recharged.

While on workation you will be removed from everyday distractions like meeting with local business partners, answering calls and organizing the office life, ‘distraction management’ is also crucial during a workation.

For example, if you’re working on a designated project, consider switching off distracting notifications or not checking your regular work emails.

4. You’ll get a new perspective on things

Every retreat and adventure brings new questions and new connections. If you are “stuck” with your colleagues in an awe-inspiring mountain range or a sunny beach resort, you are sure to have conversations and ideas very different from those in the office.

I’m sure you’ll discover some really surprising things about yourself and your colleagues – and maybe even find new common interests.

5. You’ll become more relaxed

No matter how hard-working and efficient you are, your brain needs to rest – just like your body needs to sleep. If you ignore this basic need, your health will backfire sooner or later.

Allowing yourself to have a slower pace of life – even if only for a week – opens up new ways of thinking. Immersing yourself in this different routine can be really soothing for the body and soul – especially in our hectic times.

Sometimes we try to get a problem out of our head by going to the gym or going out with our friends. However, a change of scenery and a trip farther away from home may be just what your brain and soul need to relax.

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6. Your work motivation will increase

Studies have found that demotivated employees are 31% less productive, 3x less creative and 87% more likely to quit than motivated employees.[8] So, motivation is that important, and especially intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is based on taking pleasure in an activity, rather than working towards an external reward. Therefore, to motivate your team, you must think beyond bonuses and additional pay. In fact, only when someone is personally interested in the result, they can work at the highest potential.​

Some examples of intrinsic motivation:

Allowing flexible work hours, helping your employees grow and learn, having a pleasant workplace and – you guessed it!

Going on team-building events, like a workation.

Tips for a successful workation

Now that we’ve established why a workation is one of the best creativity-boosting and team building activities, let’s look at tips on how to make the most of it.

1. Choose a suitable place

First, pick a country or region that’s beautiful, but not too exciting to distract you from work. For example, our team of four content writers spent our vacation in a Tuscan winery[9] – a perfect place for peaceful work and also great for hiking and sightseeing after work. For example, a busy city or a party resort may be too distracting and leave a negative impact on your productivity.

Regarding accommodation, I recommend staying in one place during the whole trip, because moving will distract you and steal precious productive hours. Pick a place with good Wi-Fi, enough desks, couches or alternative workplaces (terrace, standing desk, etc.).

Make the most of your surroundings, too. Consider working from the nearby cafes or parks (and why not have a brainstorm session on the beach?).

2. Have a clear goal, project or plan

Ideally, your workation should have a purpose and a clear goal – for example, to complete a certain project. In our workation, we set aside our daily tasks and set out to write an online course about blogging.

Other examples – you can agree to make new designs for your brand-book or portfolio, brainstorm about the upcoming marketing campaigns or even come up with a new roadmap for your company. Whatever your project, make it your primary focus for the duration of the trip, and don’t deviate from it.

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3. Think about your schedule in advance

Before you pack your bags, think about how you’ll organize your work to achieve the best result. Then, if necessary, you can adjust your schedule on the fly, if you see it doesn’t work 100% as planned.

My colleagues and I initially had a plan to work three hours in the morning and three in the afternoon. But already on the first day of the workation we realized that morning hours are much more productive, while the afternoons are best dedicated to sightseeing and relaxing. So, we decided to work 4 hours in the morning and have one wrap-up hour in the evening.

Our strategy was to work in sprints – short, but intensive work sessions with a focus on one or two tasks. Generally, each day we had a different task and topic to write about, and the goal was to do as much as we can in order to be able to switch to another task the following day.

4. Plan leisure and fun time as well

Don’t forget the “ation” part of the word “workation”! Make sure you also let yourself and your colleagues relax and recharge your brain and energy levels.

If you are one of those people who tend to get too excited with work, make sure you plan leisure activities for the afternoon (hiking, swimming, sightseeing or simply sipping cocktails by the beach). My advice is to plan team building activities in nature that strengthen your team and provide you with common experiences and shared memories.

5. Track your time and productivity

Hopefully, you’ll feel recharged, energetic and newly motivated after the workation. However, how you feel is just one part of the equation. It’s also important to have objective data showing how your team was doing on these busy and leisurely days.

To follow our progress on daily goals and to measure our productivity, we all used a time-tracking app that was monitoring our productivity in the background. At the end of the workation, we could see that our productivity was close to the one at the office.

Furthermore, we counted that the four of us wrote more than 13 thousand words and edited 49 pages of text during 5 days of workationing.

Final thoughts

Team bonding exercises are often met with a groan – very few people actually want to spend time playing awkward games with coworkers.

Workations, on the other hand, can be fun and enriching for everyone, even if the thought seems unusual at first.

If you follow these tips and suggestions, your workation will serve as the best team building activity where people won’t be forced to bond. Instead, they will open up naturally and at their own pace.

Pack your bags for the best team building activity!

Featured photo credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/74tlEYKgrBE via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ieva Baranova

Ieva helps tech startups access big markets and is a passionate advocate of alternative work formats.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

What Is Creativity? We All Have It, and Need It

Do you think of yourself as a creative person? Do you play the drums or do watercolor paintings? Perhaps compose songs or direct plays? Can you even relate to any of these so called ‘creative’ experiences? Growing up, did you ever have that ‘artistic’ sibling or friend who excelled in drawing, playing instruments or literature? And you maybe wondered why you can’t even compose a birthday card greeting–or that drawing stick figures is the furthest you’ll ever get to drawing a family portrait. Many people have this common assumption that creativity is an inborn talent; only a special group of people are inherently creative, and everyone else just unfortunately does not have that special ability. You either have that creative flair or instinct, or you don’t. But, this is far from the truth! So what is creativity?

Can I Be Creative?

The fact is, that everyone has an innate creative ability. Despite what most people may think, creativity is a skill that everyone can learn and hone on. It’s a skill with huge leverage that allows you to generate enormous amounts of value from relatively little input. How is that so? You’ll have to start by expanding your definition of creativity. Ironically, you have to be creative and ‘think out of the box’ with the definition! Creativity at its heart, is being able to see things in a way that others cannot. It’s a skill that helps you find new perspectives to create new possibilities and solutions to different problems. So, if you encounter different challenges and problems that need solving on a regular basis, then creativity is an invaluable skill to have.Let’s say, for example, that you work in sales. Having creativity will help you to look for new ways to approach and reach out to potential customers. Or perhaps you’re a teacher. In this role you have to constantly look for new ways to deliver your message and educate your students.

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How Creativity Works

Let me break another misconception about creativity, which is that it’s only used to create completely “new” or “original” things. Again, this is far from the truth. Because nothing is ever completely new or original. Everything, including works of art, doesn’t come from nothing. Everything derives from some sort of inspiration. That means that creativity works by connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value.From this perspective, you can see a lot of creativity in action. In technology, Apple combines traditional computers with design and aesthetics to create new ways to use digital products. In music, a musician may be inspired by various styles of music, instruments and rhythms to create an entirely new type of song. All of these examples are about connecting different ideas, finding common ground amongst the differences, and creating a completely new idea out of them.

What Really Is Creativity?

Creativity Needs an Intention

Another misconception about the creative process is that you can just be in a general “creative” state. Real creativity isn’t about coming up with “eureka!” moments for random ideas. Instead, to be truly creative, you need to have a direction. You have to ask yourself this question: “What problem am I trying to solve?” Only by knowing the answer to this question can you start flexing your creativity muscles. Often times, the idea of creativity is associated with the ‘Right’ brain, with intuition and imagination. Hence a lot of focus is placed on the ‘Right’ brain when it comes to creativity. But, to get the most out of creativity, you need to utilize both sides of your brain–Right and Left–which means using the analytical and logical part of your brain, too. This may sound surprising to you, but creativity has a lot to do with problem solving. And, problem solving inherently involves logic and analysis. So instead of throwing out the ‘Left’ brain, full creativity needs them to work in unison. For example, when you’re looking for new ideas, your ‘Left’ brain will guide you to a place of focus, which is based on your objective behind the ideas you’re searching for. The ‘Right’ brain then guides you to gather and explore based on your current focus. And when you decide to try out these new ideas, your ‘Right’ brain will give you novel solutions outside of the ones you already know. Your ‘Left’ brain then helps you evaluate and tune the solutions to work better in practice. So, logic and creativity actually work hand in hand, and not one at the expense of the other.

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Creativity Is a Skill

At the end of the day, creativity is a skill. It’s not some innate or natural born talent that some have over others. What this means is that creativity and innovation can be practiced and improved upon systematically.A skill can be learned and practiced by applying your strongest learning styles. Want to know what your learning style is? Try this test. A skill can be measured and improved through a Feedback Loop, and can be continuously upgraded over time by regular practice. Through regular practice, your creativity goes through different stages of proficiency. This means that you can become more and more creative! If you never thought that creativity was relevant to you, or that you don’t have a knack for being creative… think again! You can use creativity in any aspect of your life. In fact you should use it, as it will allow you to to break through your usual loop, get you out of your comfort zone, and inspire you to grow and try new things. Creativity will definitely give you an edge when you’re trying to solve a problem or come up with new solutions.

Start Connecting the Dots

Excited to start honing your creativity? Here at Lifehack, we’ve got a wealth of knowledge to help you get started. We understand that creativity is a matter of connecting things together in order to derive new meaning or value. So, if you want to learn how to start connecting the dots, check out these tips:

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Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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