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Published on October 25, 2018

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 November 14, 2018

Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

Have You Fallen Into the ‘Busy’ Trap? Here’s Your Way Out

Do you find yourself constantly feeling busy? Or, maybe you feel like you have too much on your plate? Perhaps you have a to-do list with no end in sight, or many responsibilities to juggle on a daily basis at work. When you get home, you have household responsibilities to take care of, too, and it just seems like you never have much time for a breather.

Being busy is good, it’s better than not having anything to do and letting time slip away. But, what many people don’t realize is, being busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive. The more time you take to complete something does not equal to more success. Many people end up falling into this trap as they pack their day with tasks and errands that may sometimes produce little outcome or output for the effort that they’ve put in.

For example, let’s say that your washing machine at home broke down and you need to fix it. Instead of calling the handyman to come, your husband decides he’s going to fix the machine. He ends up spending half a day figuring out the machine, and does eventually fix it. He did however have to make a trip to the tool shop to buy some extra tools and parts for the machine. Now, if you had called the handy man, it would probably have taken the handyman much less time, and he would have all the necessary tools and parts already, because that is his job. So in this instance, was your husband’s time and effort worth it? Oh, and because he took half the day fixing the machine, you now had to take over his duties of dropping the kids off at soccer and swim practice.

We Need Not Be That Busy

I hope you would agree, that it would have been ideal to delegate this task to the handyman. That would have saved you time and effort, so that you and your husband could focus on doing other things that were more important to you, like being there for your kids or spending time with each other. This is just one example of how we often impose busyness on ourselves without us even realizing it.

But, I’m going to show you just how you can gain quality time from external sources. Whatever big goals or ambitions that you may have, it’s normal for them to involve a lot more of your time than you first expect. I’m talking about things like starting a new business, changing careers, perhaps even moving to a new city. New challenges often involve things that are outside of our experience and expertise, so covering all the bases ourselves is sometimes not feasible as it takes too much time to learn and do everything.

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You Are Just One Person

At the end of the day, you are just one person, and you have a limited amount of time. So, you have to do things that are meaningful to you. While an overall goal may be meaningful, not all of the milestones needed to get there may be meaningful. Because we all have our strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, not every task will be enjoyable or all fun & games. Some simply require pure willpower and discipline to grind through. And that is where delegation comes in.

What is Delegation?

You may hear this term a lot in the business or corporate world; it’s an effective way for managers to distribute (or sometimes avoid!) work. But, that’s not what I’m referring to. Instead, delegation means leveraging time from an outside source to give you opportunities to increase your quality time. By outside source, we simply mean that it’s not your own time that you’re spending.

What Should You Delegate?

To delegate effectively, it has to be done with deliberate intention. So the aim of delegation is to create more quality time for yourself. There are 3 types of tasks that you should generally delegate, called the Delegation Triangle.

The first are tasks you don’t enjoy doing. These are things that you know how to do, but don’t enjoy. Second, are tasks you shouldn’t do. These are things you know how to do and may even enjoy, but may not be the best use of your time. Third, are tasks you can’t do. These are things that need doing, but you don’t have the skills or expertise to follow through with them at this moment.

Have a look through your daily tasks and responsibilities, and see if you can fit them under these 3 categories.

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Pitfalls of Delegation

Using the Delegation Triangle, you can decide which tasks are worth delegating. In theory, it might look easy to sort actions at first glance; but often, it’s actually harder than you think! 

One such example, is diverting time on tasks you shouldn’t do. Let’s go back to the washing machine example. Your husband decides to fix it on his own instead of simply getting an expert to fix it. Why? Because it’s probably a challenge he enjoys, and it’s an accomplishment that would bring him satisfaction. However, if the value of the task is too low, you really ought to delegate it to others.

Sometimes, when you have a larger goal in mind, you might have to sacrifice some actions in return for making progress. Always think about the bigger picture! One thing that can help you avoid this pitfall is to keep your deadlines in mind whenever you set milestones for a project or task.

Deadlines are a commitment to yourself, and every bit of time is precious. So if an activity you’re focusing on is taking time away from progress towards your goal, it may be time to let go of it for now. You can always decide to pick it up again later.

Then there’s the other extreme of delegation. And that’s when you start delegating everything you dislike doing to external sources.Sometimes it’s tempting to abuse delegation and get carried away outsourcing everything on your “don’t like doing” list.

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Some people are too picky on what they’re going to do. But sometimes, if you don’t like doing so but you’re the only one who can do it, you still need to finish the job. At the end of the day, it does take your own hard work and effort to achieve the success you want.

So if you find that you’re constantly running into this problem of over delegating, then it may be time to re-evaluate your motivation, or reason for doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

Ask yourself, “Is this task contributing towards a meaningful objective that I want to achieve?” and “what kind of progress do I make each time I carry out the task myself?” If the task is both meaningful and creates progress, then the next step is to ask yourself questions that can help you create actions.

What obstacles are causing you to avoid this task? Is it because of low confidence in your ability? Do you think someone else can do a better job? Is it your level of focus? Or is there an alternative action you can take that can produce the same results?

Take Action Now

Take a look at your current tasks or to-do’s that you have planned this week. Which tasks are possible candidates that fall under the Delegation Triangle? Are there any that fall under the pitfalls mentioned above? Which tasks can you immediately identify that should be delegated out right now?

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I hope this exercise helps declutter your tasks and responsibilities a little and allows you to see how much more time you can be saving for more important things. But, this is not the end of delegation. After you’ve sorted out the tasks that can be delegated, the next step is to determine who it should be delegated to. Besides people like your co workers, or spouse/family members, did you know that there is a whole delegating industry out there?

If you’re keen to learn more about this delegating industry, and find out how you can decide who’s the best fit to do your delegated tasks, subscribe to our newsletter today. We will help you discover many more skills that will boost your productivity by leaps and bounds!

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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