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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

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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 June 4, 2020

Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success

Why Perspective Taking Is an Essential Skill for Success

Google the term “essential skills for success” and you’ll get over 490 million results, with most of them consisting of lists. The top 5 essential skills for success, the 10 essential skills for success, etc. And in most of these lists, perspective taking isn’t in there. I think that this is a big mistake.

Perspective taking is an essential skill in almost all aspects of business. From sales and marketing, to negotiations and employee management, perspective taking is a key component for a leader’s success.

What Is Perspective Taking?

Perspective taking is the ability to take on someone else’s point of view when thinking. It’s a simple concept, and it’s something that most of us do all the time, mostly without even thinking about it.

One study analyzed the way in which people gave directions to a landmark. Not surprisingly, the directions they gave depended on whether the person asking was perceived as being out of town or a local. Out of towners were given much more detailed directions because the person assumed that they were less familiar with local landmarks and how to navigate the city. Locals were assumed to know the general layout of the city and how to navigate within it.[1]

We are always collecting data about other people’s state of mind through their behaviors, verbal, and non-verbal cues. If someone has tears in their eyes, we assume they are upset. We understand that hyperventilation, fast talking, and anxiety can mean that the person is panicked. Their tone of voice can convey anger, sympathy or happiness. These are all social cues that we instinctively process and use to formulate socially acceptable responses.

For example, if a friend expresses sadness because their football team lost, then a joke may be an appropriate way to snap them out of it. But if they are sad because a family member has just died, showing them support is going to be a better response.

You may be reading this and saying to yourself that perspective taking is just another term for empathy; but there are very distinct and important differences, especially in a business setting.

Empathy Vs. Perspective Taking

Empathy is the ability to take on and relate to someone else’s feeling or emotions. Perspective taking removes all the emotional aspects and is strictly concerned with how the other person perceives a situation. This is a very important distinction in a professional setting.

Studies have shown that people who negotiate with empathy end up giving away more and getting less than people who negotiate through perspective taking.

Perspective taking, according to a study published in the April 2008 issue of Psychological Science, involves understanding and anticipating an opponent’s interests, thoughts, and likely behaviors, whereas empathy focuses mostly on sympathy and compassion for another.[2]

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“Perspective takers are able to step outside the constraints of their own immediate, biased frames of reference… Empathy, however, leads individuals to violate norms of equity and equality and to provide preferential treatments.”

In general, perspective taking works better in business settings, and empathy works better in a social setting.

How to Develop Perspectives

Perspective taking is, to some degree, an innate human characteristic. Most of us can understand when someone is in a bad mood, angry, or excited, and we can anticipate their behaviors based on those factors.

It’s fair to note that there is a subgroup of people who have social deficits that can make perspective taking more difficult or even impossible (some personality disorders, autism, etc.), but for the most part, perspective taking is an innate ability that can be sharpened and honed as a skill.

Try this experiment:

With your dominant hand snap your fingers for 5 times. Now with the other hand, trace the capital letter E on your forehead. This little trick is designed to measure how well you take other people’s perspectives into account.

If your E faced the left side of your body, it would be easy to read from someones else’s perspective. If it faced the right side of your body, it would be easy for you to read. It’s certainly not definitive, but a fun little exercise.

Now, for those of you whose “E” faced the right side of your body (full disclosure, I’m included), here are some ways to develop your perspective taking skills:

  • Consciously put aside your feelings so that you can concentrate only on the other person’s perspective.
  • Do not approach the situation with a “mission” mindset. Always approach with curiosity: “What is it that makes them to act this way?”
  • Use open ended questions that can help you draw out the interests and motivation that the person may not be verbalizing.
  • Be clear about your own position and the weaknesses it has.
  • Remove any personal intentions you may have so as not to project them on the other person.
  • Use what you know about the person, their background, their mood, their intentions and expectations. Imagine how they are seeing the current situation.
  • Once you have an understanding of their perspective, try to anticipate what their reaction will be so that you can adjust your responses in order to move them towards the outcome you desire.
  • Validate their position (you don’t have to agree with it) by paraphrasing back to them what you think their position is.
  • Use the mirroring technique[3], mimicking movements, postures, and facial expressions to put them at ease and create a connection.

Perspective Taking and Personality Types

When we talk about perspective taking, the more information we have about someone, the better. Understanding the basic personality types (in business) will help you to understand another’s perspective and the best way to interact with them.

Analytical Personalities

These people are orderly, precise, and tend to be “by the book” procedurally. They are often described as low key, quiet, and reserved.

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Their offices are often sparse with few plants or pictures. They can be dry and impersonal when interacting with others.

How to Approach Them

Analytical personality types tend to be uncomfortable with small talk and personal interactions. Be sure to give them their space. They respond to evidence-based arguments and like facts. Be prepared to make logical arguments that can be backed up with data.

Driver Personalities

Someone with a driver personality will be very result-oriented. They tend to be very high energy, impatient, and controlling.

Their offices can reflect their personality with large desks and clocks that are strategically placed and only visible to them. Their walls are often decorated with awards and pictures of famous or important people.

When interacting with them, they can come off as loud and aggressive.

How to Approach Them

Because drivers are result-oriented, keep small talk to a minimum. Don’t be afraid to match their assertiveness, but don’t try to dominate them. Driver personalities like to have more than one option to choose from.

Amiable Personalities

These are the proverbial team players. They typically have excellent social skills and are good listeners.

When interacting with an amiable personality, they come off as warm, caring, and relaxed. They tend to dress and decorate their offices with bright colors that project positive energy.

How to Approach Them

You should approach the amiable personality on an emotional level. They like small talk and the ability to connect on a more personal level. They tend to be noncommittal and make slower, more contemplative decisions. They are emotional decision makers and can be very loyal customers.

Expressive Personalities

These people are the life of the party! They’re outgoing, not afraid of the limelight, and have a positive outlook on everything. Expressive personalities tend to be very high energy and very enthusiastic about goals.

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Their offices tend to be brightly decorated, and it’s not unusual for a lot of clutter to accumulate. They are often seen dressing more flamboyantly and wearing a lot of jewelry and accessories.

When interacting with them, they will speak quickly using a lot of hand gestures, jokes, and stories to get their point across.

How to Approach Them

Expressive personalities react well to enthusiasm and fun. It’s important to listen to them closely as their stories and jokes will let you know where they are coming from. They respond well to the use of vibrant language and subjective statements (I feel, I think, etc.). Don’t argue with an expressive personality and try to close the sale quickly as they can make decisions quickly.

Using Perspective Taking to Succeed at Work

When you break it down, almost every aspect of business involves an element of negotiation. In sales, you are negotiating with customers, and with employees the negotiations can be about compensation and, internally, sales, marketing, accounting and human resources all need to negotiate amongst themselves.

By honing your perspective taking skills, you are much more likely to come up with solutions that are acceptable to all parties.

For example, a client balks at buying your latest product because it’s too expensive, and your bosses won’t let you discount it because it the latest and greatest. Try putting aside your interest in making the sale so you can better understand the perspectives of both sides.

Your bosses are afraid that if they lower the price, it will set a precedent and future customers will demand the same price. The customer’s objection is that they can’t afford it because they don’t have the money in their budget.

Now that you have taken your own interests out of the equation, you can concentrate on finding a solution that is acceptable to both parties. It may be that the customer doesn’t have the money in this quarter’s budget, but next quarter they will. You and your bosses still want to see the sale in this quarter, though. This is your opportunity to really shine.

There are several possible solutions that could be acceptable to both parties:

  • “Book” the sale this quarter and accept payment in the next quarter.
  • Book the sale now with 50% down and 50% next quarter.
  • See if management is willing to extend credit and accept monthly payments.
  • Use an outside funding source as an option for the customer.
  • Protect the customer from any planned price increases by getting a commitment today.

The solution may lie in any one of these, a combination of them, or in something completely different. It’s all dependent on the perspectives and motivations of each party and your ability to accurately assess them.

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The Down Side of Perspective Taking

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of perspective taking and how you can use it to become more successful in your career. However, just like everything else, there is a potential down side that you should be aware of.

Accuracy

Most people are not very good at gauging their own abilities. This is especially true with perspective taking.

In fact, a study was conducted with intimate couples who (presumably) knew each other very well. When asked how their partner would respond to a question, participants were right only about 35% of the time.

If a 35% accuracy rate comes from people who know each other intimately, you can imagine the error rate for those in a business setting.

Inaccurate Information

There’s an old computer programming term that goes by the initials GIGO that stands for garbage in, garbage out. That is to say that if your inputs (knowledge, assumptions and data) are bad, your outcomes are likely to be bad as well. Therefore, if you’re basing your actions on inaccurate information, you’re much less likely to achieve a positive outcome.

People will give you inaccurate information for a number of reasons. The person may not understand what their own motivations are, they may intentionally keep their motivations secret in order to gain an advantage, or they just don’t have the self-awareness to reflect on their own motivations.

Incomplete Information

There are virtually an unlimited number of factors that can affect a person’s perspective, and it’s just plain impossible to know them all. Some factors are deeply ingrained from childhood.

If someone was raised in a strict setting, they may have a very black and white view of things. Other factors are more transitory. For example, if they got yelled at by their boss this morning, their mood will change, shifting their perspective temporarily. These are all factors that influence a person’s perspective.

Final Thoughts

While not perfect, perspective taking is an essential skill for success in many areas of life, from a chess match to negotiating geopolitical treaties.

By taking yourself out of the equation, the motivations of your opponent become clearer. Furthermore, by understanding the other side’s true motivations, you’re in a better position to anticipate their responses and offer them an acceptable compromise.

With the use of perspective taking, all parties can walk away from a negotiation feeling satisfied. This type of win-win scenario lays a good foundation for continued partnerships and sales. It also doesn’t hurt that if you’re the one doing the perspective taking, you’re likely to end up with a better outcome.

More Tips on Perspective Taking

Featured photo credit: Anika Huizinga via unsplash.com

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