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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

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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 January 14, 2019

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

The Key to Finding Job Satisfaction and Having a Successful Career

Regardless of whether you hold an entry-level administration role or regularly travel to the ends of the Earth as a hot-shot senior executive, you can still find yourself harboring an emptiness… a feeling that something is missing. A popular assumption that experiencing job satisfaction and a successful career should be underpinned by a well-rounded suite of tangible benefits, no longer holds true for many of us.

We’d never deny health care benefits, appropriate and fair remuneration, bonuses and travel perks in a job package. However, even if served to us on a silver platter, those features can only satiate us to a certain point.

You might wonder what governs entrepreneurs and start-up business owners to quit their lucrative jobs, essentially look the gift horse in the mouth and kiss such benefits goodbye! There can be an irresistible pull to mastermind a business with products and/or services that serve the greater good of community wider than that constituting their daily existence.

Even with research showing entrepreneurship to pose greater threats to their mental and physical health, this unique breed of individuals choose to go against the grain in chasing their dreams of being their own boss. Why? Why would anyone risk this type of career suicide?

Whether you’re an employee, have recently taken the leap to being a business owner or been in business for a while, the commonality is a congenital condition we all share as human beings; to feel a sense of purpose, value and contribution to our community. Despite it being harder to find this for ourselves in today’s world, these approaches will help you achieve ultimate satisfaction through the twists, turns and joyrides that are essential features of shaping a successful career.

1. Search for Opportunities That Feed Your Passion, Not Temporary Excitement

Even though well-intended, the ‘feel good now’ compass that career coaches and consultants often recommend you use to create career satisfaction can actually do you more harm than good. Excitement is transient. It doesn’t last. Passion is the compass you need.

Passion and excitement are two different things. The resounding career legacy that still draws you to turn up on the job regardless of the sunshine or storm that awaits you…that’s passion. It’s like a mental and/or emotional itch you can’t shrug off. Staying attuned to that calling will breed success for you sooner or later. Patience is key.

You’re also likely to have more than one key passion. Beware of getting caught in the notion you have to find your one true purpose. In fact, run immediately from any coach who tells you there is only one. There isn’t.

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Your passion is a journey that can take multiple forms so forget thinking there is the single dream job out there that will give you satisfaction in every way you can imagine. It simply doesn’t exist.

Consider embracing different roles and projects to help you fuel your passion or fuel your pursuits in finding it. Job satisfaction and your career success will be all the more sweeter from a wider range of enriching experiences.

2. Don’t Position Job and Career Satisfaction Assessments as Pivotal Guides to Your Success

Despite their popular use for vocational guidance, assessment tools such as Gallup’s Clifton Strengths and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator have come under fire[1] as being limited to the amount of true value and direction they can offer partakers.[2] These and many other guidance assessment tools (e.g. VIA Character Strengths , DISC ) are self-report questionnaires that don’t have normative population data against which to compare your results.

Simply remember these tools help you develop a stronger sense of what you identify as strengths and weaknesses within yourself, not in comparison with other people. They will still add insight around what sorts of career opportunities, tasks and projects are going to light your fire, what ones are going to extinguish it and what will prod and keep the coals steadily smoldering.

3. Be Clear on Your Personal Values, Ethics and Principles and Choose Relationships That Support You Honoring Them

Teamwork, collaboration, open communication and trust are commonplace for any flourishing work environment. However, whether or not your personal values can be honored in your work can make or break your job satisfaction.

How committed do you want to be to an organization that expects an average of 10 unpaid overtime hours every week under the guise of ‘reasonable overtime’? Are you willing to accept their construing this expectation as ‘strong commitment’ at the expense of your partner and children waiting at home for you? What are your boundaries concerning when you clock on to their time and when you clock off to yours?

Being very in tune with what your personal values, principles and ethics are will bid you well in the job satisfaction stakes. Spending time to reflect on experiences and working relationships you’ve had – the good, the bad and the ugly – will help you make well-informed searches and grounded decisions that will propel your career success.

Finding and nurturing relationships with associates and colleagues who share similar values doesn’t just make your day-to-day pursuits more enjoyable. You become fortunate to work with like-minded people who will support, understand and appreciate you like a second family.

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Being able to honor your personal values in your work means you will still be able to sleep at night when you have to tread where others fear to, and make extremely difficult decisions others would never ever dream of having to make as you forge success in your career.

4. Be Clear on Your Own Definition of What Having a Successful Career Means for You

It’s tempting to get caught up in the ideals and projections of success expressed by those we love, admire and respect. Underneath, we all want on some level to belong to a successful club of some sort.

With research reporting how much money we feel we need to be truly happy,[3] many of us try to subscribe to the notion that having the car of our dreams or taking a European holiday annually will not bring us happiness. The truth, however, for many of us is these tangible rewards are congratulatory reminders of our persistent efforts to chase our career pursuits.

If those are things you aspire to, don’t let anyone steal your desire and want to feel deserving of these things, that those are some parameters by which you define your career success.

Despite consistently being the top revenue earner for two years running, you may not wish to become the sales manager. You may not wish to step out into running your own business even though you consistently excel as an employee, delighting clients and repeatedly receiving glowing testimonials.

Your definition of career success might be enjoying the predictability of a regular workplace routine. You get to leave – without feeling guilty – at the same time each day, love the people you work with and get to spend a good, uninterrupted amount of work-stress free quality time with your family. That picture is also blissful job satisfaction and complete career success.

5. Identify the Sorts of Challenges and Problems You Want to Learn to Overcome

Standard advice you might receive from a career coach might be to look for opportunities where you get to capitalize on exercising your strengths and career-related activities you enjoy.

However, to become a success at anything involves improvement. To excel at anything often involves stepping outside boundaries and comfort zones where others wouldn’t. This means dedicating focus and attention to things you’re not so good at and things you don’t like.

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Here’s where working with a coach can be particularly helpful. Map out the experiences that were unsavory in your working history. Were there challenges you opted out of, projects you failed at or toxic relationships that blasted your sense of purpose and self-worth into oblivion? It’s within these experiences that you might just find the most valuable lessons and guiding lights for your trajectory to achieve greater job satisfaction.

If your natural leadership style is to be a collaborator, finding opportunities that require you to apply a more dictatorial style might be needed. Discussing a secondment or short-term project where you get to develop and test your skills can be a step further in earning contention to lead a larger project down the track.

With several of the company’s boldest personality types penciled to roll out the operation, you’ll not only develop skills that earn your right to throw your hat in the ring; those key players have an opportunity to see your competence. You can then work on building relationships with those stakeholders before you need to hit the ground running should you win the lead.

Greater job satisfaction comes with planning and choosing the lessons and opportunities you want to learn, not desperately flailing, floundering and hoping for the best.

6. Keep Reviewing Your Goal Posts and Be Amenable to Change

The word ‘career’ is indicative of a longer-term pathway of change, growth and development. The journey is dynamic.

You will accumulate new skills and let those you no longer need, become rusty. Your intrigue will be stimulated by new experiences, knowledge and people you meet. Your thinking will continue to expand, not shrink. As a result, your goalposts are likely to change.

A major part of enjoying a successful career is not just setting goals effectively, but regularly reviewing and readjusting them where necessary. However, moving the posts or the target still needs to take place by applying the same processes by which you originally created them. The strength of your emotional connection to those revised goals needs to be the same, if not stronger.

By asking yourself the following questions, you can assure your developmental and growth trajectory is still on course:

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  • Would working toward these goals still allow me to honor my personal values, principles and ethics at the same capacity if not greater?
  • Do the activities I need to undertake to meet these goals honor my highest priorities?
  • Does this feel right for me and those who are nearest and dearest to me?
  • Is this aligned with my passion?
  • Is chasing this goal a right step for me to take now or is this a detour or distraction which could delay my greater plan?

Each of your career goals should have different review periods. Whatever you do, stick to the review schedule you set. It will not only keep you focused but help you see your progress (or lack thereof) and allow you to timely re-chart your course before you get too far down the track. You don’t want to waste time haphazardly heading in the wrong direction.

7. Be Prepared to Let Go

It can be unfathomable to us as to why others risk leaping into the unknown when everything truly appears fine and dandy in the career realm. The company provided stability, recognition, financial success, interesting projects and the promise of a promotion…what was wrong? Why now jump sideways to run a café or train in another field altogether?

Nothing may have been wrong at all. It was all going right. It was just the end of a chapter. Perhaps the yearning for the next step is actually taking a different trajectory entirely. You may want to simply experience a different rhythm. Perhaps it’s time to pursue a different passion.

If you have leaped from employee-land to freelancing or have made the reverse-jump (or you know someone who has), you will have quickly grown a different appreciation for pros and cons each work lifestyle brings. Working for yourself can bring the greater realization of your creativity, whether or not it can be monetized to earn you a living.

When your customers are buying you or a product you designed and fashioned, there is a direct level of appreciation and gratitude that can elevate your confidence in the way you have never experienced as an employee, regardless of your rank.

Similarly, there are times where we need to recognize our business ventures were adventures, not long-term life-changing empires. There are times we need to recognize that time is what provides the clearest limitation of how long we persist for in such pursuits.

We have to recognize the absence of enough financial, mental, emotional and physical breadcrumbs that tells us we’re no longer meant to push in that direction. At least, not for the present time.

The Bottom Line

Above all, keep the momentum. As long as you remain committed to pursuing work opportunities that allow you to honor your highest priorities, the truth of who you are and what you stand for, achieving ultimate job satisfaction and a successful career will never be too far away.

More Resources to Help Advance Your Career

Featured photo credit: Csaba Balazs via unsplash.com

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