As the summertime heats up, working at home or in the office loses its luster. A “workation,” a mix of work and vacation allows for a change of scenery and a renewed focus. With a focus on remote work this year and so many of us able to work from home, or from anywhere, even if we didn’t before, there’s been a huge spike in workations.
We sat down to chat with our founder Alessandra about her recent travels and what she recommends if you’re thinking about setting out for your own workation.
So, tell us a little bit about where you are now!
I am in Barbados, a beautiful island in the Caribbean. It’s amazing because it is so easy to get to from the US, with direct flights from Boston and NYC, English is the national language because it was always a British colony (until pretty recently), and they even take American dollars (with a 2:1 exchange rate– although it is an island so it’s not quite like things cost half as much because they’re marked up for importation)! My husband is from here, so we’ve always come just about every year since I’ve known him, and we’ve been building a house here for the past several years (which is usually rented as an airbnb) so we have our own home while here, which is great. It’s like a vacation but I’m as comfortable as being in my own home, because I am.
That’s fantastic, it sounds like it’s a perfect fit for you! While you’re there, do you find yourself feeling productive?
I honestly worked as much as, if not more, than I would have at home. It’s easier to wake up in the morning when it’s always beautiful out, and I’m motivated to get out of bed and take a walk first thing in the morning which gets me so ready to get into work afterward. It’s nice because it feels like a vacation just because of the setting, but I am actually still just doing a normal day of work. After work, I can go out for dinner though or go to the beach on the weekend. I also just always get really inspired when I have a change of scenery. Most years when we come here even for just a week I end up going home with a new project to implement in my business or a new idea to launch!
Has it been hard to stay focused while you’re in such a beautiful tropical location? Has it been hard to relax?
It’s no harder to focus here. For me, it’s actually been a lot easier because there is a whole extra bedroom here with a desk and I’ve made it officially my office, where I can close the door to keep my family out and everything! At home, my desk area is in a nook off our living room and kitchen, so I can never have total privacy or shut anyone out. It’s been really cool to have a designated space for work, and then be able to shut the door on my computer at the end of the day and keep myself out if I want to!
It has been a little hard to relax but that’s just because we ended up having some internal changes going on with the company right before I left. Between a mixture of a couple of big new projects coming on board and some changes with availability in my team members, I ended up having to take on a lot more work myself right around the time we got here than I had been this spring, so I have definitely been having a little bit of a harder time relaxing, but it would have been the same situation if I had been at home too. That’s just part of being a business owner, and I’m fairly used to those ups and downs by now!
An office space separate from everything to get work done? That sounds like a dream! So tell us, while you’re mixing business and pleasure, what’s your routine like when you’re there?
I’ve had a better routine here than at home. As I said, it’s so easy to get up in the morning when it’s beautiful, sunny and warm out! It makes me want to get out of bed and get out of the house, so I get up and go for a walk first thing. I can’t usually do this at home because my husband often leaves really early for projects at clients, and I can’t leave the house while my son is still sleeping. But here, my husband is usually around, so it’s easier to get out myself! I take a big ice water because I always see that it’s good to drink water first thing in the morning, and go for a quick walk around the block while saying some positive affirmations and thinking about the day. When I get back to the house I make an iced latte and sit outside on the back patio under the mango tree and drink it while just enjoying the moment. Then, I get ready for the day, and plan my day out in my planner before getting to work. I take a break at 11 to have ‘breakfast’ (I try to stick to a sort of intermittent fasting schedule where I don’t eat til 11) which is usually a smoothie, and I’ll usually try to make my son something to eat then too (he doesn’t do fasting he just is abnormally averse to eating breakfast until a freakishly late time for a 6-year-old and I usually can’t get food in him until then!) and then I’m back to work for the day. I sometimes try to end the day earlier in the afternoon, depending on what calls I have, and spend time with my son in the afternoon and through dinnertime, and then will do a little more work at night if need be.
A lot of women find it hard to balance work and life. Has it been difficult finding a balance between work and things like childcare while you’re there?
Childcare can be a challenge, because I have felt more guilty than I do at home about working so much, because I feel like my son should be at the beach every day! But he honestly doesn’t want to be. He loves being at home, which is really lucky for me! We do also have family here very nearby so he has gotten to hang out with them some days too. Depending on the ages of kids, I would recommend having some kind of plan for educational books and activities that they can do on their own for a portion of the day, along with of course bringing lots of other things for them to do while you’re working. I’m extremely lucky that my son is very independent and self-directed for a 6-year-old, but he would much rather be on the ipad all day than do anything else. I try not to let that happen, but it does come in handy sometimes. I think all working moms can relate!
What would you say is the biggest difference between working at home versus working elsewhere, especially such a tropical place?
It’s just a different vibe to work in a tropical location, but other than that it’s really the same! But it’s more like a regular work experience, with a bonus vacation aspect to it, which is the plus. It’s so much less stressful in a way to approach a trip as just working from a different location rather than feeling like I have to pack in a bunch of fun vacation things and feel disappointed if I don’t get to a certain attraction or a certain beach. This might sound ridiculous, but I was so go with the flow because I didn’t feel the pressure of having to relax and do fun things if that makes any sense! It was like ok I’m here to work just as if I were at home, but if I can get away for an hour or two in the afternoon, or go to the beach on the weekend that’s all a bonus!
If someone is interested in taking a workation, is there anywhere you’d recommend? Even better, what factors have you found to be beneficial?
I think the main factors are making sure you have somewhere that has a designated office space and high speed/reliable internet. And air conditioning if it’s a hot location! Personally, I don’t love being hot while working, especially if I’m going to be on video calls a lot. It was important to me to still be able to come across professionally, both visually in meetings, and by being able to be comfortable enough to focus well on what I needed to get done. Beyond that, you could go anywhere you want! I have never done this anywhere besides Barbados, just because we have a house there so it’s easy and it’s where we always go for an extended stay. Actually, I have also gone to my parent’s house in Vermont for a few weeks at a time in the summer and work from there but I never thought of it as a workation, it was just remote work ha! I guess it doesn’t feel quite the same to me if it’s in my childhood home, but I think that actually could make a great workation for someone, especially with that built in childcare (which is partly why I’ve done that). I do think being somewhere beautiful helps, and somewhere that you can be in close proximity to beaches, restaurants, and all the fun stuff that you will want to do after hours is helpful so that you don’t spend a lot of your time driving around or getting places when you do have time to hang out. Bonus points if you have friends or family nearby, to help with childcare if you have kids.
The most important thing is to make sure there will be a great work space that you can set up as your office so that you can be as productive as at home.
Make sure to check how you can connect to wifi when you’re not at the house or your office space, like if you need to buy a data package if you’re outside of your home country or whatever that would look like if you may want to be away from the office during the day but still need to be reachable.
One thing I always recommend is scouting out some of the hotels in the area and booking a spa day. Often, if you book even a single spa service, you can also use the pool or beach on premise for the rest of the day, which can be a really easy way to get a full luxury vacation day experience even if you don’t book the fanciest airbnb for the rest of your stay!