Postcard from my workation



Postcard from my workation

Geplaatst op 06/12/2023 door Nadia Kara

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A workation? What else have millenials come up with now and why can't they just keep work and pleasure separated?

Honestly, I'm not the right person to ask. I've never really been great at compartimentalising - but I'm getting better at finding out what works for me. In this case, I decided to see if I could combine a vacation in one of my favourite cities with my daily tasks as a communications manager slash freelancer.

A delicate balance

For the past two years, I've been a part-time employee at Co-Searching. Next to my regular days of work, which I usually spend between my home office and meetings with my colleagues in Ghent, Antwerp or Mechelen, I'm a freelance creative. I've made several podcasts, I regularly moderate panel talks and cultural events, I write articles for various magazines and platforms...

Teleworking most of the time suits me: I'm an introvert who needs to use her energy with parcimony and blossoms in the comfort of her own solitude. That being said: sometimes, it gets really boring to sit at the same desk everyday, looking out the same window, eating the same lunch and taking the same walk around the same block.

So when I had the opportunity to disrupt my routine, I seized it immediately.

Looking out a different window

My colleagues and I try to meet up in person at least once a week; but sometimes, our calendars are too busy or incompatible, so we decide to use Zoom and save ourselves the commute. Lately, we realised it would be complicated for us to squeeze an in-person meeting in the busy last weeks of November. Coïncidentally, I had been thinking of paying a visit to the editing staff of a German magazine I write for. Their office is in Berlin, a city that always makes me feel inspired and where I have a few friends I'm always happy to meet up with.

If I can do my work from home, I can definitely do it from a home away from home, right? As long as I have wifi and coffee, I can move my routine anywhere. And so it was decided: I booked my trip and arranged with a friend to stay in her spare room.

The streets are calling

The biggest plus of a workation is to gift yourself a change of scenery without having to use your precious days off. Usually, when I travel, I'm the kind of person who packs each day to the max: I want to see everything, meet everyone, eat all the food, swim in the sea, walk on the mountain, drive on the roads. But this wasn't my first time in the German capital, so I knew I might get bored during the day, while my friends are at work. Instead of roaming the streets like a tourist, I could use my office hours to do my regular tasks, and starting 5 p.m., I was free to enjoy Berlin as I please. Sounds like the perfect win-win, right?

I'll admit: it wasn't easy to stay put. From my friend's desk, I could see the snowy streets, the busy park, I could see people walking around with hot coffee and pretzels... and suddenly, my efficient plan didn't seem to make sense anymore. But I had made a deal with myself: I needed to have the discipline to do this workation thing properly, so I could enjoy my free time without feeling guilty. So I rallied, made myself some tea and kept all my focus on my screen. And the minute the clock struck the end of my work day, I happily closed my laptop and put my shoes on, ready to take the world!

In my free time, I felt less pressured to do things, because my options were limited anyway. I met up with my editors, visited an art foundation that was open on Sunday, and I even got a tattoo! If you decide to take a workation in a place you haven't been before and would like to do some proper tourism, I would recommend planning ahead properly: check the opening hours for museums and monuments you want to visit and make reservations if needed, as time will be your most precious currency.

Stimmt so

If you have enough self-control to manage the balance of a workation, I highly recommend it! I know I will definitely try it again - although next time, I'll pick a city that has more daylight... Berlin in November wasn't the smartest choice.

I feel very grateful and lucky to be able to do this and I realise it isn't an option for everyone. If you're reading this and you can't work from home: I see you. If you're reading this and you're an employer, I would like to strongly encourage you to offer as much flexibility as you can to your employees. Allow them to telework, to choose their work hours as much as them find the work-life balance that makes them feel comfortable. Normalise autonomy, trust your employees will make good use of their freedom and feel rewarded for their independence.

Flexibility has become kind of a buzzword that is more often than not a demand from employers (working on evenings or weekends, checking e-mails late at night...) but the thing is: it should always go both ways!

Getting the space to find out what my personal work-life balance looks like is an immense privilege, and I now realise how much it's impacting my overall well-being.