How well is Workation working at the moment?

“20, 30, 60 days – many companies have now added possible mobile office days abroad to their travel policies. Employees are trying things out. Employers are defining options. Who has what experience? A few voices and models..“
Sylvie Konzack

The best part was the hike to Machu Picchu and the visit to Carnival in Rio, tell Vanessa Wurster and Lisa Bleser in the blog of their employer Akku Sys, a wholesaler for energy storage systems based near Hamburg. The Head of E-Commerce and Head of Online ­Marketing spent three months in South ­America, part of which was spent on holiday and the other part working remotely. “Some of our e-commerce colleagues work remotely from other German cities and sometimes from abroad for a few weeks,” they say. This has worked well for years and is integrated into the workflow. So no persuasion was needed to get the trip ­authorised.
Due to the time difference, the two ­millennials often got up at 5 a.m. and spent half a working day collaborating with the team in Germany in real time via video calls and emails. They used the afternoon for excursions. And to ensure they were always reachable, they often checked into coworking hotels and always had a local SIM card with plenty of data volume in their pockets.

2x as often as domestic employees, international employees apply for Workation travel (WorkFlex).

For Akku Sys, Vanessa Wurster and Lisa Bleser are the inspiration behind the “workation formula for success”. Head of HR Manuela Biesterfeldt explains in a press release: “Flexible working models not only contribute to satisfaction, but are also a sign of the trust we place in our employees.” Managing Director Joachim Koop adds: “If we want to maintain our growth trajectory, our attitude to modern working is a fundamental factor. The possibility of working from other locations around the world – if this is organisationally feasible – is not only attractive for existing and potential employees, but also enables us to expand our own network.”
With the expansion of the network, talent from Gen Y in particular is also being targeted. According to a PwC study, over 80% of them now consider it (very) important to have workation options when looking for new job opportunities. The Dutch software developer WorkFlex, which supports companies with workation systems and applications, ­expects that as Gen Z enters the world of work, they will also request at least as many workations. By last summer, WorkFlex had counted a total of 10,000 Workations among its customers in 129 countries and clearly points – beyond Gen Y and Z – to another Workation target group: international professionals. “They apply for workation trips twice as often as domestic employees,” says lawyer Pieter Manden, who founded WorkFlex in 2021 with Patrick Koch. Most of them want to visit their home country.
Especially for companies with many international employees, sufficient workation programmes are therefore an important recruiting and retention tool.

66% with workation schemes

In fact, businesses across all sectors have been flying the workation flag significantly more in recent months. Last summer, Business Insider magazine asked 52 large companies in Germany what remote working regulations they have in place. These included the 40 DAX companies, some MDax companies, but also German branches of tech companies such as Microsoft and Amazon. 46 responded – 31 of them, or two thirds, said that they allow employees to work remotely for a certain period of time. Nine are currently reviewing this, while only two have not yet made any arrangements.

For us, the team workation was an experiment that
became the highlight of the year for everyone.
Jens Huwald, Managing Partner of Wilde & Partner

Last summer, WorkFlex also listed almost 120 companies with annual work-from-anywhere days (see chart). The range extends from ten days at sports manufacturer Adidas to
60 days at pharmaceutical giant Merck and 180 days at online portal Idealo. The majority of companies currently offer 30 days per year, including SAP, Deutsche Bahn, Aldi Süd and Zalando. Many of the companies work together in experience groups, which are moderated by the software developer, and discuss compliance regulations, tax and social security conditions etc. that make restrictions necessary. This also applies to country selection: The majority of companies (57%) currently only allow workations within the EU, according to WorkFlex. In turn, 29% are open worldwide – but only in theory. If, for example, in individual cases the employee carries out activities abroad that pose a high risk for the establishment of a permanent establishment, the application is rejected.

Workation has many facets

It pays to think creatively and proactively about workation programmes in companies, especially when not every job is suitable for workation per se. Adina Hotels, for example, has re­discovered the tried-and-tested model of the exchange programme. Since autumn 2023, two colleagues from the Australian headquarters and two from the European headquarters in Berlin have been travelling to the other continent for up to six months as part of the “Go Global” project. Whether Sydney, Brisbane or Melbourne, whether Berlin, Munich or Copenhagen – they will each spend a few weeks working with colleagues in the various aparthotels and can also live there. The programme is aimed at everyone, regardless of whether they work at reception, in management or in the head offices.

The average workation stay now lasts 8.5
days instead of 4.2 (WorkFlex).

“The aim is to promote exchange, both in terms of operational processes and on a personal level, while offering a unique opportunity to accelerate professional and personal learning in a new cultural context,” explains Agnes Lindner, Director of People & Capability at Adina Hotels Europe, who is already planning the second round for 2024. Angela di Gennaro, a German participant, says: “Spending several months in Australia and being able to immerse yourself in the culture without having to give up your secure job at home – that’s an absolute dream.” She has also already learnt a lot from a professional perspective.

Workation in a team

Teams that work remotely a lot often need team workations, experts emphasise. But ultimately, of course, every team benefits from this. Last summer, the Munich-based tourism PR agency Wilde & Partner sent a different team from the head office to Mallorca every week for six weeks with around 60 employees. Under the motto #WildeFinca, they went about their normal day-­to-day work there during the day and discovered the island together in their free time, using partnerships with agency clients ranging from airlines and hire cars to fincas. “For us, it was an experiment that became a highlight of the year for everyone. The motivation has grown and continues,” says agency boss Jens Huwald, emphasising how reliably everyone worked there. The weekly teams were made up of members from different departments, with no one from the management team taking part. The teams always travelled on Tuesdays and had a team leader who reported daily. “We also gave each team a topic to think about further for our company. We are now in the process of following up on these results in our everyday lives in Munich. That’s also a challenge,” reports Jens Huwald.

Tourism providers with overall concepts

Between the beginning of 2022 and the summer of 2023, the average duration of a workation stay supported by WorkFlex rose from 4.2 to 8.5 days. For tourism experts such as Jens Huwald, these figures are not the only indication of the immense opportunities that the workation trend harbours for his industry. However, he emphasises that tourism providers need to prepare for this with well thought-out concepts, especially when it comes to IT infrastructure. A little goes a long way here. Lufthansa City Center (LCC), with over 565 travel agencies in 105 countries, has also been involved in bleisure and workation for several years. However, there is still “quite a lot of regulation and organisational obstacles that stand in the way of the model here and there” in traditional SMEs and global companies, says LCC Managing Director Markus Orth. “We could serve it very well because, in addition to the business travel units, we have very professional travel agencies that can build great combinations for Worka­tion.” What’s more, they are the only travel agency in Germany that can earn Miles & More miles for tourist bookings. And Markus Orth adds:
“It’s good that your ­magazine keeps highlighting the ways in which the hurdles at Bleisure can be overcome.”

Sylvie Konzack …

… firmly believes in a standard workation factor in employment contracts and travel policies in view of these workation trends. This as part of a bouquet of employee benefits. Service providers are also gaining more and more expertise in this area – from automated applications to ever better tourism concepts on site.


Foto: © Sylvie Konzack, Workflex