After trying to reconcile work and family, many people are now trying to reconcile working life and vacation. Due to a rising flexibility of work, a major number of people find it difficult to completely unplug from work, even for a short period of time. Aware of this new tendency, tourists’ facilities furnish both WI-FI and PCs to their hosts. The trend seems nnonetheless to go even further with the advent of “co-working on vacation”. This solution generates new reflections concerning the boundaries of work and how it can be defined.
Coworking on vacation
Defined as a booming phenomenon by the New York Times, how does it work? We’re talking about spaces similar to the coworking spaces we already encounter in the city – with desks, office furniture, Wi-Fi connection, etc – but that also offer a place to sleep, a kitchen and common areas where socialization with the “colleagues” is favored. The clients vary significantly, from freelance and bloggers to artists and designers but also “traditional” professionals such as entrepreneurs and businessmen. Co-working spaces can be found in exotic locations or in less-urbanized areas such as the Livit in Bali or the Surf Office in Gran Canaria. Prices can vary around 50 euro a day but cheaper can be found in places such as the Sun Desk, in Morocco, where a room costs 22 euro a day. Costs vary depending on the structure, the location and the offered services.
Nonetheless, co-working on vacation is not an option for travellers only, nor a tendency found in exotic places only: these new spaces are also found few miles outside the city or in the city itself. The Mutinerie Village for example, a rural co-working space two-hours away from Paris offers an office area, an accommodation, shared spaces, lunches with local products and outdoor activities. These easily reachable spaces are a good solution for short trips that aim at improving employees’ team work or to give the possibility to employees to take a break from the every-day routine and stimulate a creative and concentrated atmosphere.
Additionally, You can also find "coworking packages" or "coworking camps", a solution between coworking holidays and the refresher course. Hacker Paradise, for instance, offers stays that focus on specific topics addressed to artists, creatives and tech developers who, during the "working vacation”, have the opportunity to professionally grow thanks to the presence of experts and workshop sessions. The duration of stay can vary from a week to three months, in order to meet everybody's expectations. A month can cost from 400 pounds for a shared room to 1000 pounds for a private room where breakfast, dinner, SIM card 3G and office with wifi are all included.
Conciliation, concentration, creativity
Co-working on vacation is a direct product of the digitalization of work, which increasingly separates work from the office. This is due to the advent of careers that usually require simple instruments - often only a pc - and that do not have fixed working hours or locations. In the same way as working remotely, coworking on vacation presents pros and cons.
Let’s start with the pros. This practice can contribute to improve work-life balance and facilitates the escape from urban stress. “Here, as before, I work under pressure. However, it is difficult to stress out when you work bare feet, under the sun, with the view of a paddy field just behind your desktop”, explains a coworker. Working in contact with people that have the same necessities and visions contributes to the exchange and innovation of ideas and projects, which is one of the founding principles of co-working. Moreover, such a benefit is even amplified by the fact that people are constantly in contact with people from diverse nationalities, both colleagues and the hosting community.
Moreover, if “working while travelling” was, until some years ago, exclusively reserved to some careers - such as sales agents, tour operators, reporters, etc - in the era of globalization and digital nomads, it becomes a much more accessible opportunity. This is the case of Simon, marketing expert, who, working remotely, managed to travel in 21 countries while making his business grow.
Finally, coworking on vacation can be seen as facilitating work-family balance. It is well known how difficult it has become to combine holidays and needs of the entire familiar nucleus, due to increased flexibility. “There are no empty cities in August anymore”, right? Thanks to this form of coworking, it would be possible to avoid giving up completely on holidays, dedicating a few hours every day to work.
An opportunity or a trap? How to re-define the boundary line between holidays and work
The first critique that can be done to coworking on vacation is that adopting this practice, we end up not taking any proper holiday anymore. It is well know that, one of the negative effects of working remotely is the loss of a clear-cut boundary between working life and free time. Indeed, since the line between the two spheres becomes blurry, coworking end up influencing holidays’ rhythms which are nonetheless originally planned to forget about work. It isn’t casual that black-hole resorts are spreading. The latter are resorts where there is no wi-fi, no signal to call and where technological objects are closed in a safe. A solution adopted for detoxifying from technology and, more specifically, to take refuge from mails and working calls in order to completely relax.
If some people see coworking on vacation as a workaholic habit, others, on the contrary, see it as a privileged practice that does not have much to do with “real work”. Nonetheless, this is due to cultural biases that arise in societies in which work is still conceived as a practice that requires fixed locations and working hours. Consequently, these systems struggle to recognize jobs that are conducted in different parameters as credible and professional even if these jobs are developing in the most dynamic and innovative economies.
Independently from what we think about coworking on vacation, the phenomenon offers interesting insights for the definition of work nowadays. The word ‘coworkation’, fusion of co-work and vacation, and the paradox of “work in vacation” demonstrate how the concept of work is today challenged and how it is increasingly difficult to deal with this issue if we continue to use the same instruments.