Could you get all your work done from anywhere in the world?

'WFH' was a staple of pandemic life, but for those who can afford it, 'Workations' and 'WFA' may be the future

Using Laptop Computer on Beach --- Image by © Via Productions/Brand X/Corbis
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The word “workation” (work + vacation) has already entered into common parlance. Last year the British company Hostelworld, which connects travellers, predicted that the term WFH (working from home) will cede ground to WFA (working from anywhere). In a survey the firm conducted, 84 per cent of the respondents said WFA will replace WFH, fuelled by people’s keenness to combine work with travel.

I am writing this sitting on a bench at Vancouver’s Kitsilano beach, looking up from my laptop screen from time to time to gaze at the sea. The shimmering water is a variegated shade of blue, rippled with green in the far distance. The sky is azure, wispy white clouds scudding across it. The seagulls dip and rise, a constant chorus of squawking mingling with the sound of the lapping of the water. White yachts dot the blue in the far distance.

The ocean is ringed with mountains on the peaks of which the snow has not yet melted even in the warmth of summer. There’s a vast, sloping lawn full of benches such as the one on which I sit writing.

Ever since I arrived in Vancouver more than a month ago, it has been like this. My daughter has kitted out a corner of the living room of the apartment in which we stay with a comfortable, padded chair and a desk. I work there every day. But I also work sitting on a garden chair on the balcony, in full view of the lush greenery in the foreground and the mountains in the background. On occasion, I take my laptop to the beach.

WFA will replace WFH, fuelled by people’s keenness to combine work with travel

Ever since I stopped going into an office, I learned to wholeheartedly love WFH. Now, I am embracing the joys of WFA.

In Vancouver, I have been writing, teaching, giving talks, hosting my podcast. In short, I have been doing everything I do when I am at home in Delhi – only in a far more spectacular and salubrious setting.

I do have a fixed schedule. If there is, however, a concert to go to, an outing to enjoy or a day-long trip planned to one of the many beautiful destinations within reasonable distance, I am flexible. I take the day off. Regardless of what day of the week it is. I make up for it the next day. Work gets done. Work gets more than done.

In Vancouver, my productivity (that wretched word corporate management types – who have been wiped out from my life now – love to use) has actually increased. I know I have to do this to pay the bills but there is a special intellectual charge to working over here – a novelty, a zing, a thrum of excitement.

I go to my desk (or garden chair) with a sense of energy and purpose that is not always the case at home. The setting is transformative. It may sound like a cliche, but it is true. I can vouch for it. The thrill of WFA is unmatched.

I am grateful that my line of work allows me to enjoy the privilege of being able to work from anywhere. Not everyone is as lucky. A manager in a steel plant, for instance, or a surgeon or a plumber or a carpenter needs to be on site to get his or her job done. But for professionals who have the professional and financial means to WFA, this is increasingly what the future of work will be like.

As many as 86 per cent of Gen Z and 80 per cent of millennials said they would switch jobs for employers who would let them work from anywhere. “[Young people] want to explore, connect, meet new people, and still do the work they love and advance in their career,” Hostelworld’s Jody Jordan told digital news site Refinery29.

It is not only young people. A 2021 survey by Bloomberg found that 39 per cent of respondents would consider quitting if they were denied the opportunity to work remotely. The evidence was even more overwhelming in a study the same year by EY, the accounting firm, which polled 16,000 employees across 16 countries. It revealed that nine in 10 workers wanted flexibility in when and where they worked.

Already, many professionals are turning down jobs that do not offer at least a hybrid model that twins WFH with being in the office in person. A March 2023 Pew Research Centre study revealed that 35 per cent of workers who have jobs that can be done remotely are working from home all of the time. Or at least not going into the office at all: the survey did not make a distinction between WFH and WFA.

The workation, steadily increasing in popularity, is here to stay. One survey in the US found that two thirds of Americans went on a workation to “recharge their mental and emotional batteries”. Among those who went, 86 per cent agreed or strongly agreed that a workation heightened their productivity. For the independent professional (a full-time writer, in my case), the workation is a luxury and an escape I confer upon myself. I revel in it.

The pandemic taught us to recalibrate our lives. It clarified many things. Remote working is one of the most fundamental, sociocultural trends it has engendered. In those terrible years, we learned what was truly important to us. We learnt how precious a gift life really is. And how important it is to enjoy it, to live it on one’s own terms.

Published: July 14, 2023, 5:00 AM