One clear travel trend emerging from the pandemic is that–for the people who can work away from the office–more people are choosing to travel as they work.
These so-called ‘half tourists’ and ‘workationers’ are a burgeoning niche in the tourist market, but there are pitfalls and for some people, the price might be too high.
Americans can finally use up their holiday
Americans are not traditionally very good at using vacation days or can’t afford to (768 million days were left unused in 2018) so theoretically, the pandemic provided the perfect opportunity to do so, once WFH became possible.
Workers can try out places away from big cities
Untethered from offices in expensive cities, the idea follows that people can now travel and explore the world (assuming open borders across countries or states) working from anywhere. They can live where they want, revive small towns and even choose a more rural life–and all of it temporarily, if they want to.
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Startups have emerged to offer longer-term rentals for working professionals–Anyplace offers month-to-month rentals (and has seen a spike towards rural areas).
Recent research by Tehama, a cloud-based software company, found that people in the U.S. had become keener on the idea of traveling while working (from a sample who are already allowed to work from home).
Or head to new countries on a year-long nomadic visa
Startup Coboat offers round-the-world sailing trips for freelancers looking to see the world and many countries were quick to offer year-long visas for global nomads (Estonia, Barbados, Georgia, Croatia, Anguilla) although there is normally a minimum earnings figure needed to be eligible–€3,504 ($4,154) a month for Estonia, for example.
Or hop around from city to city
Rental companies are reporting a clear trend towards traveling while working remotely. Marco del Rosario, Chief Operating Officer at VacationRenter said that with companies increasingly allowing remote work, “travelers will likely begin looking at stays in destinations they’ve always considered living in—or wanted to visit for an extended period—but couldn’t previously. Some may even consider embracing the nomad life, and string together rentals in multiple cities.”He added that paid time off and working from home offer a chance to visit with close friends and family.
In a survey conducted by VacationRenter, 65% of people said they are more likely to travel now that they work remotely and 98% of people who had worked while traveling, continued to do so.
Studies have been quick to research the best value cities for digital nomads (think Lisbon, Baku or Minsk) or the best places in the U.S. to work from home–the University of Chicago currently points to San Jose in California, Washington, DC and Durham, North Carolina as having the highest share of jobs which are possible from home. New York, Seattle and Austin were also high on the list.
Many companies are now offering apartments to rent out across the world on mid-to-long-term stays.
Or hop around from office to office
Pre-pandemic, freelancers used to pay monthly rentals for offices or desks with companies such as WeWork. Now everyone who has a desk and chair offers a day-rate for customers looking to work in new locations. Hotels are proving a popular choice–workers can use the pool or other leisure facilities over lunch and many can offer good rates on rooms if guests wish to stay over.
Many EU startups are now operating in this space–linking people in search of a stylish and ever-changing desk to hotels which don’t currently have any guests because of Covid-19. DayBreakHotels in Italy is one such example, as is Tally in the U.K., where the latter helps workers find space in cafés, restaurants and hotels. Even WeWork is now selling office space à la Uber, on an hourly basis.
But companies are paying people less who work from home
As reported by The Los Angeles Times, many companies are moving away from lavish headquarters and campuses, rolling out permanent work-from-anywhere policies—like Facebook, Twitter, VMware, Stripe and ChowNow.
In May, Mark Zuckerberg predicted that up to half of Facebook’s employees would work from home within five to 10 years. And this means that many employers are reducing pay when workers decide to move to less-expensive cities (a not uncontroversial decision). Some salaries have been cut by 10%.
And there are calls to tax people more who aren’t office-based
The research note, How do We Rebuild? from Deutsche Bank proposes taxing teleworkers more because they are no longer contributing to the economy as they were before (using transport, buying lunches and coffees).
If employers weren’t able to provide a desk, they would pay the tax. If employers could, and workers chose not to use it, they would pay the tax. Low-income and self-employed workers would be exempt.
It might not help systemic social issues
Patrick McKay, a professor of human resource management at Temple University told Axios that working outside of the office environment can exacerbate systemic racism, because “there’s less person-to-person contact” and the biases we all have remain with us when we’re in our homes.
Some studies suggest that people are working more
Some people in white collar jobs have talked about how they’ve had more free time to pursue hobbies, whilst simultaneous reports–such as in the WSJ–suggest that Americans have worked more because they haven’t had to commute.
It could lead to the “worst of both worlds”
The enviable life working from the beach and posting daily on Instagram can soon turn into a headache. As reported by The New York Times, tax issues, red-tape, wi-fi connectivity and of course, closed borders (often changing week by week) can make it feel very far from the idyllic picture people have in their heads.
“They should be enjoying themselves in their new, beautiful surroundings. But they can’t enjoy themselves, because work beckons. The anxious self-optimization pingpongs between “Why aren’t I living my best life?” and “Why aren’t I killing it at work?