Guide for a Perfect Workation in Japan 2021
With offices remaining closed and an extended homeworking period due to COVID-19, it’s time for us to ‘renovate’ our workspace with a much-needed workation.
Travel. This might be the activity that many have been craving during the past year, yet they have to put it aside due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The unprecedented events of 2020 have undoubtedly caused significant disruption to people’s livelihood, with many sectors facing an existential crisis.
As the tourism sector struggles to recover and workers are endeavoring to keep the work-life balance at ease, the Japanese government and corporations have been rethinking the traditional working style and developing a national initiative to encourage employers to offer ‘workations’ to their employees.
But what exactly is a workation, and how should you do it? We will explain all in this Workation guide, including the benefits, how to plan one, what to pack, and some ideal destinations for your next workation trip.
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What is Workation
Put simply, ‘Workation’ is the combination of ‘Work’ and ‘Vacation’. Viewing workation from the perspective of tourism, there is no clear way to categorize this type of travel. The activity involves doing business and pleasure by taking a short break from the conventional office environment to work remotely from a holiday destination.
With COVID-19 threatening the role of physical workplaces, professionals across Japan retreated to their home offices. However, whilst this works out for many with the attached home-sweet-home comforts and joys, there comes a time that a change of scenery is needed.
Having that said, workation is not a new concept – it has been around for years. Until recently this was still a niche travel style in Japan, but with more people now being able to telework, it’s becoming more widely accepted. As the name offers, workations give workers a refreshing change in working style and workspace. With the assistance of developed technology, remote workers now can get their job done from anywhere in the country.
Working from a cozy cottage, a trendy coffee shop, or a luxurious hotel suite? The change of scenery can help you recharge, allow your creativity to grow differently, and find a healthier balance of work and play, among other things.
How Workations scheme is being implemented in Japan
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the local governments across Japan have established an alliance to promote ‘workation’, or remote work from resorts and other holiday destinations. The efforts were expected to revitalize regional economies and reform the conventional work style.
To coax more people away from the big cities, Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has approved and implemented wifi installation in several of the country’s largest national parks and hot spring towns since June 2020. Meanwhile, many Japanese companies are encouraging ‘workation’, without taking the mandated 5-day paid leaves, as a way to boost their employee’s morale, one of which is JAL offering a workation plan in Hawaii.
Resorts groups and hoteliers have already featured new amenities at some of their most remote holiday properties nationwide, such as private workstations/work booths or portable power banks. The two pioneers in this trend-making race are Kyukamura Hotels and Hoshino Resorts.
Along with the ‘workation’ initiative, changes are certainly being made by Japanese companies to catch up with the prolonged trends of working from home and workation.
Why Workation is great?
1. Team Bonding Opportunities
Working in Japan, where communicating at the workplace prefers subtlety and “reading between the line”, many people may not seek to befriend their colleagues, but rather to maintain a friendly, professional relationship.
However, having good friends at work may ensure a higher level of job satisfaction, retention, and productivity. With enough understanding of each other’s perceptions towards specific objects, a good friendship will help us solve problems and discuss solutions at ease.
Common experiences, thus, may benefit both you and your teammates in many ways:
- Break the ice and remove language barriers between newcomers and longtimers, provided that your companies embrace a multicultural setting.
- Boost engagement and productivity within the team through workshops, open learning sessions, and common activities.
- Increase loyalty and reduce employee turnover.
2. Get out of the office, think outside the box.
Workation gets you out of the home-to-office loop and haves you immerse into a new environment. There is obviously no single perfect working environment for doing creative work – the essence lies in the variety of working scenery time after time.
- Repeating the same routine, or coming back and forth to the same place, you may remember easily what you have been doing. It’s the same setting, the same people, and the same scenery, after all. Physically removing yourself from the work office is a smart tactic to find an original solution to a problem or think differently. Otherwise, you may risk yourself experiencing cognitive fixation and getting stuck with the same associations.
- One step of the creative-thinking process is to let yourself run into random stimuli, a good cup of coffee, a strange person during the trip, a language you have never heard before. Changing your surroundings and working from different locations will give you an abundant source of inspiration.
- During workation, having more chances to expose yourself to Japan’s beautiful nature may improve your sleep quality and increase work performance.
3. Preparing yourself for a digital nomad career
For those looking to transition into the digital nomad, in the long run, a workation will be a perfect trial run of the new remote work life. For years, telework has not been an alien term in Japan, considering the fact that the corporations still prefer direct interaction and discussion with business partners. This has made long-distance business trips and daily transportation from places to places a norm for Japanese office workers.
On the other hand, with the prolonged effects of the pandemic, the possibilities of long-term remote working have increased gradually. The Japanese government is taking into consideration whether the number of paid-leaves should be changed to meet with the work trend in the next few years.
The Cons of Workation?
Asides from the brownie points, workations also have some negative effects
- Not all tasks/jobs could be digitized.
- Workation might not be right for everyone. With the surrounding areas changed constantly, many may find it difficult to focus on work.
- Although living costs will be lowered with transportation fees reduced, there will be additional expenses to consider like flights, working tools, and accommodation fees.
- Other team members at your company may find it hard to arrange work and collaborate with you while on workation. Online meeting, for instance.
TIPS FOR A GREAT WORKATION
1. Delegate as much as you can
To embark on, managing a workation by yourself might be overwhelming. If you live by yourself or you are single, you may not need to worry much about this. Or else, getting some reliable help while you are away from home and office will make your work-and-travel trip much more relaxing. Things to do before workation:
- Figure out the tasks you need to shift to an assistant or coworker.
- Get work done far ahead before leaving the office for a few days.
- Find a trustworthy neighbor, family member, friend, or short-term virtual assistant who can help you keep your personal stuff organized.
- Create a specific to-do list for others so both sides could keep track of workflow, such as answering email inquiries, paying invoices, or returning customer calls.
- Notify your customers about your current situation.
2. Do research before going out.
Either a short trip to a local cafe or a 6-hour ride to a national park, you should make sure that the destinations you aim for offer Wi-Fi, good cell-phone reception, charging socket and necessary amenities. Quiet and relaxing sojourns at deserted islands or remote glamping resorts is a thing, but the frustration of not being able to get your work done as planned will need serious attention.
3. Make a list and bring the right tools.
Japan is a country famous for living convenience and safety. However, to save the inessential payments during the workation, you’ll need to think and plan strategically the items of absolute necessities for getting work done away from the office.
If it’s a cafe, do make sure that the place has free charging outlets and allows long-time seating. Many places may not be comfortable enough with remote workers staying for hours, while others offer flexible seating hour policies or not even bother at all.
4. Set a schedule
The main priority of workation is to get work done. Without planning ahead for both leisure and professional work, you may find yourself struggling to balance work and play. To make sure you work as hard on a trip as you would any other time, figuring out a daily schedule that breaks and work are carefully arranged might be good preparation.
Also, for a long-distance trip, you may need to keep in mind the long hours of moving from place to place. Plan the trip around your work schedule to ensure that all the inquiries, meetings, and customer calls would not be put in jeopardy.
5. Stay professional
Even though you have told the team and customers that you were heading out of town, they may not fully expect to discuss work and business with you while you are having a beer in a bar. Ensuring working your top priority by creating/finding an appropriate space without too much background noise or disruption will be better for yourself and others. If you are in the middle of having fun, you will be better off pausing for a minute to take a call or letting the call go to voicemail.
6. Have fun
It’s not easy to combine work and travel, for some, it will be a struggle to keep the professionalism and relaxation balanced. It can also be downright difficult to completely unwind. However, besides work, the purpose of the trip is also to get away, enjoy things at your own pace. Once jobs are done, put everything away and focus on having fun for the rest of the day.
Enjoy your workation!
What to pack for Workation
1. Noise-canceling headphones
If you have a very high concentration level, you may not need this. Or else, a normal headphone for listening to music should be enough to cancel out the background noise. On the other hand, working from a new setting with unfamiliar external factors that you can’t shush away, noise-canceling headphones will be your best friend on any workation trip.
2. Portable coffee-maker
Starting the day without your morning fuel? That sounds terrible enough for a coffee-lover, does it? Just because you are away from the office and home, it does not mean you have to compromise your favorite wake-up coffee. In case that you are on the road, or having a camping workation, the portable coffee-maker will start your day right.
While this may not be necessary for all the digital nomads as many properties do provide excellent tea and coffee, having something similar and refraining from using single-use cups during the trip will be a good idea to keep your travel environmentally friendly.
3. Mini foldable laptop table
The table might seem like a pain to carry around, but it will make your work hassle-free if the accommodation properties do not provide a proper table in the room. If you put the laptop on the bed and sit on the same level, you will have to bend and work, which is not a good posture for your spine, shoulders, necks and eyes. Also, placing the laptop on your lap can have negative effects on your health. It is always advisable to put the laptop on an elevated table if you plan to stay in bed and work.
4. External Hard Drive
For remote workers with specific jobs that involve storing loads of important data in the system, such as illustrators, programmers, designers, a portable hard drive will be a handy tool. Cloud storage is a thing now in the tech industry, but having a back-up plan is not always a bad idea. What if the wifi goes bad and your laptop runs out of space in the remote mountains? Saving all the back-up data inside the hard drive will also reduce the data loading speed on the laptop system.
Even though national parks in Japan are increasingly equipped with strong wifi, there might be intermittent power cuts in the place you go to. Also, for a day trip or local cafe trip, it’s extremely vital to keep a powerbank with you to have all the essential tools fully charged.
6. Masks, Sanitizers, Disinfecting Wipes.
This might be the most important point you should take into account prior to planning a workation. The pandemic in Japan still shows no signs of slowing down, therefore keeping in mind to carry face masks, sanitizers and disinfecting wipes will be a wise action.
7. Dry Snacks
Stuffing your bags with some biscuits, cakes, chips or other dry snacks will low down the costs for snacks during a workation trip. It will help you stay in one place longer and satiate your small hunger pangs amid work without going to convenience stores and spending extra for a bag of chips.
Of all the essential items, documents could be the most tricky part to gather and pack into your suitcase. Make sure you finish all the work procedures needed for the documents and bring the right ones with you in case document-related inquiries come up.