This is the trifecta of pain-points for so many of our clients, especially in the innovation space. One of these is hard to resolve, let alone all three, but there is a solution that is as unexpected as it is counterintuitive--take a "workation" with your team.
I first heard about the idea of a workation from Amit Gupta, who defines himself as an optimist/entrepreneur/designer on his Twitter profile. He is the founder of Photojojo, an online photo store. He survived leukemia, sold Photojojo and now is exploring what comes next, alongside his fiancee.
Gupta is not your usual entrepreneur. When he had to lay off 20 of his friends from his first venture, he decided that at Photojojo he would save up a year's worth of a person's salary before hiring someone new to make sure he could offer some financial security even if the business didn't pan out. He is also one of the first practitioners of the workation, a mash-up of work and vacation.
When Photojojo was just a one person start-up, Gupta had a flexible work schedule. But as the company grew that flexibility fell away and, with it, the flexibility to travel for fun. Travel became more business-like, in the form of buying trips and convention attendance. Nevertheless, Gupta and his team still got to see what other people were doing, learn about new products and meet new people. Travel was energizing and inspiring, yet not everyone got to partake.
That was when Gupta thought, "But what if everyone at Photojojo traveled?" So, he decided to relocate the whole company to India for 3 weeks, all 16 people staying in one house. This first workation was in 2011. After that, the entire team went to Mexico, Costa Rica and Thailand. And the tradition has continued after Gupta sold the company.
These Workations were a major expense for a start-up, $1,500 to $3,000 per person including tickets, accommodation and meals. The return, Gupta says, was priceless.
They even started launching new projects while they were traveling. Gupta says, "We got a lot more done than I could've imagined." Up to 90% of progress on the new launch would be done in 2 to 3 weeks of a workation. In contrast, it would take them a month to complete the remaining 10% once they got back to the office, what with all the meetings and emails.
In addition to new ideas and projects, better relationships, higher morale and getting more people onboard with the plan--there were three key, unexpected benefits:
1. Building trust over impromptu conversations and downtime encounters.
What amazed Gupta and convinced him of the value of workation wasn't just the efficiency of working away from the office. It was the way it brought everyone together. Living together meant impromptu conversations and downtime encounters. It got people on the same page. It created a sense of trust born out of knowing what was going on, on a personal level. Relationships were meaningfully different, and continued to be different long after the workation.
"Trust paid big dividends for us."
2. Breaking silos by blurring boundaries between vacation and work.
When boundaries between vacation and work blurred, so did the boundaries between teams. Silos that hinder so much of innovation disappeared. There was a natural cross-pollination between teams and between disciplines. People contributed freely and without fear. This enabled a much richer exchange and faster ideation. The team carried this fluidity back to the office, giving each other credit, remaining open to one another and continuing the exchange.
3. Recruiting great talent because they too want to go on a Workation.
A side benefit Gupta also didn't expect but relished, was that the workation turned out to be great for recruiting. His team was posting their workation like crazy on social media, on Instagram and Facebook, which got their friends and network excited about this out-of-the box way of working. It helped them attract new hires and retain talent.
When I asked Gupta how much of workation was work and how much was vacation, he laughed and said, it was 100% work and 100% vacation. Now that is the kind of R.O.I. we can all use.
For more, you can listen to my conversation with Amit Gupta which was the seed for this article.
This article first appeared on Inc.com on October 6, 2017