Combining business and leisure travel is nothing new. In the past, many lucky enough to be sent on business trips often extended their stay in a different city, or a foreign country, to accommodate a little sightseeing or shopping.
Then there are the countless creative freelancers who in recent years have packed their laptops and personal belongings and taken off into the big wide world, knowing that with a stable internet connection, they can be productive and earn an income from literally anywhere.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has made this digital nomadism even more pervasive. With companies asking employees to stay away from offices and work remotely, many are taking the opportunity to pick up sticks and temporarily relocate to a city, city, or even another country. The combination of work and pleasure – or leisure – has grown exponentially since 2020.
“We figured out if we have to work remotely, why do we do it from a small contained apartment in Berlin? Provided we have a reliable internet connection, we can work remotely from basically anywhere,” says 34-year-old Joseph Sarverin. He and his partner spent six weeks working, vacationing or working in the Lake District in northeastern Germany when the pandemic began. He told me that they both usually live and work in Berlin, so they chose something close enough to home. Sarverin is a researcher at the Technical University of Berlin, and his partner earns a living as a pharmaceutical sales representative. Sarverin loved spending time in the rural state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. “We were in a better mood because of that,” he told DW. “Every day we would look at a lake, and go swimming in the morning.”
Josef Saverin and his partner relax in the countryside of Mecklenburg – West Pomerania
What is the allure of living and working in a different place for several weeks or even months? For Sarverin, it’s about getting a break from your daily routine, experiencing a new stimulating environment and meeting different people. “And also, lunch looks a lot different,” he says with a laugh. “Your lunch break can involve getting out into a field somewhere, or riding your bike for 20 minutes and then sitting somewhere where the sun is shining; it’s incredibly good for the soul.”
Tourism industry that meets the needs of workers
Business procedures are more and more popular than ever. So much so that Germany’s largest tourism agency, TUI, has begun to cater specifically to the needs of this market. Company spokesperson Aage Dünhaupt says TUI has noticed an increase in guests bringing laptops into TUI hotels in 2020, at a time when the coronavirus is beginning to spread globally. Dünhaupt says that TUI quickly set about modifying about 40 of its 400 hotels that have desks and office chairs, as well as better internet connections, to attract guests looking to enjoy some downtime while still working. Full-size computer monitors, keyboards, and other devices are also available. Breakfast times were introduced to better match traditional opening hours, and quick and light lunch options were also offered.
Dünhaupt estimates that since 2020, several thousand guests have spent time at the TUI Foundation. He told DW that the Canary Islands were the most popular destination in the sector. No wonder the Spanish archipelago off the Moroccan coast is known for its mild temperatures and abundant sunshine all year round. This makes it an attractive location to escape the cold winter months in Germany.
La Palma, the northwesternmost island in the Canary Islands, offers great hiking routes
“We’ve even seen guests offshore our cruise ships run on laptops,” says Dünhaupt. He explains that ships that circle the Canary Islands have a stable internet connection. However, despite the temptation to relax on the deck, enjoy the ocean breeze and work, connectivity suffers greatly at sea, which is why TUI does not explicitly market cruises to staff.
Satisfaction in the workplace
Nico Gramins has a keen interest in the future of work. He is the CEO of Factory Berlin, a global network of creators and innovators designed to foster interaction and professional exchange. Factory Berlin also has workspaces in Berlin and Hamburg.
He says in industrial times, companies were primarily focused on measuring productivity. Now, Grammes argues, there is a growing awareness that workplace satisfaction is also a key factor in companies’ success. “Work satisfaction is related to productivity,” he says. He believed that work could help promote happiness in general and lead to better production. That is why, in his opinion, “having a satisfactory view of the sea and the option to hold a brainstorming session, and then take a walk along the beach with colleagues, can be beneficial.”
Working in a different environment can enhance overall satisfaction and productivity
He is certain that companies will continue to offer employees and potential new hires the ability to work remotely and take work appointments even after the pandemic is over. According to Grammings, companies will offer such perks because they are forced to compete with others to recruit and retain talented employees.
Sarverin and his partner definitely support the business. They are already planning another trip later this year, but somewhere warmer. “We have itchy feet, so we’ll try to go a little further abroad and work from Greece this time,” Sarverin says. The Mediterranean region certainly has its advantages. “Instead of a cold plunge in the morning, in Greece we can enjoy a nice, warm and sunny swim.”
He hopes that more companies will allow employees to work where they like. She added, “The pandemic has shown that people can work remotely; not only workers but especially employers should take note.”