Two thousand, seven hundred and thirty-two kilometres separate social communications professional Naina Rastogi from home. She moved to Kasol, a small picturesque townlet on the banks of the River Parvati in Kullu Valley, Himachal Pradesh. Rastogi would rather run her company SocialSpur from her spacious AirBnB house than return to her 400-sq-ft apartment in Chennai’s Kotturpuram. Thanks to Internet connectivity, she can work remotely at an elevation of 1,580 metres and travel down to her Delhi office just twice a year. “I’ve been in Kasol for two months now and plan to stay here till mid-August,” she says. Rastogi represents a new post-pandemic professional trend currently sweeping the world—workation.
Last week, Indonesia offered a ‘Digital Nomads Visa’ to invite more foreign tourists into the country. In March, Portugal announced a similar two-year residence visa for the lucky few who can work from any location in the world. Italy, too, is reworking its travel policy to welcome the work-from-anywhere brigade. Workations, targeted at the millennial workforce, are here to stay. No wonder social media abounds with posts of workstations with postcard-perfect mountain landscapes as a backdrop and InstaReels of a room with a view of the beach.
According to a June 2021 survey by travel company Booking.com, 68 per cent of Indian travellers have already booked their workations for the year. The report reveals that most of them desired juggling work with a holiday the most. Globally, too, the workation trend is catching on. In 2020, when Covid-19 hit the world, the number of digital nomads in the US rose almost 50 per cent to 11 million. In a year, the number touched 15.5 million, according to a 2021 report by the MBO Partners 2021 State of Independence Study. In India, this millennial shift is gathering momentum after corporate firms such as TCS, Infosys, Unacademy and Razorpay announced an ‘indefinite WFH’ policy. While the number of digital nomads hasn’t significantly risen yet, travel enthusiasts have slowly but surely started the flow.
Facilitating it are travel companies that scout for desirable destinations and customise workations. Sanket Somani, founder and CEO of Pune-based WanderTrust, says, “A typical workation lasts for six to eight weeks. Young techies aged between 24-35 ask for hostels or dorms. They must have good Wi-Fi, power backups, work tables, meal packages along with unlimited tea.” The packages usually start from `21,000 and include room, food and Wi-fi. WorkationIndia.com, which specialises in creating customised packages, offers a week-long double-sharing package at a hotel in Manali for `12,250.
Rishikesh, Dharamshala, Coorg and Goa are other destinations. American career magazine Fast Company in a June 2022 report predicts that remote work software, like mobile work tools and virtual reality conferencing, will become the preferred form of communication, replacing face-to-face meetings.
It seems wolidays are the new vacation, going by the example of Surya Teja Kollippara, Strategy Head at ShareChat, a Bengaluru-based social media company. He turned digital nomad when his company announced work from home. Since April 2020, he has travelled 65,000 km in India, from Varanasi to Goa and Madurai, while taking up various outdoor activities such as surfing, kayaking, standup paddling, skiing, poi spinning, skating, etc. What happens to a work emergency when he is on an outdoor trip? Surya says, “All of it can now be handled over the phone. There was a time in October 2021 when I attended a remote meeting while on a kayak. I carried a waterproof bag in my kayak with my phone and a speaker in it. I attended a couple of meetings that way.” Mixing work with the play has never been better.