For a long time the preserve of freelancers, workation - the combination of work and vacation travel - is becoming increasingly popular in certain sectors. IT security company Redguard offers its 80 employees the opportunity to take advantage of this once a year for four to six weeks. Sven Vetsch, the company's partner and Head of Innovation and Development, explains the benefits of this new practice.
Combining work and vacations? That's the concept of workation, which originated in the Silicon Valley of California. It involves allowing employees to work remotely in a dreamy setting, thanks to the advancements in technology. In an era where 35% of millennials consider hybrid work as one of the main reasons to accept a new position, according to a survey conducted by Ernst & Young, this new trend can be a decisive advantage in attracting new talents in an increasingly competitive job market. Without idealizing it, Sven Vetsch reflects on this practice, which is now integrated within his company, the Bernese cybersecurity firm Redguard.
When did you become interested in workation at Redguard and why?
Vetsch: We started exploring this possibility in 2017, as we delved into new trends in flexibility. Personally, I was seeking a way to combine my love for travel with working in a growing company. Workation provided a perfect balance between my desire to explore the world and the constraints of my profession. Testing it out firsthand allowed me to ensure that we could offer it to our employees as well. The pandemic played its part by popularizing remote meetings, even among our clients. While flexibility was already a reality at Redguard, COVID-19 provided an opportunity to demonstrate that a significant portion of work could be done online, even in a sensitive industry like cybersecurity.
Is it easy for an SME to implement such a practice?
Vetsch: Apart from a few basic rules that need to be formalized, the technical aspect of implementation remains relatively simple. The real challenge lies elsewhere. Offering workation requires questioning how it affects the functioning of the company, particularly for reasons related to technical or practical considerations. Taking Redguard as an example, we work with clients in the banking or government sectors and must adhere to certain strict legal or contractual constraints. Even though our employees have Swiss passports, it is not always possible, for instance, to allow them to work from certain foreign countries for some projects.
In practice, what does workation look like at Redguard? What are the limitations?
Vetsch: Our employees have the opportunity to go on a workation once a year only. Additionally, an employee cannot relocate abroad while continuing to work for us. The chosen destination must also not pose any particular difficulties in terms of insurance or social security. These conditions are outlined in a document that interested individuals must sign. The goal is to formalize certain basic requirements that need to be adhered to, such as complying with local regulations, including labor laws. Employees also need to ensure that the legislation in the country they dream of as a temporary place of work is compatible with carrying out their duties. As employers, we cannot conduct this verification work ourselves in every case, although we do our best to support them. The key aspect is the ability to effectively manage one's time once on location. Flexibility does not mean blurring boundaries, and the time dedicated to professional responsibilities must be guaranteed. The trust relationship between the employer and employees is a fundamental aspect in this regard.
Which employees are interested in this new form of flexibility?
Vetsch: Workation is not suitable for all employee profiles. An employee who has children or whose partner has their own professional constraints will naturally have less flexibility than a single individual. Generally, the interested employees are younger and have fewer personal and family obligations. It is also an appealing opportunity for young professionals who wish to explore the world. Previously, these employees tended to work until they could gather the necessary funds for travel before leaving their positions. Many candidates who join us express appreciation for the flexibility that Redguard offers. While it is certainly not the only factor, it is an undeniable advantage that allows us to attract promising talent.
What advice would you give to a business owner who wants to offer this possibility to their employees?
Vetsch: In my opinion, one of the first steps should be to evaluate whether workation is truly compatible with the company's activities. Once implemented, it is indeed challenging to go back. Engaging in discussions with leaders who already offer such opportunities to their employees is also a way to ensure making the right choice.