Suresh Sharma, who owns a premium homestay in a village near Shimla, hasn’t done a single business since the country-wide lockdown was announced in March. He didn’t have much hope in the months to come. From June 15 onwards, however, he kept receiving requests over phone regarding booking. The intelligent pahadi man understood that the potential customers are corporate professionals working in upper level management at firms in Delhi NCR and are willing to pay if they are served right. He and his son polished the pine wood rooms, refurbished the dining set up, and arranged for a makeshift high-speed internet through leased line. In a matter of three days, fairy lights were lit along the way leading to North Moon Homestay, Fagu, which now offers workcations to corporates.
Sharma isn’t the only one who started getting high load of requests of high speed internet, hygienic place to stay and clean surroundings. People running homestays, vacation villas, and even hotels are thronged with booking requests. While lockdowns in cities are being re-enforced and coronavirus cases going up, people who can afford to travel are leaving no stones unturned to break free from their homes. “Before the pandemic, my wife and I would be travelling almost twice a month. If I don’t travel, the workload starts taking a toll on my mental health. These few months have been difficult. Neither could we go out to meet friends nor travel,” said Kanak Mehta, a Business Development Manager with an MNC.
“A surge in cases of depression and anxiety has been seen since the lockdown. A drastic change in lifestyle and uncertainty has been forced on people. Travelling is an effective strategy to build stronger resilience, boost mood, and obliterate the feeling of being ‘stuck’,” advises Moulika, a practising psychologist, IIT Bombay.
What is workcation?
Is it work? Is it vacation? Picture this. A work desk overlooking the mighty Himalayas, honeybees buzzing around your laptop, you need barely two minutes to reach your workstation from bedroom, your thinking caps are always on and your productivity is at an all-time high. Workcation has been in trend for past few years now, where professionals go to destinations closer to nature, work, relax and give their souls a moral boost to get back to city life.
At a time when the coronavirus pandemic has hit us bad and we need to reinvent ways to live a better life, workcation is coming as a major boon for those who can afford a holiday.
Will this be a game-changer?
“‘Work from Home’ is here to stay. The digitisation of our lives is now well underway. What would have taken a decade took less than three months due to the pandemic. We are always at work and all we need is a device that connects to the internet to make us ubiquitous to our bosses. If all we need to do to connect to work is an internet connection, why not work from scenic locations that can make us less stressful and more productive,” said Vibhas Prasad, Director, Leisure Hotels Group, which owns multiple hotels across North India.
“More and more people will opt for workcation majorly because of convenience, comfort, and eventually, companies will also arrange for such. Also, it perfectly fits into the work- home balance concept,” said Amit Damani of Vista Rooms, which runs vacation homes across India.
How is it different from corporate off-sites?
Corporate companies have a tradition of going off-site, which is basically a team building exercise where most team members stay and work from a location out of office. However, the difference is these workcations aren’t office induced. Rather, people travel on their own and not necessarily with their colleagues, but families.
“For short trips (usually five-seven days) a family of seven to eight members are travelling, wherein for long stays ( 12 to 18 days ) it’s close to 10-12 guests,” said Damani.
While most corporate off-sites have a duration between two to four nights, in these workcations people spend a week or even more.
Which destinations are in demand?
Due to the lockdown policies changing every fortnight and states implementing the same from time to time, it’s still too early to predict the trend. However, initial trends indicated Shimla, Mashobra, Manali in Himachal Pradesh, Nainital, Ranikhet, Almora in Uttarakhand, Ooty and Coorg in Karnataka, Poovar Island, Thekkady and Alleppey in Kerala and Goa as the hotspots of workcations. Due to increased cases of coronavirus in Maharashtra, particularly Mumbai, from where professionals would have travelled, tourism boom hasn’t been noticed. However, hoteliers predict once things get streamlined workcation mode will see a major rise.
Are workcations all work and no play?
Most hotels have devised a policy that require tourists to be extra cautious during this troubled time. People who are staying aren’t encouraged to venture out for the benefit of the local people as well as the ones who are travelling.
For people travelling to Poovar Island in Kerala from Kochi, Trivandram and other cities in the south, Estuary Sarovar Portico is offering a 30-minute insight session by an Ayurveda doctor, boating around the Mangroves, a unique coastal Kerala cooking demonstration by local chefs among other activities like pottery making and fishing within property. “Guests also look forward to diversity in cuisines including immunity booster drinks/dishes and indulge in outdoor physical activities including in yoga and meditation,” said Prasad.
Niraamaya Retreats on the other hand has come up with ‘Yoga by Niramaaya’, where guests can experience a week-long yoga session while staying.
Is it wise to travel?
“The way this infection is heading, we need to learn to stay with it along with utmost precautions. Having said that staying locked in own houses for months can lead to severe depression including schizophrenia. The most affected are the children who don’t get to meet their friends and classmates. There is nothing wrong in travelling to destinations to recharge up if you follow the guidelines and maintain own hygiene. It is advisable not to use public transport at any cost and use your car or a hygienic rental one. The stay should be a long duration. Ensure to consult a doctor before your trip to anticipate any emergency,” said Dr Sanchayan, practicing oncologist at Artemis Hospital, Gurgaon.