How a 'workation' can boost productivity & energize your team

Taking a week away from notifications, deadlines and work's daily routine yielded massive benefits for YouCanBook.me's team of remote employees.

Kate Reynier

7 min read

Have you ever woken up on a weekday and opened the curtains to face a blanket of snow covering the ground? Any adult might moan about shoveling the driveway. But, for a child, it is a great big snow day! An unexpected break from the daily routine. A chance to do whatever you want. To be free!

YouCanBook.me gave its 17 employees that very feeling last week. We had a "workation" week, when we could all take time for ourselves, away from the usual hectic pace of working for a SaaS company.

YouCanBook.me has always been a fully remote company, and we have colleagues in seven countries around the world. Every year, the whole team gathers for a Team Summit where we work and play in equal measure. It gives us a chance to relax with our colleagues, and to think and create in a way that - as much as we love Zoom - we can't always do.

"A big part of a Summit week is the experiences, the meals, the travel," says CTO and co-founder Keith Harris. "The break it gives us from the intensive, day-to-day routine is very refreshing and that change from the usual rhythm means we come back with a better focus."

With most countries still experiencing Covid travel restrictions, a Team Summit wasn't going to be possible this year. So, coming off the back of one of the most intense years in any company's existence, CEO and co-founder Bridget Harris was looking for a different way to energize her team and break up the rhythm of daily work.

Global crisis, local concerns

"2020 was a year in which every employee was at risk of experiencing a crisis - of physical or mental health - at any moment. The Covid pandemic impacted every country our colleagues live in. We knew it was more important than ever to keep a close eye on employee well-being, and my instinct was to lock everything down, so we weren't asking anything more of our team than was necessary."

At the same time, our customers were also being impacted. "We saw a lot of new customers but we also lost customers during the pandemic. For so many people, working from home was a brand new experience and YouCanBook.me could be a solution. We knew we needed to get to work so we could support them."

YouCanBook.me remote employee workation in Spain
Antonio's wedding in Spain!

In the first 6 months of the pandemic, our team fast tracked new features and made other changes so certain groups, like school teachers, would have free access to more of the tool. "That meant some of our busiest work happened when we would normally have been in a more quiet phase," says Bridget. "Just as that eased, we entered our normal end of year growth period, which is always busy. So no one really got a break".

"Working in a technology company, there is always a backlog of tickets to deal with. In the same way, your life also has a backlog. But when do you deal with that?"

"You don't want to do it during your vacation. So we decided to give our colleagues time to take care of those things."

"It wasn't necessarily done to directly improve employee productivity. But we know that work performance is closely linked to having a happy work environment so we see it as a win-win."

There were no set rules but, recognizing that our customers are always working, everyone who could logged in for a turn answering customer support questions.

So if you sent in a question during our quiet week, you could have been speaking to an engineer in Spain, a product designer in Scotland, or the CEO!

So what did we do with this gift of a week?

17 happy employees 5 professional skills honed 2 renovation projects 1 wedding

There was a lot of family time, some professional development, some DIY and even a marriage!

Romana, Head of Marketing, Portugal: "I always plan my holidays around my kids. This week I was able to drop the kids in school and actually do several things for myself. But the best part, I was able to spend some alone time with my husband, which has rarely happened since the start of the pandemic. We went to the beach and I also managed to attend sessions of the Adworld Conference which was really inspiring."

YouCanBook.me remote employee workation in Portugal
Romana's beach trip in Portugal

Taniel, Digital Marketing Manager, South Africa: "I did a lot of studying. I'd given myself a personal goal to finish my mini MBA by next month. So this gave me a bit of a quick start to get it up and running this past week, so that was great.

"But the highlight for me was when I collected my kids in the afternoon from school. I wasn't rushing back to get into the office and carry on working. I had time to play with them and spend time with them which made us all very happy."

YouCanBook.me remote employee workation in Scotland
Kayleigh's renovation in Scotland!

Kayleigh, UX Designer, Scotland: "After the first couple of days, I began to get itchy feet. So we figured out we would hang a picture on the wall.

"Hanging a picture on the wall turned into we had to strip the wallpaper. That turned into a trip to the local hardware store, which turned into buying some new flooring and then we ended up completely gutting the carpet and removing the fireplace.

"So it ended up as a bit of a renovation which was unexpected, but loads of fun."

Javi, Software Engineer, Spain: "I didn't do anything fancy, but it was very relaxing. I woke up a little bit later, and worked on some open source projects. Then I could go for a beer with friends from my co-working space. It was very nice to recharge the batteries.

"I didn't do my regular work. But since there were other people in the company that couldn't take the week to rest, for example Customer Support, I logged in a couple of times to see if there were any questions I could answer."

Kelly, Customer Success Manager, Germany: "I'm relatively new to YouCanBook.me so it was great for me to spend some time answering customer questions. It was a good learning time for me.

"I also did a lot of DIY! I think manual labor is a different type of relaxing, working with your hands instead of your head. So it was quite relaxing even if it doesn't sound like it.

"We managed time for some beautiful walks as well."

YouCanBook.me remote employee workation in Germany
Kelly's view in Germany

Denita, Customer Success Team Lead, USA: "I got a chance to surprise family. Because of COVID we haven't really had a chance to see anyone. So I just booked a flight and it was awesome!

"Quiet time for me is actually just sitting back and doing some of the things that I would like to do, like professional learning courses, reading books, exercising. So those are the things that I got a chance to really dig into."

And how are we feeling after our workation week?

Really **refreshed**. It was great to spend time with my husband. I feel ready to get back to work.
Kayleigh, UX Designer
I feel **really great that I got so much done**. And there is less stress about the things I'd usually have to do after work. It really helped."
Kelly, Customer Success Manager
I love that YouCanBook.me **supports practicing self care**. It's part of the culture. This is what we do."
Ben, Customer Support Team Lead
Everyone is just really motivated and works hard to get things done. And sometimes it takes a little kick from our CEO to say, ‘Hey, guys, you haven't been taking your vacation, and you need to rest.' And it's true because this week **I feel like I'm getting things done faster and a little bit more quickly**."
Aithne, Customer Success Manager
It just shows that **the more companies care for their employees' well-being, the better they'll perform at work**. It's so simple actually."
Romana, Head of Marketing

After this week, the whole company is looking forward to getting back to a proper, in-person Team Summit as soon as we can. But, for now, workation works for us!

Do you want to know more about working for YouCanBook.me? Meet the team and see our job openings here.

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