When I daydream about remote working, my "office" is equipped with a sea view, endless espresso and a steady supply of arancini. A long wooden table, which doubles as a shared desk, is at the heart of the Mediterranean farmhouse that is my temporary home. Orange trees surround an al fresco dining spot, where I while away evenings in spirited company. In reality, I am moving the laundry pile out of shot for my next Zoom.
The pandemic has made many of us consider what we want our working days to look like. For me, it was time for a big change. After 12 years at the Evening Standard, I left to start a new role at Heatherwick Studio, where my induction was entirely virtual. And while I long to spend "in real life" time together, I must admit: I've become a remote-work convert.
It's not just me. Nearly half of the UK's employees found themselves working from home in the country's first national lockdown according to the Office for National Statistics. A year down the line, that Zoom life could be here to stay according to the Institute of Directors, which found that 74 per cent of companies would maintain homeworking after social-distancing restrictions ease.
If this is going to be a long-term reality, I don't want to spend every clocked-on hour at home. And I'm clearly not alone in this mindset; hotels and members' clubs are joining forces to help us work from anywhere.
Cabin fever is a creative’s kryptoniteJosh Wyatt, NeueHouse
NeueHouse, the self-proclaimed "private workspace and cultural home for creators, innovators and thought leaders," is paving the way. "Our best work is often not done behind a desk or sitting in an office," says CEO Josh Wyatt, reflecting on the brand's partnership with Design Hotels. "We experience some of our greatest moments when we are travelling, thinking, learning, lecturing, debating and exploring."
He wants NeueHouse members to access a world outside the club's properties in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The partnership means they will have complimentary use of areas made for work in hotels on the US's east and west coasts - and there's an expectation that boltholes across the rest of the world will get on board too.
"The confluence of work, leisure, social, intellectual and creative moments has hugely evolved over the past year. Meeting all of these needs requires partnering with people and brands that share an appreciation for bold thinking," Wyatt adds. "This isn't just a reaction to Covid, there was a move towards it before the pandemic." He calls cabin fever "a creative's kryptonite" and believes a workation-er in a hotel will be more productive if they can access a well-designed, functional office space where there are opportunities to mingle with people.
Markus Schreyer, Design Hotels' Senior Vice President, adds: "This is the beginning of something bigger. It's not just about getting work done, it's about collaborations and getting inspired. More than ever, people want to meet other innovative people, to share and learn. Our spaces are perfect for this; they're made for communities."
Courses usually only open to Design Hotels' members and guests - sound healing, interactive art, meditation, crafts - are now accessible to the NeueHouse network via in-person experiences and digital streams.
Then there is Yôn Living, set up by entrepreneurs Tom Brooks and Ant Steele. They were embarking on a different business when Covid hit, and they vented their frustrations around working from their kitchen tables to their investor. He invited them to his chateau in the French countryside. With room to walk and think in nature, they felt more productive but missed interactions with colleagues. So, they invited friends along and Yôn was born, offering co-working trips in destinations such as Lanzarote, Lisbon, Marrakech and Berlin. Visits can be booked from one week to three months and each property comes with a host who stays throughout. "Finally, people realise we can work and travel," Brooks says. "This knowledge has opened up the potential for a massive shift in the way we want to live."
Social media and influencer marketing consultant, Karen Alexander, has been a digital nomad for four years. Her advice for anyone considering a working holiday would be "to set realistic expectations and get your work done first thing in the morning, as you'll want to explore and enjoy the place later on". She particularly loved the combination of remote work and wellness at Ethos Remote Habitat in Tulum, where collaboration and human connection are considered the keys to healthy living. Its holistic retreats, which pop up everywhere from New England to Mexico, include accommodation, meals, wellbeing plans and events.
In July, New York-based Abbey Hudetz took the plunge to start her own content-marketing agency, Oyster Creative, building on her background in hospitality. She joined Soho Works, set up by the Soho House group to help creatives collaborate and grow their businesses. It currently has locations in London, New York and Los Angeles with Hong Kong coming soon. "My Soho Works membership was a great starting point, but I have since embraced fully remote work by taking the opportunity to travel," Abbey tells me. "My husband is from South Africa so we're moving to Cape Town for the spring. In the meantime, we're learning French so we can fulfil a lifelong dream of living in Paris in the summer." Working from different locations has encouraged her to reach out to clients all over the world, meaning she's broadened her portfolio in the process.
When plotting your great escape, check government requirements in your home country and the place you are visiting - there may be restrictions on time and income tax. Brexit rules, for example, mean Brits could need a visa or work permit if planning to stay in the EU for longer than 90 days in a 180-day period. However, many countries are facilitating the move.
Long-stay visas have been set up in response to the increase in remote working: the Barbados Welcome Stamp lets visitors work from the island for 12 months; Antigua and Barbuda's Nomad Digital Residence covers stays of up to two years; the Cayman Islands' Global Citizen Concierge Program welcomes professionals and digital nomads for 24 months; and Mauritius has introduced a one-year Premium Travel Visa. If Mexico appeals, a temporary resident visa will let you live there for a year and can often be extended for an additional three years. Aruba, Jamaica, St Barts, Bermuda, Dubai, Estonia and Georgia are a handful of other destinations with similar initiatives.
Some schemes are specifically aimed at freelancers. Croatia's Digital Nomad Visa for independent workers was introduced in January 2020 while Portugal's programme also offers temporary residence. Spain has a self-employment work visa and Germany's Freiberufler ("freelancer") option is designed for anyone who wants to be their own boss.
My makeshift office has served me well over the past months, but it is ready to be packed up and taken on a well-deserved working holiday. Nothing makes me more productive than a change of scene; some of my best ideas have dawned on me in transit. I've met future colleagues in hotel lounges and life-long friends on trips that merge work and play. I've never truly been able to avoid checking emails when away from my desk, but workationing shifts the balance, making getaways guilt-free. As the hospitality world helps to blur our understanding of what it means to be "in" or "out" of office, I wonder: could this be the end of holidays as we know them?