Workation in Bali – When Nomadic Life Also Offers Executive Lessons
Desygner Workation 2022 – The Bali Chapter
Reminiscing the times in Bali, one of my favorite moments is when we walked into Finn’s beach club for the first time taking in the breathtaking scenery around and realized we are on a Workation! The excitement on everyone’s face was palpable and that instance itself made me realize, this freedom to travel and work after the pandemic was long pending indeed.
At Desygner, we are a close-knit team of young, passionate, creative people who love what we do everyday and enjoy the journey of creating something wonderful. For us, the idea of working from a destination like Bali and the chance to see colleagues face-to-face only ignites this passion and creativity further.
The pandemic has presented us and the rest of the community with a number of unexpected challenges, leading to unanticipated costs & problems that could not have been anticipated prior to January 2020. However, I also believe that the pandemic presented us with a number of opportunities. For instance, the ability to work from a variety of locations, especially for such a young and energetic team, is a welcome change. Today, people want to travel and see the world more than they ever have before, but prohibitive flight costs and inflexible working locales make that difficult. So, post-pandemic, we have traded our remote work set-up to a hybrid model and are now able to strike a balance of growing a company, nurturing our younger teams with mentorships while also giving them the flexibility to work from anywhere.
When I shared my vision for our teams to be able to maintain a strong sense of camaraderie working from different locations and not just in offices, Kate Hankinson – our User Experience expert came up with the idea that sparked the model of working from a location that feels like a holiday but is not a company offsite. The idea was an instant hit and to test this model, Bali seemed ideal with just six hours away from Australia and yet bringing people together from as far away as Brazil, Nepal, and Europe.
This workation was a brilliant start for an experiment as much it is about few key learnings that we intend to apply in future:
Having a sharp foresight of the end result
As a CEO, my ultimate objective is to see the end-result and the total output of any effort. And Bali Workation has been a true testament to this. For instance, during our hatchathon, we produced three new game changing features that will set us apart as leaders in the industry, generating more satisfied customers and, as a consequence, more profits.
Shaking up the norms of a start-up ecosystem
As a scaling start-up after years of building our core enterprise tech in shadows, we are now focusing on sales or marketing. And by adopting a culture of WFA, I am hoping the digital nomad community will see the value in being part of a family rather than being solo. Because at the end of the day, irrespective of age or gender, we all seek good company that we can trust and be honest with. The way I see it, this is a fantastic way to look at the future of work, and I hope it will create a new standard for businesses everywhere.
This trip gave me an impression of a family get-together and by the time I was on plane to leave Bali, I realized that we need to have a base there in addition to our global offices that both bring us all together and aggressively promote worldwide travel for everyone who works with us regardless of the function they play.
Therefore, we have already started looking for a wonderful villa in Bali that we can use as a remote outpost location. This villa will have a chef on site, and it will be available to any of our team members who want to be there permanently (visas permitting), or simply for a few weeks while they are traveling the world. We will make it a priority to encourage every member of our team to make travel arrangements that take them to different parts of the world so that they can finally put faces to names of people with whom they have collaborated for years but have never actually met. It was absolutely mind blowing to meet team members I had seen on google meet, but never in person. It was completely different to how they come across and completely worth every penny it cost us to attend the event.
Acclimatizing and the pitfalls of digital nomadic life
Irrespective of impeccable planning and cautious safety measures, there are few things only experience can teach better. For example, scheduling events and travel on Monday and Thursdays went against the concept of “workation” where people think they are on a vacation. So, planning time off either at the beginning or toward the end of a project is vital. This also allows careful planning for groups who intend to bring family or children on the trip well in advance. Take into account the sick leaves during workations in exotic countries like Bali as western folks have a lot to get adjusted to, be it food, weather conditions, travel sickness and not to forget Covid variants just yet.
Golden Nugget for Leadership
I had the preconceived notion that our headquarters should be located on the Gold Coast of Australia and therefore should be a hub for the board meeting. This changed in Bali after AHA! moment when I realized that a HQ mindset is not necessarily the ideal way for key leaders to have consistent connections with all senior members. If we continue to hold these gatherings once every three to six months, I feel that we will be even more cohesive as a company than we have ever been before.
Have a defined goal in mind for the workation and what it is meant to accomplish. In our situation, we only wanted to connect people in remote roles and reward ordinary office dwellers by providing them new experiences.
It was heartening to see how the workation fostered co-workers from around the world bonding over food, activities and not just knowing each other just for the role we play in the company. When someone got sick, the rest of us banded together to help, when people were going out to eat or on trips, groups were formed and connections were forged. As a result, there was an underlying sense of a family.
This experience opens up a whole new world for Desygner, and I hope that we will be able to collaborate with other businesses as well on the next one that we are already beginning to prepare. Also, there is a great possibility of being able to hop between our London, Gold Coast, Lisbon, and soon our Bali office giving our global teams the flexibility to travel and be a part of a rapidly growing startup but not working remotely alone.
Finally, it was our beta, and I have no doubt that the next workation will be great, both in terms of individual results and overall impact on the firm. It was incredible that everyone got in touch with me and shared what an incredible adventure it had been for them!
Next time around, I hope to see our employees hacking some of the best ideas amidst an ocean from the deck of a cruise!