On an island where workplace mental health policies are virtually unknown, the ‘workcation’ is vital. Alix Norman finds out more
Cyprus has the highest number of public holidays in Europe: 15 in total. But, in 2023, many of these fall at the weekend, including Greek Independence Day, Cyprus Independence Day, and Oxi Day. Which means, other than a few days off for Easter, most of us will have to wait until August for that much-needed getaway. Unless we take a workcation…
A rising trend since the middle of the pandemic, a workcation is not to be confused with a vacation (frolicking in your swimsuit on a beach), a staycation (frolicking in your swimsuit in the garden), or even bleisure (a combination of business and leisure, like when your company sends you to the Maldives for a team-building exercise. Which it doesn’t. Ever).
Instead, a workcation has identical hours to your job. It involves the same duties and responsibilities you enjoy (or detest) in your daily employment. It’s usually short, and doesn’t involve a trip to the beach with your laptop or emails sent from the back of a Vespa. Instead, you’re going to do all the things you usually do, just from a different place.
The reasoning is that a change is as good as a rest. And in Cyprus, that’s crucial. On this island, where workplace mental health policies are practically unknown, a break from the same-old, same-old can do you a power of good…
Workcations have been proven to have a positive effect on both physical and mental health. They lead to increased productivity and quality of work, and allow a boost in work satisfaction. Imagine if your boss appeared in your cubicle on a dull Monday morning, and said you’d be working from a coastal villa till Friday. Or you were emailed on a Tuesday, and asked to work from a 5-star hotel for the rest of the week!
Okay, your company is unlikely to pay for this privilege. But if you can afford your own workcation, why not? Yes, you’ll need to get your ducks in a row before you leave (if you take off without warning, a sudden and vital meeting will inevitably arise. Similarly, you’re going to have to deputise someone to water the plants/feed the cat/care for the kids). But if you can shut the door behind you and work from a cabin in the woods/villa by the sea for a couple of nights, the benefits are legion!
Obviously, when your job depends on your physical presence, workcations are not an option. But, since the boom in remote work caused by the pandemic, anyone who can work from a laptop can avail themselves of this new trend.
“I first started taking workcations during Covid,” says Anthony Antoniou, a 33-year-old data analyst from Nicosia. “There was no point booking a holiday because travel was so limited. And I didn’t want to waste my vacation days in Cyprus. So instead, I’d set off to work from my family’s Paralimni flat every couple of months.
“It was an absolute lifesaver,” he adds. “I was still doing all my usual work. But suddenly, I had a clear head. Even in the winter, it was fun; I worked from the sofa, overlooking the deserted streets. I could see the clouds rolling in from the sea. It was very different from being in the office; very freeing, and really focused. My output soared, and my boss certainly noticed!”
While those who are easily distracted or highly social are not ideal candidates for a workcation, people who are self-motivated may find a lot of value in the practice.
Paphos resident Barbara Wright is a freelance writer. “My husband also works from home. He steps in with the kids and I take off. Usually I’m away for three days; I tend to choose a cheap BnB in Latsi where it’s really quiet, and go more often in winter when the rooms are empty. I work non-stop; breakfast and lunch arrive to order, and I can head out for a nice meal in the evening. It’s the best way to conquer pressing deadlines,” she adds. “And I can return the favour when my husband’s workload is punishing.”
With quality internet extending across the Republic (Cyprus ranked 15th of 110 countries in a recent study), the island is an ideal place for a workcation, and often pops up in international articles.
“Since 2021, we’ve had several guests on a workcation,” says Kyriacos Hadjipavlou, who rents out the family villa in Ayia Napa. “When people book with us, they give the reason for their stay – ‘workcation’ is an option that’s popping up more and more, especially in the off-season. It’s always one person at a time,” he adds. “I don’t think a workcation is something you can do as a family or with your partner – the idea is to take advantage of this solo time and space. We’ve hosted workcationers from Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium, and expect another from Spain this week.”
While Kyriacos is benefiting from Cyprus’ new status as a workcation paradise, some local residents are heading the other way. Digital marketer and professional photographer Melina Tringis has been on several workcations abroad, most recently in August 2022.
“I felt an incredibly strong need to clear my head and get away,” says the 28-year-old from Larnaca. “But as this is a busy time for me I couldn’t simply take a holiday. Instead, I booked four days in a tiny air Airbnb on the remote Greek island of Kythnos.”
Melina deliberately chose a non-touristy location. “I needed inspiration and new experiences to draw from in my work, but didn’t want to be distracted,” she explains. “Kythnos, which has fewer than 200 full-time residents, was perfect. It was quiet and cheap; life there was simple and slow compared to my usual hectic schedule. I took my laptop and cameras, worked exactly the same hours I would have in Cyprus, but reaped huge benefits. I came home with about four weeks’ worth of work in my pocket. Honestly, if you can, give the workcation a go!”