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Workation: what to consider when planning one?

It’s no secret that I am against working whilst on holiday. Annual leave should be for recharging your batteries and completely switching off. Otherwise, you won't come back to work refreshed and ready for new challenges.

But being a freelancer also means that we can work from anywhere in the world. The freedom that comes with it, the possibility to live as a digital nomad, is very tempting. I’m all for going away and working – but only if the workation was planned. The long-awaited holiday turns into a regular working week with a nice view from a hotel room? Time to rethink your work-life balance.

Laptop against the background of a children's room
Working on my nephew's bed was not the best idea.

I live away from my family and two years ago I started going to Poland for longer periods of time. I like to take one or two weeks as proper holiday and spend the rest of the time working. This allows me to get extra time with my loved ones: after work dinners, picking up my nephew and niece from nursery and day care… you name it!

Ever since my first Polish workation, I’ve worked in a few different locations: Milan, London, Fife, to name a few. And  I’ve  learnt a few lessons along the way. If you’re interested in dipping your toes into the life of a digital nomad, read on.   

The where

At home, I always work on a PC with a big screen, but it’s not possible to pack that when travelling. Before going on my first working holiday in Poland, I only had a tiny laptop. It was completely useless for using as my mobile office. About three months before my first workation trip, I had started putting money aside for a better laptop. As a member of  Chartered Institute of Linguists, I was able to get a discount on a DELL laptop from Curry’s, and I’ve been very happy with it.

Luckily, during the first lockdown my mum (who’s a teacher) had transformed my brother’s old room into an office. This meant that I had a proper desk, a keyboard, and a USB mouse – it made me feel like I was in a real office. When I worked at my sisters, however, I didn’t have this ergonomic setup, so I noticed I was less productive then.

That reinforced my sneaky suspicion that your office surroundings are hugely important! Next time I worked in Poland, I booked a few days in a Regus co-working space. They have offices all around the globe so it’s a good option for freelancers wherever they are.

A hot-desking office set-up
Turns out I do need a window when working.

I have to say: the Regus office located near my sister’s was not the best place to work at. The hot-desking area had no windows which made me feel trapped. After a few days working there I scouted out a library just a 10-minute bus ride away. It had a study room, stable Wifi connection and (gasp!) a window. Now I regularly work there whenever I visit family in Poland, especially that its location allows me to easily drop my nephew in the nursery in the morning and pick him up after work. Auntie of the year, aren’t I?

A laptop sitting on a table that's by a window
There we go. Much better!

But there are plenty of options when it comes to a workation office! Depending on what I have to do, sometimes, if I don’t need absolute silence or I’m not planning to spend an entire day in a place, I’ll find a café to work in – a must is a good vegan selection and its closeness to a place I’m planning to visit afterwards. For example, when working in Poland in Autumn 2022, I arranged to meet my brother in town and visit a tepomrary exhibition in the Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Beforehand, I bagged a few hours of work at the lovely Dobra Materia café. In October 2023, when I was travelling northern Italy prior to the Mediterranean Editors and Translators Meeting I was scribing at an online stakeholders’ event. Although my role didn’t require me to take an active part, I was still to be visible so a café set-up was out of the question. That’s when the Regus membership came in handy. I looked up the Milan offices and found one that would be close enough to where I was staying (and that would have windows ;)). Worked a treat!

Instagram story screenshot showing a laptop and a coffee mug on a café table

The when

When in Glasgow, I have a semi-strict office schedule, and I’m good at keeping to it so you would rarely find me replying to emails in the evenings. I don't turn my computer on the weekend either – unless I really have to. Keeping to that schedule is not always easy when on workation, so I tend to be flexible.

Before going away, I email my regular clients and tell them my holiday dates. I also mention that I would be on a flexible schedule for a few weeks, if that is the case. Even when working in Glasgow, I have a regular out of office message explaining that I don’t check my emails constantly. Letting people know what to expect from me helps me relax and focus on my work.

I have to say – a flexible workation schedule can be stressful at times, as it was the first time I did it. When I resumed working after my holiday, I was snowed with work.  At the same time, my family situation was not great:

  • My grandma’s health had deteriorated and she needed constant care. In the end, she passed away during my stay

  • My nephew was too ill to go to nursery

  • My pregnant sister ended up being too ill to be able to fully take care of him

  • My brother-in-law was giving a lot of training sessions so couldn’t take time off work (he ended up being too ill for that anyway...)

It was evident the Scottish auntie’s visit was a blessing. I managed to spend a lot of quality time with my little nephew and I loved every second of it. This meant that I ended up catching up on work in the evenings and during his nap time. I couldn’t have prepared for that and there is no scenario where I could have done anything differently.

What I could have done, however, was preparing myself mentally for a chaotic ride. I should have realised that things would not go as smoothly as back home. If I had gone away somewhere without any personal duties, that would have been a different story. If you’re in a similar situation, my advice is: just know it will be hard and unpredictable. Don’t fool yourself – you won’t be able to do as much deep work as back home (especially if there are children around). Try not to stress about it!

The why

It is helpful to know the reason for going on a workation. Are you off to a small French village to practise your source language when not working? Are you staying on a remote Scottish island because you want to change the scenery and enjoy nature? Are you visiting London because your partner is travelling to a conference and you’d like to visit a temporary exhibition in a museum? Or do you simply want to spend more time with your family and friends you don’t get to see often? Knowing ‘the why’ will help you prepare for your trip and plan your time better.

If you want to practise your source language, try working from a small café for a few days where you can used your language skills (and eavesdrop). Will the internet connection be problematic if you’re going somewhere remote? Buy an internet dongles before you go. Working on a big project but still want to go to that museum? Booking a co-working space nearby might be a great idea then – you’ll still get some work done and play tourist.

To summarise, here are a few do’s and don'ts


research a few working locations in advance and give yourself plenty of choice for different types of work you might want to do ( and check the internet situation in each of the locations)

roughly plan what you need to do when, ideally a day or two in advance, so that you can fit other things around work

take some ergonomic equipment with you: a mouse, travel monitor (a tablet might be a great option for that!), noise cancelling headphones, etc.

be realistic about how much work you can (and want to) do each day

depending on where you’re going to work from, prep packed lunches and snacks or make a list of places to try out for your meals

if travelling with or visiting someone, make sure everyone is aware of each other’s plans

if your schedule will be different than it usually is, tell your clients about it in advance


❌ opt for locations that are far away from places you’d be going to later or are unsuitable to work from

❌ wing it. Preparation during workation is even more important than usually. Otherwise you won’t get anything done

fool yourself into thinking you can survive working on your phone or an iPad. Trust me.

❌ take on too much work. After all, there are two words you need to keep in mind here: “work” and, yes, you guessed it: “vacation”.

go into this with no idea where you’re going to eat and when. You’ll waste your time trying to find a place to eat, especially if you have dietary restrictions (any more vegans with IBS out there?)

❌ keep others in the dark when it comes to what they can expect from you. Make sure the time you’ve set aside for work is none-negotiable (if you really do have a deadline that can’t be moved!)

❌ pretend that a workation is just like any other day in the office and your clients can expect the exact same turn around or translation output. Most of the time they can’t.

Have I inspired you to take a workation yet?

Or have you already taken one before

and have more helpful tips to share?

Let me know in the comments! 



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