As COVID-19 travel restrictions ease, Torontonians squeezing in 'workcations' while they still can

·4 min read
The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce started a workcation program this past winter to lure remote workers to the New Brunswick city. Mark Hausen, a Toronto resident, was one of the first participants.  (Photo courtesy of Mark Hausen - image credit)
The Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce started a workcation program this past winter to lure remote workers to the New Brunswick city. Mark Hausen, a Toronto resident, was one of the first participants. (Photo courtesy of Mark Hausen - image credit)

Mark Hausen was in a Zoom meeting six months ago when a colleague brought up a CBC article about a "workcation" program in Saint John.

Hausen and his colleague, John Ly, signed up and spent July 2021 in the New Brunswick city.

"It was absolutely phenomenal — beyond the landscape, the architecture, the history — there was just a beauty to the folks there," Hausen said.

A workcation is typically understood to be when an employee travels to a new destination to explore, while also continuing to work full-time remotely.

Hausen, a director at HR Technologies, a human resources firm based in Toronto, says after an 18-month lockdown, the atmosphere in Saint John was a very positive change for him psychologically.

"Working there was wonderful," he said.

"The change of scenery and also blocking out the noise was brilliant in terms of just being able to focus," Hausen said.

Hausen says after a typical workday, he would go on hikes, bike rides and nature walks. He thinks he met 'half of Saint John" while on the trip.

Google searches at all-time high

As restrictions loosen and with many people now fully vaccinated, the idea of working remotely in a new location in Canada has gained traction. And with the possibility looming of workplaces calling back employees to the office, some are jumping at what could be their last chance to take a workcation.

According to a recent Google report, the term workcation has been searched by Canadians over the past couple of months in record numbers.

Another Torontonian to hop on the trend is Emily Momot. She was feeling trapped due to the remote work set-up in her Toronto apartment during the dead of winter this past January.

So, when the account coordinator's lease came up in January 2021, she decided to pack her bags and head to Whistler, B.C for a three month workcation stint.

Photo courtesy of Emily Momot.
Photo courtesy of Emily Momot.

"Just the fact that I could check something off my bucket list that I've always wanted to do, but at the same time I could still be working in advance of my career, was so awesome," she said.

Momot says her employer supported the idea of her working remotely in the world-renowned alpine resort.

"Their whole thing was, 'If we can trust you to work from home ... then why can't we trust you when you're out west as well?'" she said.

Workcations reinvigorate employees, entrepreneur says

And companies in Ontario have started to cater to this trend.

Tricia Jose started Mamalli, a company that offers remote employees accommodations, stable Wi-Fi and activities in Muskoka. She experienced the benefits of a workcation herself last year when pandemic restrictions eased a bit and she decided to go on a road trip from Toronto to Vancouver.

"I felt really rejuvenated by it and I thought, 'Why don't we do more of this?'" she said.

Jose started her first intake of remote workers in April 2021 and the interest in her program exceeded her expectations with 200 applications for 25 spots.

"It was a really clear indication to me that people are really looking for different ways of doing things, different ways of traveling, different ways of working and living," she said.

Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2019. All rights reserved.

The entrepreneur says the remote workers who take part in her program often tell her they felt uninspired working from home day in and day out, and so changing their environment reinvigorated them.

"I find that putting yourself in a different environment really does stimulate a different part of your brain. It helps you feel like the world is bigger," she said.

Chris Bloore, the president of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario, says the spike in the workcation trend in the province has "stopped the bleeding" for many businesses that depend on tourists. He encourages Ontarians to continue to travel locally to help the province's struggling tourism sector.

"The money that you could spend in Ontario can make a huge difference to the lives of the people within our industry, but also protect the fabric of our communities," he said.

"You might think your holiday for seven days is inconsequential, but actually it can make a huge difference."

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