OK, OK, I so get it. You’ve been “pandemic stuck” in Thailand for an interminable length of time because of ‘the job’, in what all your friends the world over see as living the dream. You’ve enjoyed the freedom to move around the Kingdom over the past 12 months, give or take the occasional Thai Government Emergency Decree roadblock. You’ve grown to know and love Thailand for giving you such travel opportunities at a time when your friends across the globe are in hard lockdowns. And so, it continues. But what now?
The enduring pandemic is taking a toll. You’ve had over a year without seeing, hugging and touching your family. Relatives have been born, grandchildren have yet to be met, and sadly family and friends have died without your final goodbyes. Your partner is frazzled, and relationships are suffering. Are you digging in for the long haul or could you, should you, would you, change things up for a bit… no for the better?
How about spicing up your Thai life with a sea change?
Do you daydream of having a partner who can work remotely and work from the beach? A partner who says, ‘I am leading from the front, I’m going to put our emotional health and wellbeing as a priority?’ A partner who says, ‘Let’s try something different, I know the last twelve months have been tricky for you, disconnected from family and friends’ back in your homeland. I’m going to organise a WFB workcation!’
In January 2021, my husband and I did just that. Well, we came to Phuket on holiday and at the time of writing we are still here. Yes, we are paying for an apartment in Bangkok and a villa in Phuket, but the funny thing is, compared with 2019 we are still living within our budget. Life in Phuket is cheaper than Bangkok and we are loving it!
The rise of the ‘working from beach’ grey nomad!
It is something that all the digital nomads have known for years. Thailand and its high-speed Wi-Fi connectivity is fantastic for remote working.
Covid-19 created a remote, flexible, home working workforce with large degrees of success. Here in Thailand employees have bounced in and out of home working, depending on the local pandemic requirements.
With home working came the rise of new terms. WFH or working from home, became over the months for some of my lucky expat friends working from hotel, and indeed the ultimate “I’m so jealous now’ ‘he’s WFB’, working from beach. The opportunity to work from hotels around Thailand largely depends on whether the expat working partner is required to manage people in the office directly from the front at their office desk, what has become a rather old fashioned notion that today’s world.
I’m here to challenge that notion, indeed today I would say that leading from the front means demonstrating business acumen and an appreciation for a work life balance that ultimately brings out the best in your workforce, for the benefit of the organisation.
Once the dream was set in motion, those of us who partook in it here in Thailand just loved it! Working from home, hotel or beach morphed into the notion of an extended Workcation. Putting out ‘feelers’ showed that some 87% of respondents in Thailand found an extended work-cation appealing, in fact the most positive response of the countries surveyed in the Asia-Pacific region. https://www.bangkokpost.com/business/2021523/the-rise-of-the-work-cation:
Whilst some executives may be uneasy about managing teams where they suspect their focus may be less on the ‘work’ and more on the ‘cation’ part. This has not been our experience, quite the opposite.
Advantages to employers
Be seen as a great employer… staff retention… staff happiness…. staff resilience
Forgive me for a moment, for regressing back into my old HR management days or should we now call this talent management?! But it’s basic business operations. In my experience, no one ever listens to HR unless they could prove a difference to the bottom line.
Post Covid recovery will be no different, employers across the globe are always looking to attract top talent, cut costs and increase productivity. Never in the history of most organisations has this much needed priority been more sought after than now, with furloughed staff, reduced work forces, and in the case of hospitality this means in some instances skeleton staff with employees taking on broader responsibilities.
As we come out of the pandemic, have employers retained their key workers and strengthened their reputations with their employees to continue keeping them? Or are we about to see the biggest redeployment of staff with massive resignations as employees reassess their working and life priorities to depart in their droves for pastures new?
Once the workforce has the taste of flexible working opportunities, will future employees look for it on an ongoing basis? This is an opportunity for those in business whether in the corporate world, diplomatic world or in education, to stand out as a top employer at a time when in many instances staff bonuses and salaries are cut. You need something attractive to offer your star performers!
Since employers have widened their embrace of flexible staffing arrangements during the pandemic, the best will look at opportunities to develop this further and perhaps build a hybrid workforce for the future – one that includes both remote and on-site teams.
“A key reason is that so many businesses and their employees are discovering that productivity, rather than diminishing, often increases with remote work. However, it may still take time for some leaders, and even their workers, to change their mindset about when and how work gets done”. Forbes: Laying the success for a future hybrid workforce:
Employers who offer and encourage remote working conditions for their team members without them feeling guilty, will in the long term benefit strong mental health and wellbeing of the employees while creating loyalty and improving productivity.
Advantages to employee: A change is as good as a rest!
“That view and the sea air just energises me. We are convinced that rather than the beach being a tempting distraction, we are more focused and completely grateful for this opportunity”
Many expatriates in key jobs are exhausted. Their workloads increased immeasurably because of this unplanned and unpredicted pandemic as companies scrambled to adapt to the new normal. Whilst once upon a time they were jet setting across the world for various meetings, now all that is needed to prepare for global meetings virtually. Coordinating the meeting time can be an issue. The European have it best in the eyes of Asian and American expats, as the only way to successfully get a global team virtually together is to do it on European time. Worst still if here in Thailand you are working for a European company, your big boss has no idea!
Avoiding burn out
Burn out is a real threat now given the longevity of the situation. Most working expats didn’t get where they are today in the immortal words of Reggie Perrin without a high degree of stamina and resilience, but this is unchartered territory.
There has been no relief, the continued uncertainty of the global economic trading situation put immense stress on all aspects of the workforce. There has been no extended vacation. Sure, our families abroad see us on differing weekend escapes across Thailand, but gone is the annual home leave, a time to take a breath and concentrate on something different.
A healthier lifestyle
We are exercising more in Phuket, getting our 10,000 steps is no problem when we wake to the roar of the ocean, the birds singing and the beach waiting for us for an early morning stroll before work.
Saving annual leave
Many expats are trying to hold on to their precious annual leave holiday just in case the borders miraculously open up for home leave; a workcation gives you the best of both worlds.
We have found working from the beach far from being a distraction, gives a refreshed mindset. An early morning barefoot walk sets the day up nicely and certainly the post work winddown on the beach happens quicker than commute home on the BTS or sat in traffic on Sukhumvit Road.
Others around us enjoy greater productivity because of less distractions of being in the office, some says the distance helps with a sense of perspective.
Are we happier? Hell, yes!
Does being happier make us work harder, not as such, we are professionals but loving the working environment and being more positive does have an impact on all aspects of our lives, including work.
Any negative impacts of working remotely?
When asking around whether business has suffered because of the home team working situation, the general consensus is that people have proven that home working is possible when needed. Meetings by Zoom, Google Hangout or Teams work, helps business survive.
Sure, there are mumblings that 2020 was costly in terms of business innovation and development, without the water cooler meetings, and internal communications needing greater focus, but then everyone is in the same boat, but how many are at the same beach?!
Why is Phuket such a great choice to WFB workcation?
Location (1 hour flight, flights more regular and cheaper than say Koh Samui)
Used to internationals
- Medical Facilities:
Phuket’s two main private hospitals, Phuket International Hospital and Bangkok Hospital Phuket are both staffed with doctors and coordinators who speak English and other foreign languages. We have a high degree of confidence in the medical facilities here in Phuket.
- Our lifestyle here is cheaper than in Bangkok. My husband needed a medical exam to renew his driving license, it cost 100B here, and I paid 850B at my private hospital in Bangkok. The hotels and restaurants are offering unbelievable deals.
- Phuket is used to the international visitors. We have found the English language and services excellent, better even than in Bangkok
- Happily, I have found Phuket Immigration helpful when I needed to complete my 90 day report for my visa. All you need is a proof of local address, which can be registered for you by any hotel. Note, make sure you ask for a copy to show at Immigration. You can even do a drive through 90 day report. A huge cheer for Phuket Immigration.
Here are the answers to some of the questions asked by our friends about our WFB experience
Paying for an apartment or a condo in Bangkok and a hotel, or villa in Phuket – isn’t that a waste of money? We are trying to stash and save.
We firmly believe life is too short not to be living to its best now and maximising of what is on offer here in Thailand. This is a temporary window of opportunity, once the tourists return prices will increase, beaches will fill up, it may be less attractive!
We are fortunate to have retained work, when many have lost their jobs or are on a reduced salary. Our expenditure in Phuket is providing us with work and income, and it is our way of putting something back into the local community.
I need to lead from the front; I can’t be seen dossing off at the beach!
This was easier than we thought – apart from comments like “you look well, tanned, happy” the office life continues as always. We like to remind employers of the advantage as stated above!
My team in the office needs supervising, I need to be there
In a previous life you were away from the workplace travelling the world the whole time anyway… your team coped. The bottom line is that working from Phuket you are only an hour’s flight away. Easy and quick to return!
This is a new approach to working; you can demonstrate good business leadership by not being in the office!
I need to sign important banking documents which can’t be handled electronically
Come and a take a bow Kerry Express, Thailand’s leading parcel delivery service. It is impressive how quickly a package can get from Phuket to Bangkok given the traffic jams on Sukhumvit Road and other major traffic arteries in Bangkok. The Kerry Express next-day (ND) delivery service covers 99.9% of the Thai population and 97% of the parcels are delivered at the first attempt.
Our experience in Phuket is that same day delivery service works well, if a parcel is posted before lunchtime. Kerry Express has a strong presence in local communities with plenty drop off points. In a multitude of closed businesses, this one seems to be riding the storm well.
How to successfully WFB workcation
- Try it short term, book into a hotel to initially test the waters!
There are plenty of hotels around Thailand offering tempting deals, see below.
- Go week by week and make connections with local expats
Here in Phuket my husband found a keen golf community; he could be playing every day if he was retired! The golfers are a welcoming group even with just the occasional golfer. This group has been a valuable source of information and can be a support group if needed for anything from IT help to renewing your Thai driving license in Phuket. Also, there are many International Women’s Groups on the island who I have found welcoming.
- Ensure you have the basics for working from another location. Check the Wi-Fi! We bought a keyboard and a mouse, we were lucky that the villa we rented has a decent desk, with a sea view of course, and a comfortable office chair. No one ever swapped regular office work for beach desk facing the sea to find they had less time at their desks.
Where can I go for a WFB workcation?
Here in Phuket, you have many options from villas to clever hotels unable to reach the international markets all are now reaching out for city dwellers within Thailand to make the ‘oh so’ attractive move.
We booked the Work and Play in Phuket package at the Pullman Phuket Arcadia 3999B net per night including breakfast with discounts for longer stays. If you are looking to combine a five star luxury work hard by day options, whilst still having a ‘this is brilliant’ conversation with your happy partner at dinner, look no further : https://www.pullmanphuketarcadia.com/specialoffers/
Aleenta Phuket workcation package on Natai Beach in Phang Nga https://www.aleenta.com/phuket/special-offers/workcation/ Prices start at 3,990B net for single occupancy includes working space, breakfast and daily gourmet lunch 3-night minimum stay: [email protected].
The Chava Resort: We always love the spacious apartments at The Chava on Surin beach, the Wi-Fi works well, the resort is stunning and Surin beach is one of our favourites. https://thechavaresort.com/
I hope this has given you and your partner some ideas to support you in your quest for a Thailand workcation lifestyle or at the very least a mini break. We can thoroughly recommend Phuket. The pearl of the Andaman Sea has so much to offer, for so little. Come join us!