Off to workation - what to be aware of?
Autumn in Sudolabs stands only for one thing: annual workation. This year, however, was a bit more challenging. Why is it so? Well, the number of Sudoers has doubled since last year and we are nearly 80 now!
27. 9. 2022
In case you’re new here, let me give you a lil sum up what workation means at Sudolabs. Each year, once the weather turns miserable, we head somewhere warmer. As a company, we cover all accommodation costs throughout the entire stay (four weeks) and our team members get to choose how long they wish to stay over. Each one is a little different. A week is preferred by some, a month by others. Not to mention the best part - everyone is welcome to bring their +1 at no additional cost.
Why are we doing it?
This get-together is primarily intended to foster team bonding. Since we have a remote-first policy at work, our team is dispersed across the country and we don't get to meet in person very often (of course except in our office in Košice). Workation is an excellent way how to bring people together.
Lisbon was our choice last year (you can read our tiny guide here), and Tenerife the year before. And this year? Lanzarote, the Canary Islands once again. Let me explain what made us select this location, what you ought to know about choosing accommodation, and last but not least - a few things we could have done differently.
Simple as that, I opened the autumn temperature map in Europe and started to look for our final destination. Among my top countries were:
The goal was to find housing for around 30 people, it didn't have to be necessarily one unit (since that’s quite unrealistic), but at least located close to each other. Using Airbnb and Booking.com, I began my search. If you are a smaller group, Airbnb allows you to find a place for up to 16 people, so that could be an option for you. Booking.com seemed more relevant to us since you can select up to 30 people. I still used Airbnb too, just in case there were two nice villas nearby. There were also some attempts with local sites in Italy, but they were too messy and I just couldn't get my head around them. Oh, and I forgot to mention - a hotel wasn't an option. As some of our team members stay up to one month, we always seek houses or villas with a kitchen and proper workspace.
Most of the nice houses on the list were in Italy, but they all suffered from the same disadvantage - being in the middle of nowhere. So what are some other obstacles you should keep in mind when choosing your housing?
Location within the area
Not everyone has a driving license or simply doesn't want to rent a car. Make sure basic amenities are within a walkable distance - for instance, a grocery store or the nearest beach.
Finding the right place with enough workspace for everyone is crucial. Since a few people will be living in the same villa, there should be a couple of desks for people to use. Additionally, we wanted a pool. It’s just nice to have. The availability of parking spots is also something to consider, particularly when renting in the city centre.
Are there enough activities for people to explore? Choosing an area with enough things to do was crucial for us to ensure our team members would not get bored after one week. Tiny villages, though, may be a good option for a short period of time, especially if you are looking to have some proper focus time with your team.
Consider these questions:
Is it easy to get there by plane?
Does the airport have regular flights?
Isn't the accommodation far from the airport?
How does one get from the airport to the accommodation other than by car?
Following many hours of searching, I found the perfect place - Villas de Altos Lanzarote.
There was a gated driveway connecting the villas and they were less than a minute apart. In total, the complex has eight villas that can accommodate up to eight people each. In total, we rented four of them to accommodate 32 people at once, at a cost of about 30k euros for the entire month.
The location was fairly okay compare to the other accommodation, 10min from the nearest shop and less than half an hour to the nearest beach. All the villas had their own pool, plenty of space to work (3 big tables all of them), sufficient internet speed, and enough privacy - there were three bathrooms in each villa. The terrace with a grill was also a nice addition.
Lanzarote has quite some places to explore, so there was no shortage of activities. You could go surfing at Playa De Famara, go-karting nearby the capital city, hiking volcanos, or visit unique architectural attractions by Cesar Manrique.
When it comes to accessibility, this honestly wasn't one of the best places. From our desired destinations, which were Bratislava, Budapest or Vienna there were quite limited flights. From Budapest, there wasn't any direct flight, so we quickly excluded this option. From Vienna and Bratislava, there was a maximum of two flights a week - which isn't necessarily bad, at least we had exact dates when team members are arriving & leaving. But the flight tickets were also quite pricey.
Do something extra
Our workation is taken in a very relaxed manner. As a company we don't really organize any kind of activities, rather we leave it up to our team members. Being over 30, we quickly realized it’s impossible to meet at least once at the same time - therefore we decided to organize a BBQ session in one of the villas.
By helping each other, we brought tables from other villas so we could all sit down, hired a private chef (his name is Paul and the service is absolutely amazing - we highly recommend it!) and we were in for another cool evening. Many of us appreciated this, as it is nearly impossible to gather so many people without any organization. In fact, we did it twice. In the first and the last week as there was a rotation of nearly 50 people throughout the entire stay and we wanted them to experience it all.
What could have we done differently?
Surely, the booking calendar release. It seemed overkill to us to book four villas since we thought the interest for workation wasn't as high. However, we quickly realized the number of people who want to join was greater than we expected.
Our booking calendar looked really simple. Each villa had a separate table and everyone could just put their name down to book. The main pain point was not telling our team members when it would be released. After it was released, everyone went crazy, the table filled up quickly, and some team members couldn't fit in. After all, the issue was resolved, so everyone was satisfied. However, we may need to try something different next time.
Booking of flight tickets! We were unsure whether all of our team members would be able to purchase tickets because the flights were so limited. Additionally, we were concerned that the price of flight tickets would vary too much if someone bought them immediately and someone else later. That’s why we decided to contact a third-party vendor to make a group booking at Ryanair for us. Our team members just needed to choose the date they want to fly-in & fly out + the type of baggage. Perhaps you are now wondering why we shouldn't have done it differently.
Well, as most of you know, flight ticket prices are unpredictable most of the time. We bought them at a certain price (which the company also slightly increased throughout the process) and when we checked later, some flight tickets were much cheaper. Even though we were quite happy that we managed to get all our team members on board, it's understandable that some were unhappy about paying more than they would if they had purchased them independently. As well as that, the whole process was not seamless, and we probably won't do it again.
Generally, most of these issues were a result of late notice announcements. Having trouble finding appropriate accommodation for so many people led us to release everything at the last minute. An advice for you? Research ahead of time and communicate early with your team.
Despite a few minor issues (which give us a lesson for the future) we absolutely love this workation. Being out there in sun, soaking up in Spanish culture, I mean who wouldn't be happy about it?
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