Schedule a free meeting to discuss your leadership challenges | info@leadersco.co.za

In the world of business and finance in which I play, we’ve been in deep conversations, meetings and workshops about what the new normal of work will be ‘post-Covid’, or Post-Vax. Should we allow our staff to work from home? Should we all have flexi-hours? And do we even need to know where they are, as long as they produce results? What if the person is actually miles away in an exotic location – will they still deliver?

As a Head of the Momentum Investo business with a team of just under 200 employees, I get to influence many decisions and make these calls. But I am younger and perhaps a new breed of CEO, and at times can be a lone voice with my own particular perspective and opinions.

I have an expansive vision of how work can be done and as a leader I like to allow leadership and excellence to rise, no matter where. For a while now, I have debunked the notion of a work/life balance in my own life, embracing what I call work/life integration. It has allowed me to rise, and often on my own terms. I never deliberately schedule downtime, but allow myself to switch off whenever it suits me and if deadlines allow for it. I allow my team to do the same. As travel started to open up I decided to really stretch the limits of this and put it to the test.

A friend invited me to visit him in Uganda ????????, a trip including a long weekend hiking to see the Gorillas ????. His apartment is massive, right next to Museveni’s expansive home, and I’d have an office and all of his staff during the day while he was at the office.  Kenya, bordering Uganda, is my second home, having lived there for 3 years over a decade ago, and so naturally I’d have to visit some friends and work from there for a few days. Then I realised that the following week there was a writing ✍???? retreat in Lamu, an island off the Kenyan coast, organised by the amazing Georgia Black of Littlegig Festivals and Retreats. That would mean another seven day’s stay for that. Should I take leave, or was it possible to still work at the level and pace I do, while on vacation? And could I be as productive as if I’d been working from home or the office?

In Uganda, things started to look possible. I had a highly effective work week and also took 2 days off to enjoy a trek across the country. I finalised a full strategy engagement document while ticking two bucket list items to see the Silverback Gorilla in person and visit the source of the Nile river in Jinja. Next stop in Kenya proved easy too. I spent time in the Maasai Mara packed in over 12 hours of work from a game drive vehicle and another full day of work in my friend’s lovely home in Karen, Nairobi. I sat in and chaired meetings and delivered reports, just in better looking venues.

The writing retreat also flowed seamlessly, just like the tides of Lamu. Once I was settled and wifi connected, I quickly found my work rhythm with nonchalance and ease. I clocked up to 7 hours of meeting time in one day alone. I started joking in many of my meetings that I wasn’t on vacation.

I coined my time in East Africa a #workcation.

Here’s what I found about productivity and working remotely:

 

  1. It’s easy – most people think why would you work from your dream destination. Why not? With WiFi available at most locations, even on the Mara River in Kenya while watching the great migration, it’s now easy to choose to be switched on anywhere.
  2. It makes you focussed. You don’t want to miss that sunset cruise or dhow lunch that your friends have planned, so you clamp down and do your work when you have the time to. If you struggle with procrastination, like me, and need a deadline then this will have you ticking your task list off at a rapid rate.
  3. It give you time to think – top business leaders often link their success rate to having the time to be creative and think. I found an easy shift from needing time – to having the time to dream and  think on tap. I could switch the tap on and off as I pleased. Very easy to do when gawking at the wild water of the Nile River.
  4. The convenience – It’s cheaper to travel during the week and there are fewer guests so you will find plenty of places with privacy for your mobile office.
  5. It’s so much fun – workcations seem like a juxtaposition of two opposites but if you enjoy your job then these two worlds can co-exist.
  6. Inspiration – By experiencing new places, viewpoints and cultures you may just get the insight to solve problems or come up with new ideas that will elevate your work performance. There’s a Setswana quote in South Africa and Botswana that loosely translates to “To travel is to see”. “See” meaning to discover, unfold and grow. So why not grow in your professional, personal and spiritual life all at once and come back to the office with a completely refreshed perspective.

Will I shift this into my company policy? I am not sure yet. As a leader what I am sure of is that it is possible to be just as or even more productive by working from what are considered vacation destinations. Moreover it opens up wells of creativity and unleashes an innovative mindset. The thinking time naturally happens as you experience new cultures, scenes, cuisine and people. You don’t have to choose, you can definitely mix work and a vacation; so take that #workcation.