What is Coworking? It Could Be A “Co-Workation”

Digital Nomads  are some of the original and happiest coworkers, bebopping around the world, hacking away on their digital projects from wherever they please. And while the vast majority of coworking spaces are very, very mundane, there have always been a handful of “destination” workplaces, such as Hubub (Bali), The Surf Office (Santa Cruz) place, and so on. Not surprisingly, these places seem to be booked up for months in advance (unlike your local coworking space, which has open desks whenever you want! 🙂 )

Charlie Sorrel snarks at fast company about a recent trend, packaged “co-workations”.  In an earlier post, I noted Nader Luthera’s “CoWork the World” expedition, and apparently there are real businesses that do this. It’s a thing now: assemble a group of people who want to travel together to “exotic” locales and spend some of the time there working via the internet.

Sorrel is cool to the whole idea. I take that back. He is hostile to the idea.

The Latest Way To Annihilate Your Work-Life Balance”, he calls it. Likening it to “summer camp”, it’s “like backpacking trips without the backpacks or exploration, but with all the “fun” of a backpacking hostel”. And why would your want to travel to “an exotic, faraway location only to spend most of [your] time on the internet”?

As he says, not everyone will like it.

I think success depends mainly on the “curation” of the participants. The intended audience is “location-independent professionals”, which generally means young, single digital workers. I’m not seeing kids or pets being a plus for these expeditions, and it would be difficult to care for aging parents or many other “grown up” behaviors.

Sorrel makes a good point that it is pretty easy to travel, and ever easier to work while on “vacation” if you really want to. So why do you want to hang out with a bunch of “digital nomads”?

Sure, I get it. I did some bohemian things when I was twenty something,  had fun hanging with other kids, and travelled a bit. Mixing in remote working? I don’t really get that.

I would note that one of the principle benefits of coworking is the sense of belonging and the conviviality and networking that comes from a community of peers. I have to wonder just what kind of community these co-workations develop, and whether these travelling coworkers perceive gains in creativity and productivity typical of most coworkers. While my memory is somewhat hazy, I don’t recall my bohemian days as especially productive, and if there was much of a “feeling of community”, it didn’t last much beyond tonight’s party.

As to the idea that these feckless youths are “professionals”, I guess my notion of “professional” is a bit out of date. Frankly I have to wonder who would hire a worker who has no permanent address and proposes to “dial in” from some tropical hostel, who knows where. Someone who I can never meet in person, and is so self-centered that he chooses to loll about in Bali or wherever, and to heck with you drones back in the city.

For that matter, if I am trying to build systems that are relevant to real people, or even that tackle important social needs, just how useful is the creative input of a rootless nomad who doesn’t live in the world we are targeting?

(Perhaps it is telling that the most successful digital nomads seem to be in the travel business and in the “motivational” industry. E.g., see Jacobs.)

I suspect that the main point is to travel and have fun, and I grant that it is probably more fun than working the same old urban environment. But I doubt that this is a great formula for working, or for solving problems, at least not for very long.


  1. Kimberley Mok , Can co-working vacations offer a better work-life balance?, in Treehuggger. 2016. http://www.treehugger.com/culture/coworkations-better-work-life-balance.html
  2. Charlie Sorrel, The Co-Workation: The Latest Way To Annihilate Your Work-Life Balance, in co.exist. 2016. https://www.fastcoexist.com/3064200/the-co-workation-the-latest-way-to-annihilate-your-work-life-balance

 

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