Jodi’s Journal: This Labor Day, consider a ‘workcation’

Sept. 6, 2020

Few PR pitches snare me, but this one did.

“Forget the water cooler chatter,” it said.

How about the chance to choose your own happy hour, order breakfast with your Zoom meeting and swap your home office for an immersive high-tech experience?

That’s apparently what awaits at the Historic Smithton Inn, an 18th century home turned into a boutique hotel in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

It just installed the fastest internet around, the pitch continued. It strung Edison lights on the patio. While forced to close during the height of the pandemic, there was time for such improvements. Now, the hope is there’s return on investment, I imagine.

Enter the “workcation” concept, as innkeeper Rebecca Gallagher invited couples and singletons to her newly recast “work somewhere different” getaway with a package that includes an overnight stay, breakfast and a glass of wine starting at $159. Discount code WINE for those who are interested.

“We’re fully positioned now to have travelers that want a change of scenery, need reliable, high-speed internet and could appreciate a great bottle of wine,” Gallagher said.

I’ve never been to the area, but it intrigued me. Evidently, you can see Amish buggies and hear their horses trotting at the same time as you can charge a Tesla in the inn’s electric vehicle charging station.

Somehow that profound contrast feels like it’s meeting us where we’re at in 2020.

And that’s the whole idea, I think, as we enter this ceremonial end-of-summer holiday weekend and look toward back-to-school and maybe back-to-the-office season. Getting through what’s ahead while keeping our overall health as intact as possible requires meeting people where they’re at – physically, mentally and emotionally.

For those still working from home, those in various stages of transition or just anticipating potential disruption ahead, this might be the time to give yourself a change of scenery – especially if you can take advantage of school being in session for now.

Kira Kimball, chief innovation officer at the Marsh & McLennan Agency’s Sioux Falls office – where they’re working remote for the foreseeable future – gave me this to think about recently.

“Part of what we’ve done with moving to remote work and the complexities of living, working and schooling in often one space is that we’ve given colleagues more control over their own time,” she told me.

“We are really becoming more of a ‘results-oriented’ workplace as opposed to a ‘time and place’ workplace.”

The team has appreciated this flexibility and the empathy extended to them, she added.

“People might show up from their cabin, their campsite, their patio, directly after working out – like I did this morning with a colleague, no makeup, a towel to dab my forehead. I anticipate with school starting again, more of that will happen, and more out of the 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. norm in terms of hours will happen,” she said.

“Perhaps spouses will think about their schedules being in the same house: one working from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. and the other working after that time. And then when kids are in the mix, even more challenges and innovations.”

Innovation – often a word that catches my attention – that I will suggest is maybe a missing element as we have recalibrated our work settings.

Many have told me their productivity hasn’t suffered, and some say it’s better, which is good.

But let me suggest this: If that sounds like your productivity, are you judging it simply by the completion of tasks or the meeting of metrics? Because that’s also what I’m hearing, especially from leaders assessing how this is all going.

The jobs are getting done. The boxes are getting checked. Your business is meeting its basic objectives, in some cases more efficiently than pre-pandemic and in some cases less, but the work is still getting done.

But what about the innovation? What’s the last big or even small new idea you had? Have you talked ideas with colleagues lately that didn’t apply to something immediately in front of you? Do you have a strategy for what you and your organization should focus on in preparation for when we finally emerge from all this?

Innovation requires a lot of ingredients, but for me, time and space are two big ones. My biggest, best ideas come when I’m away from my work space, off my technology. They come when I’m out for a walk, sitting on a plane, getting ready for the day or winding down for the day.

So, leaders, if this sounds familiar, think about the workcation concept for you and your team. But don’t just go somewhere new to work on the tasks of the day, week or quarter. Go in order to give yourself the time and space to gain clarity and creativity for working toward the future.

Success in our current work environment isn’t going to be measured based simply on how you got through 2020. It’s going to be about what your organization brings to the market in a post-pandemic world. And I’m convinced the only way to win there is by thinking differently. Everything else will have changed, and you’ll need to as well.

How do you serve the Amish buggy driver, the Tesla driver, and/or those in between?

Figure that out, and your trip to the Historic Smithton Inn will have been invaluable.

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Jodi’s Journal: This Labor Day, consider a ‘workcation’

As we head into fall, consider a “workcation” with a focus on the future.

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