Could sponsored vacations be a future WFH perk?


Step aside sweatpants: sponsored vacations are the enviable future home office perk.

Cabinet+ CEO and Co-founder Julia Hawkins. Image: Supplied
Cabinet+ CEO and Co-founder Julia Hawkins. Image: Supplied

The future of business travel could become a blend of vacations and whole-company off-sites, says the co-founder of a software platform for executive assistants.

Cabinet CEO and Co-founder Julia Hawkins said the rate at which people return to the office for work could depend on how much travel businesses take in the future.

“In one version where people do return to the office…I do think business travel will probably take a back seat, because that is the risk you are willing to take…going into the office,” she said during a Blacklane IG Live chat on Wednesday.

“The other version is where people are working from home all the time and actually…a trip to see colleagues or meet with some clients and get some face-to-face time actually sounds really good.”

Sponsored vacations as the future home office perk

Denver-based Hawkins said there’d been a lot of discussion recently in the community section on Cabinet about planning off-sites later in the year, not just for leadership teams, but company-wide.

“I predict companies will invest more in the vacation rental market where companies are sponsoring their employees to come together,” she said.

“(For example) a luxurious mountain site where they can ski on the weekend but then Monday through Friday they’re there to do team building and really effective company bonding.

“And then everyone leaves, maybe they’re tested when they get there but when everyone goes home, they’re back to work in their home offices.”

A person skis down an ski slope. Image credit: iStock
Ski on the weekend, have meetings during the week. A new way of working? Image credit: Marcin Wiklik/iStock

The move is something many companies are considering, Hawkins said.

“At Cabinet, that’s what we’re considering doing and I’ve talked to a lot of founders who are in organizations who want to do that model more and more,” she said.

“I know that the vacation rental market has started to improve in the last year (and) I think people really do want to take some vacation trips so why can’t work sponsor some of them.”

Changing priorities when it comes to booking business travel

Hawkins said when the pandemic first hit, many executive assistants spent their days trying to get refunds on trips that had been planned out for the year.

“I think now, buying travel insurance will be common, or looking for vendors where that comes with the package,” she said.

“(Also) understanding how many COVID cases are there, where are the testing locations, providing people with more information about feeling safe when they get to a destination.

“All of this information helps people to calculate the risks of travel way more than they did before.”

She said adding a medical evacuation plan to a travel itinerary could also help to provide added security to a trip.

“I have a friend here in the mountains who was in Jackson Hole and he got COVID-19 and he wanted to be transferred to a hospital somewhere else,” she said.

“Executive assistants need…to have a plan B if something happens, so (a medical evacuation plan) is a kind of assurance that if companies start to offer it will be really helpful in driving people to take those risks.”

Inter-city travel could help reduce fear of flying

Hawkins said Cabinet members have been discussing work-arounds for short flights, which many executives have been cautious to take in today’s climate.

“We’ve seen that more people are scared of flying, and people on Cabinet have discussed sending their executives by car through to different destinations,” she said.

“Renting a private car that can take them across the eastern seaboard or can take them from New York to Boston…is kind of an interesting alternative and I think that is something that might stick.

“Especially as you…can work from cars now a lot more efficiently.”

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Amy Mitchell-Whittington

Amy is an Australian journalist living in Berlin. She covers a range of topics, with a special interest in tech and science.