Some workers go to great lengths to hide hush trips from their bosses.
But employees of the Polish company PhotoAid needn’t bother.
The company, which helps travelers take their own passport photos at home, allows its employees to stay at an apartment in Spain for free — provided they work while they’re there.
The apartment is in Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago west of Morocco. Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time and can visit as many times in year as they like, depending on demand from other employees.
The company reimburses half of employees’ airfare too, up to 1,000 Polish zlotys ($246), once a year. Flights from Warsaw to Tenerife can start at around $150 for a six-hour direct flight.
The company started renting the apartment in Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the summer of 2022 as a way to create relationships and build morale among its employees, all of whom work remotely, said co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.
Plus, Mlodzki said he and the other co-founders, Marcin and Tomasz Mlodzki — who are also his brothers — wanted to offer a company perk that would stand out.
How the ‘workcations’ work
PhotoAid is a small company with a young workforce, so most employees don’t have children, said Mlodzki. But those who do tend to group together and use the benefit in the summer months when schools are closed.
Employees can request to bring their partners too, which the company reviews on a case-by-case basis, he said.
Employees must abide by several rules, he said, such as the check-in and check-out protocol. Employees must upload a photo of the apartment on arrival, then do the same on departure to show the next group of employees how they left it.
On arrival, employees are assigned a cleaning task too, but the company hires a professional cleaner for deep cleans, he said. While drinking wine on the balcony and chatting into the night are regular occurrences, employees are not allowed to drink during work hours, he said.
Mlodzki told CNBC Travel that employees like to visit Tenerife with coworkers with shared interests. For example, a recent group played sports in their free time, while another group went to music concerts.
‘The best onboarding in the world’
Around 50 of PhotoAid’s 143 employees have now stayed at the Tenerife apartment, many meeting their teammates in person for the first time during their stays. Around 10 were onboarded as new starters there too, said Mlodzki.
“One of the reasons we decided to open this office was the possibility of offering the best onboarding in the world for senior team members. Those onboarded are not only thrilled but also deeply understand the company and their role in it,” said Mlodzki.
“Often, spontaneous moments occur. For example, after a series of 45-minute sets with 10-minute breaks, we might go on a mini mountain trip and continue onboarding informally. It might even transition into an evening on the terrace.
“We just onboarded our new chief operating officer during a workation in Tenerife, and he was deeply impressed. He had never experienced an onboarding like this before.”
Two senior leaders have scheduled a strategic planning and brainstorming session at the apartment this winter, where average temperatures in January are 68 degrees Fahrenheit, higher than 34 F in the Polish capital of Warsaw.
The 3,200-square-foot apartment overlooks the port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It has three bedrooms, a spacious lounge with board games, two balconies and a small gym. There are also eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.
There’s a bakery next door for fresh bread, with restaurants, bars, wineries, and vermuterias (bars specializing in Spanish vermouth) nearby.
Workation as a ‘wow’ factor
When she was interviewing, Aleksandra Staromiejska said the Tenerife benefit made PhotoAid stand out. Now a company digital public relations specialist, she stayed in the apartment for two weeks in May, along with a colleague from her team.
She started and finished her work early, she said, to spend as much time as possible at the beach, a 20-minute bus ride away. Over the weekend, she and her colleague went hiking in Macizo de Anaga (Anaga mountains).
“I noticed my productivity levels were higher,” said Staromiejska. “I really wanted to do my job quickly so I could finish my work day and have time to go to the beach.”
“It was actually a very relaxing trip. Just being in nature is something else. My batteries were just charged up,” she said.
The Spanish apartment is often mentioned in employee satisfaction surveys, said Mlodzki.
“When we recruit, it’s an attractive benefit that candidates always react positively to.”
A vacay with the boss?
Enamored by the culture and scenery, Mlodzki said he spends half his time in Warsaw and half his time in Tenerife, staying in the master bedroom at PhotoAid’s apartment.
Mlodzki acknowledged that some people might feel nervous about spending so much time with their boss. (Indeed, Staromiejska admitted she did before her workation.) But he said it’s great for rapport.
“It’s super interesting for me to get to know more people. To give and get feedback is very enriching for me,” he said.
From leasing the apartment to paying for employees’ flights, Mlodzki said the investment has been worth it.
“We think about the Tenerife office as the ‘company charger’ with the goal of reenergizing employees and boosting team spirits that can get depleted by remote work.”