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A laptop and a Mai Tai: Workations are latest trend for remote workers

Remote work is on the rise. According to Gallup's 2017 poll on the State of the American Workplace, 43 percent of employees spend at least some of their time working in a location different from their co-workers, up from 39 percent in 2012.

The reason: Besides new technology that enables people to be connected from every corner of the world, most people — about 53 percent of the 15,000 adults Gallup surveyed — want a job that offers greater work-life balance and better personal well-being. It seems to be working: Engagement is highest among workers who spend three to four days working remotely, Gallup's survey revealed.

Emmanuel Guisset is keying in on this trend and grabbing the attention of remote designers, developers, entrepreneurs, artists, academics and more, from internet platforms like LinkedIn, Google, Facebook, Zynga and more.

The 34-year-old Belgian native is the founder of Outsite, a collection of nine unique work/play accommodations that cater to the growing community of entrepreneurs and digital nomads. Among Outsite's locations: Costa Rica, Santa Cruz, San Diego, Hawaii, Lake Tahoe, Puerto Rico, Lisbon and Bali.

Outsite's Lake Tahoe location
Source: Outsite
Outsite's Lake Tahoe location

"We are the new hospitality solution for millennials. By 2020, 50 percent of the workforce will be working remotely," said Guissett, who came to the U.S. seven years ago when the Belgium travel tech company he was working for wanted to build out their U.S. branch in California. "I ended up in San Jose. I had an image in my mind of the beach and surf, and it was not like that at all."

So Guissett moved to Santa Cruz. "It's a beautiful place, and I started to have that lifestyle of working remotely from my house, and I really enjoyed it. Between conferences and meetings, I could surf and mountain bike. I had a good lifestyle."

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But Guissett was 27 and he wanted to travel. "I don't mind working, but I don't want to be strapped in the same city all the time," he said. So he worked on his projects while traveling to South America, Mexico and throughout the U.S. The problem was, he said, he couldn't find places to stay where he could comfortably work.

"Sometimes there was no workspace or internet, and sometimes the room was not even clean or hotels were too expensive for long stays, and hostels were not really my age group."

Worst of all, he felt professionally isolated.

That's when he came up with the idea of forming a co-working hospitality business that would combine all the elements of great work/life balance and attract a community of like-minded professionals who played as hard as they worked. Guissett beta-tested the concept on Airbnb and Craigslist and immediately found there was a demand. Next he set out looking for properties that met his three criteria: an upscale villa with large, comfortable rooms; a section of the property that could be converted to a large workspace; and it had to be less than five minutes to a decent surf spot.

"It feels rustic and brings people back to the basics." -Tony Savor, Facebook's director of infrastructure engineering, on bringing a team to Santa Cruz for a 'workation.'

Just two years old, Outsite participated in the accelerator program at 500 Startups and has raised nearly $1.5 million in funding. Guissett said he is about to close on another round. His prime market: 100 percent virtual companies," which has grown from 26 virtual companies in 2014 to 76 virtual companies in 2015 to 125 in 2016, according to FlexJobs.

Guissett's company is one of a growing number that are popping up to offer location-independent employees a place to plug in while enjoying the view. DigitalOutposts, Surf House, SecondHouse and Refuga all offer beautiful accommodations, large workspaces, superfast Wi-Fi and the chance to network with other remote workers.

Industries where remote working is on the rise

Field
2012%
2018%
Difference (Percentage Point 8)
Finance/Insurance/Retail 39 47 +8
Transportation 55 61 +6
Manufacturing or construction 34 38 +4
Retail 26 30 +4
Health care 31 34 +3
Computer/Information systems/Mathematical 54 57 +3
Law or public policy 41 43 +2
Arts/Design/Entertainment/Sports/Media 48 48 ---
Community/Social services 44 43 -1
Science/Engineering/Architecture 44 41 -3
Education/Training/Library 38 34 -4

Source: Gallup Inc. "State of the American Workplace"

"The most important thing to guarantee is very fast internet," Guissett said. "We put a lot of money into that. Then a good work space, monitors, whiteboard, printer. Things you don't find in a vacation spot. The communal aspect, they really like."

Brie Reynolds, senior career specialist at FlexJobs and Remote.co, says companies like Outsite fill a growing need. "There are more creative ways to work remotely than simply at home. We often talk about this as getting your 'people fix' when you work remotely. For some this is exactly why they've wanted to work remotely — as a lifestyle choice, where they can travel, meet new people, all while holding meaningful work and growing their careers."

Source: Outsite

Tony Savor, Facebook's director of infrastructure engineering, said he brought his core data storage team of a dozen people twice to Outsite's Santa Cruz location to focus on future strategies. "Santa Cruz has a completely different feel because it's by the ocean and takes one away from the day to day of work life. Having done these sorts of things in multiple places, that one works the best. It feels rustic and brings people back to the basics."

Guissett said his goal is to have a property in every cool city in the world. "It's about work/life balance. If I can work from anywhere and have free time in my work schedule, why can't I go to San Diego and sit on the beach in the morning and do my work? It's a little bit of both."