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TREND: THE WELLNESS SABBATICAL

With most of us now able to work-from-anywhere, digital nomadism and wellness sabbaticals are poised to rise


Back in January, we named the wellness sabbatical a top trend for 2020. A concept born of the steady rise in remote work, we defined it as a longer (3-week-plus) stay at a destination where hours of work and wellness experiences were blended each day—and at destinations intentionally focused on making that happen successfully.

Then the pandemic hit, and overnight, most of us became digital nomads, working from home (WFH) but really able to ultimately work from anywhere (WFA). Digital nomadism was no longer some niche luxury; it was an enforced necessity. As parts of the world slowly open up, and as a long (and for many permanent) work-from-anywhere future sinks in, more people are escaping crowded cities, giving up those huge rents, and relocating in healthier, breezier or beach-ier destinations, where they’re working and seeking nature and wellness. (And you can see the trend of traveling for long stays in places with low infection rates taking off.) More countries (whether Bali or Barbados), with their inbound tourism markets decimated, are now capitalizing on this new normal and rolling out long-term visa programs for work tourists. As Bermuda’s “Work from Paradise” campaign puts it: “No need to be trapped in your apartment in a densely populated city…come spend the year with us working or coding on the water.”

More high-end and affordable travel destinations are making moves to lure the work-wellness sabbatical seeker, from Rancho La Puerta in Mexico’s wellness sabbatical program, where your suite is set up as an amazing private office, to digital nomad platform Selina (with dozens of remote work-wellness locations globally) now launching a subscription program allowing people to move from property to property starting at $500 a month—because the market is moving beyond traditional digital nomads/freelancers to a huge wave of people now working from home permanently, including salaried workers.

There haven’t been many travel trends to call out during the pandemic, but with a sudden work-from-anywhere future, millions more nomads will seek (even permanently) work-wellness sabbaticals all around the world. And more companies and tourism boards will get smart and serve them.

This is inspired by “The Wellness Sabbatical” trend in the 2020 Global Wellness Trends Report
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Summit Trend in the News

Struggling Tourist Destinations Pitch Themselves to New Digital Nomads as Remote Work LocalesSKIFT
 
How the pandemic is accelerating the trend of digital nomads in an unexpected wayand how some travel destinations are taking action to make it much easier for people to come and work and live there, as leisure travel has been hit hard. 
Trend: Extended Stays­Wunderman Thompson Intelligence
 
With the pandemic blurring the lines between home, office and travel (and offices shut for who knows how long), travel brands are redefining what luxury vacations look like, catering to both work and wellness. 
Even a Forced Sabbatical Can Have Profound BenefitsQuartz
 
The co-founder of the Sabbatical Project argues that the unprecedented disruption of routine life by the coronavirus delivers a big silver lining: a forced sabbatical (an extended, purposeful time away from work-as-usual). 
Want to Work from the Beach? Visas from Countries Offering Cheap Living, Low COVID-19 Rates Target Digital NomadsReuters
 
Offering sunny beaches, cheap living and low infection rates, countries including Bermuda, Georgia, Barbados and Estonia have launched visa schemes to lure the rising wave of remote workers looking to ride out the pandemic with a mix of work and travel.

Forecasting the Future

  • Experts are now analyzing the likely future scope of the work-from-home megatrend, forecasting “the death” of the city and the traditional office. Companies will keep cost-cutting, and Stanford economist Nicolas Bloom estimates that 50–60% of the global population would be able to keep at a work-from-anywhere future in perpetuity. It’s these realities that will lead to a massive paradigm shift in the very concepts of “work” and “travel” (and a rise in new models that blend them).
     
  • A “wellness sabbatical” can conjure wealthy people heading to luxury wellness resorts: We all read the articles about wealthy travelers fleeing to beautiful, isolated luxury destinations to ride out the lockdown. And the digital nomad trend has been more narrowly associated with affluent millennials. But the digital nomad and wellness sabbatical trend will evolve for the masses, for everyone, with innovative high-end and affordable models.
     
  • For employees that have been sent home, with studies showing that means longer hours and always-on work, the big, future issue in workplace wellness is helping people balance life, work and healthy behaviors. Employers will subsidize fitness/wellness classes (digitally at first) for WFH employees. And they will get on boardand support the wellness pursuits oftheir rising digital nomad workforce.
     
  • Many people don’t want to travel yet, and people from countries like the US can’t go to many places. So, the wellness stay-battical is very much a part of this trend. You will see new platforms rising to support at home and local wellness, such as Swimply in the US, which lets you book people’s private backyard pools by the hour for safe swims. (The sharing economy will increasingly be sharing unshared spaces and wellness experiences.)
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