The ultimate work perk? This company provides a free place to stay in Spain

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.

Employees can stay up to three weeks at a time at the Tenerife apartment and can visit as many times as they like.

Source: PhotoAid

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.

Workcation time spent in Tenerife doesn’t count as employee vacation time, which is up to 26 days a year, said PhotoAid co-founder Rafal Mlodzki.

Source: PhotoAid

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.

Coworkers with shared interests — such as sports and music — travel to Tenerife together.

Source: PhotoAid

“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 apartment

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.

The apartment has eight workspaces with high-speed internet, computer monitors and ergonomic chairs.

Source: PhotoAid

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. 

Aleksandra Staromiejska started her work days early to maximize her time at the beach, she said.

Source: Aleksandra Staromiejska

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.”

Vacations to Spain’s Canary Islands are popular with employees of PhotoAid, a company based in the much colder city of Warsaw, Poland.

Source: PhotoAid

“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.

Rafal Mlodzki, Aleksandra Staromiejska and Michel Jonca. “It’s super interesting for me to get to know more people,” said co-founder Mlodzki.

Source: PhotoAid

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.”

Source link

#ultimate #work #perk #company #free #place #stay #Spain

Where to stay in India? Here are 8 former palaces that are now hotels

The Maharajas of India’s past built magnificent palaces as a symbol of their power.

But in 1971, India abolished “privy purses,” or governmental payments made to these rulers. Several of them transformed their vast estates into heritage hotels, or leased them to renowned hotel chains which carefully restored them to their former glory.

From the eastern state of Odisha to Rajasthan in the north, here are eight regal retreats where travelers can live like kings and queens.

1. Jehan Numa Palace — Bhopal

Visitors can step back in time at Jehan Numa Palace in Bhopal, which has a neoclassical style and a 19th-century exterior.

Jehan Numa Palace.

Source: Jehan Numa Palace

This pristine white building was built by General Obaidullah Khan, son of the last ruling Begum of Bhopal, and transformed into a 100-room hotel by his grandsons in the 1980s. The hotel contains salvaged original artifacts and Raj-era photos as well as modern luxuries, such as a palm-lined pool and Chakra spa services.

Its palatial charm lingers among the racehorses that gallop around the track encircling the hotel. Travelers can dine on Italian and Mediterranean cuisine here, but Indophiles opt for the hotel’s legendary Bhopali fare prepared from secret palace recipes in a restaurant named Under the Mango Tree. 

2. Haveli Dharampura — Delhi

Once a nobleman’s home, the 19th-century Haveli Dharampura was meticulously restored over six years under the leadership of the prominent political figure Vijay Goel.

Haveli Dharampura.

Source: Heritage Dharampura

It’s now a 14-room boutique hotel, which received an honorable mention in 2017’s UNESCO Asia-Pacific Awards for Cultural Heritage Conservation. The atmospheric Mughal-era hotel has red sandstone-arched colonnades, a marble courtyard, Arabesque tile-work and intricate stone and wood details that echo the opulence of yesteryears. 

The in-house Lakhori restaurant prepares historic Mughal recipes, while the breezy rooftop provides a delightful setting for drink-in-hand lounging while listening to the muezzin’s call from the nearby Jama Masjid — a soul-stirring reminder that you are in the heart of Old Delhi.

The hotel has guided heritage walks, kite-flying and high tea on the roof terrace, and kathak performances on Saturday and Sunday, where guests can enjoy an evening of Indian classical dance.

3. Taj Lake Palace — Udaipur

Accessible by boat, this stark white edifice in the heart of Lake Pichola (as seen in the 1983 James Bond flick “Octopussy”) was originally a summer pleasure palace for Mewar royalty in the 1740s.

It was transformed into a heritage hotel in the 1960s and is now impeccably managed by the Taj Group.

Taj Lake Palace

Source: Taj Lake Palace

Straight out of a fairy tale, the Taj Lake Palace boasts domed pavilions, ornamental turrets, crystal chandeliers, and 83 antique-filled rooms and suites, some which overlook a gleaming courtyard that hosts nightly folk dances.

It has four dining options serving globe-trotting menus, a spa boat and butler service.

4. Taj Falaknuma Palace — Hyderabad

Perched nearly 2,000 feet above sea level, this hilltop hotel has 60 rooms and suites, which increase in lavishness as you move up its room classes.

Taj Falaknuma Palace.

Source: Taj Falaknuma Palace

By the time you reach the Nizam Suite — graced with fine tapestry, a private pool and personal butler — it’s easy to envision the lifestyle of the Nizam of Hyderabad, who lived in the palace in the 19th century.

The rooms aren’t the only lure. The 130-year-old edifice is known for its state banquets of yore-style food, grand gardens, billiard room with monogrammed cues and ivory balls, and a library modeled on the one at Windsor Castle. Staterooms are decked out with Venetian chandeliers, royal portraits and heirlooms from the Nizams’ era.

5. Taj Usha Kiran Palace — Gwalior

This palace dating to the 1800s was, in its past life, a guesthouse and later royal residence of the ruling family of the state of Gwalior.

Taj Usha Kiran Palace.

Source: Taj Usha Kiran Palace

Today, it’s a lavish Taj hotel that balances old-world vibes with contemporary style. Its interiors contain ancient stone carvings, filigree work and rich tapestries. For a regal experience, travelers can take a heritage tour through the sprawling estate and stay in one of the Royal Suites, which are kitted out with four-poster beds, Venetian mirrors and mother-of-pearl mosaics.

The hotel also offers plenty of facilities to help guests unwind, including a spa, outdoor pool, and an Art Deco-style bar.

6. Rambagh Palace — Jaipur

Set in 47 acres of gardens that are home to peacocks, this former hunting lodge and royal abode of the Maharaja of Jaipur, dates back to 1835. It is now a heritage hotel managed by the Taj Group.

Rambagh Palace.

Source: Rambagh Palace

Exquisite antique furnishings, silk drapes, domed wooden ceilings and four-poster beds give the 78 rooms and suites a regal feel.

Many other features make Rambagh Palace an unforgettable retreat: heritage walks around the premises conducted by the palace butler, golf putting green, original palace dining room with chandeliers and gilded mirror, a Polo bar festooned with trophies and memorabilia of the Jaipur polo team, and a spa with Indian healing services.

The palace has hosted the likes of King Charles, Louis Mountbatten and Jacqueline Kennedy.

7. The Belgadia Palace — Mayurbhanj

Nestled in the charming town of Baripada, The Belgadia Palace has been with the descendants of the same royal family since it was built in 1804, giving it an authenticity that is hard to replicate.

The Belgadia Palace.

Source: The Belgadia Palace

A portion of this historic palace has been converted into an 11-room hotel by Mrinalika and Akshita Bhanj Deo, royal descendants of the family. It boasts lofty ceilings, marble corridors and artifacts.

There’s also a lavish dining hall that serves Odisha-style meals, and elegant verandas on which to drink tea. The palace arranges activities such as traditional Chhau dance performances on the pristine lawns, handicraft village tours and other excursions. 

8. Chittoor Kottaram — Kochi

The height of exclusivity, the Chittoor Kottaram — which once belonged to the king of Cochin — hosts only one group of no more than six people at any one time.

Chittoor Kottaram.

Source: Chittoor Kottaram

Nestled amid coconut groves by the edge of the lagoon backwaters of Kerala, the three-room abode boasts beautiful Athangudi floor tiles and wooden ceilings.

Precious artworks by Lady Hamlyn of The Helen Hamlyn Trust, the restorer of this 300-year-old palace, lend the property something of a museum feel. A personal chef prepares traditional Keralan dishes that can be eaten at a waterside gazebo or in the lush garden.

Ayurvedic massages and private cultural shows can be arranged, as can a private sunset cruise on the serene waterways.

Source link

#stay #India #palaces #hotels

Should you check emails on vacation or face a ‘tidal wave’ of messages later? These CEOs have some ideas

Should you check email on vacation or face a tsunami of messages once you’re back at the office?

For workers at war with their inboxes, neither is a great option.  

That’s why many people choose something in the middle. But even monitoring email on holiday “is almost always a bad move,” said Zachary Weiner, CEO of the marketing company Emerging Insider Communications.

“Once that Pandora’s box is open, you usually find yourself having to respond, having to put out fires, unintentionally spending hours and hours of time,” he said.

Still, some 84% of white-collar workers do it, and more than 70% are triaging messages from three or more platforms — like Teams, Slack and WhatsApp — said work-life balance consultant Joe Robinson.

“Everyone is dog paddling out there in this tidal wave,” he said. “We’re doing everything wrong. That’s why everybody’s so frazzled.”

An ’email intervention’

Robinson launched an “Email Intervention Campaign” earlier this month to deal with issues like “vacation email panic,” he told CNBC Travel.

According to a survey of workers he conducted in April:

  • 25% have skipped a vacation to avoid email backlog when returning to the office
  • 34% have shortened vacations for the same reason
  • 87% favor a company policy to disconnect after work, except during emergencies

One company doing it right is the Mercedes-Benz Group, which lets employees auto-delete incoming email messages while they’re on vacation, he said. (Out-of-office messages alert senders that messages have been deleted, too.)

“I encounter tons of people who are burned out from email,” said work-life speaker and consultant Joe Robinson. Managers and “the people at the top are … worse off.”

Source: Joe Robinson

According to Robinson, 95% of respondents said they would support a similar policy at their companies.

Robinson advises companies to create defined email policies, ideally ones which give workers permission not to check email on vacation.

Gates Little, CEO of the U.S.-based lender altLine Sobanco, agreed, adding leadership should set the example.     

“If your boss is always answering emails while away, don’t you think you’d be expected to do the same?” he said. “Whereas a boss who preaches work-life balance will set an example by not responding to emails until they return.”

Start before your vacation

1. Pad the dates on your “Out of Office” autoreply

Set an autoreply with your vacation timeline and a colleague’s contact details for urgent emails — but turn it on a few days before and after your leave dates.

“When you extend your OOO auto-response to encompass the days before and after vacation, you can enjoy your time feeling less stressed,” said Shawn Plummer, founder and CEO of financial and insurance agency The Annuity Expert.

2. Select an “email partner”

An “email partner” solves two problems, said Jack Underwood, CEO of the delivery software company Circuit. You can leave with peace of mind and avoid “an endless backlog of emails to dig through” upon your return.

Joe Robinson advises “partners” tackle emergency emails only, to avoid overburdening them. And Emerging Insider’s Weiner recommends instructing your “partner” to text — not email — to discuss urgent matters.

3. Set filters

Stanislav Khilobochenko, a vice president at the customer services company Clario, uses filters to distinguish urgent emails from irrelevant ones. He said, “I set up as many filters as possible so emails that arrive while I’m away are already sorted by priority.”  

Kim Rohrer, principal people partner at human resources company Oyster, said she discovered her top email pro-tip during her 24-day honeymoon in 2011.  

She sets up two filters:

  • Send all mail to the archive and mark as read
  • Send all mail with “README” in the subject to a special “README” folder

Via autoreply, she notifies senders she’s archiving all emails during her vacation dates. She refers urgent emails to a colleague, but asks that non-urgent emails “you’d like me to read … upon my return” be resent to her with “README” in the subject line.

“I once checked, and I had received over 3,000 emails after a two-week vacation, but only had four emails in my ‘read later’ folder,” she told CNBC Travel, which “just goes to show how much false urgency impacts our workloads.”

4. Mute notifications

To tune out work, mute email notifications and messenger systems, said Christy Pyrz, chief marketing officer of the supplement company Paradigm Peptides.

“Do yourself the favor,” she said. “Mute the apps.”

Mrigaa Sethi, pictured here with wife, Erin (left), in Sri Lanka, said both have a habit of working on vacations. “This time we deleted our email apps and turned off notifications and had the best time ever.”

Source: Mrigaa Sethi

But travel editor Mrigaa Sethi goes a step further. “Delete the apps! Email, Slack, Teams … be absolute. Don’t leave the door partway open.”

They said they understand the urge to check email daily to prevent email backlog, but “I know myself well enough that even the slightest bit of news will make my brain whir.”

Taming email on vacation

If you can’t tear away from your inbox, follow these tips to minimize email time:

1. Set designated times

David Ly, the CEO of the Nasdaq-listed tech company Iveda, said he checks email daily on vacation.

“Whether I’m on vacation or not, I try to remain disciplined, setting specific time aside,” he said.

Jonathan Zacharias, founder of the digital marketing agency GR0, suggests doing “a quick check in just once a day.”

And Andrew Meyer, the founder and CEO of the digital energy advisor Arbor, recommends choosing either early mornings or late nights “so as not to miss any daytime activities.”

2. Don’t respond (if you don’t have to)

Emails proliferate like rabbits, said Joe Robinson. On average, every sent email triggers five more messages, and everyone takes three minutes of your time, he said.

“You save yourself 18 minutes with every email you don’t send,” he said.

And stop sending one-liner emails, like “thanks” and “got it,” he said. “People still have to open that up.”

For Brian Lee, founder and CEO of the tech sports card company Arena Club, not responding to emails while on vacation sets a clear boundary. “People will respect your time more,” he said.

Ease back into the office

Denise Hemke, the chief product officer at employee screening company Checkr, said her company blocks off time to catch up on email after vacations.

“We ask our employees to spend a few days focusing solely on their emails before getting back into the swing of things,” she said. “This helps them get caught up quickly and efficiently, without feeling overwhelmed with an overstuffed inbox when they return to work.”

Brian Binke, CEO of the recruiting company The Birmingham Group, said his company allocates time for employees to catch up on emails after trips, too.

“We want our people to relax as much as possible when they’re on vacation,” he said.

Source link

#check #emails #vacation #face #tidal #wave #messages #CEOs #ideas

I asked ChatGPT to help me plan a vacation. Here’s what happened next

Some people love travel planning.

But I am not one of those people.

So the idea that artificial intelligence chatbots, such as ChatGPT and Bing, can research travel destinations and create itineraries is intriguing.

But I’m skeptical too.

Do recommendations just scratch the surface — for example, suggesting that I see the Eiffel Tower in Paris? Or can they recommend lesser-known restaurants and handle specific hotel requests too?

The answer is: yes and no — at least for ChatGPT.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t test Bing. When I tried to access it, I was put on a waiting list. The website said I could “get ahead in the line” if I set Microsoft defaults on my computer and scanned a QR code to install the Bing app. I did both. I’m still waiting.

ChatGPT was easier. I went to the developer’s website, clicked on the word “ChatGPT,” registered for an account — and started chatting.

‘Can you help me plan a beach trip?’

“Of course!” replied ChatGPT. But first, I needed to tell it about my interests, budget and how long I planned to be away.

I’m looking for a week-long beach trip in mid-March to spend time with my family, with no set budget, I typed.

“Sounds like a wonderful idea!” it replied, before recommending Hawaii, the Caribbean — specifically the Bahamas, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic — Florida and Costa Rica, along with details about the weather and popular attractions for each.

Nice. But I live in Singapore, I said.

“I see!” it exclaimed. (ChatGPT loves exclamation points.) In that case, Bali, Indonesia; Langkawi, Malaysia; and Phuket and Krabi in Thailand were better choices.

ChatGPT is nothing if not apologetic.

Cost estimates for each hotel were more accurate. But ChatGPT couldn’t show photographs of the hotels or help book them — although it did provide ample instructions on how to do both.

By road or by rail?

Flights

ChatGPT can name airlines that connect cities, but it can’t give current flight information or help book flights.  

It wasn’t able to tell me the cheapest fare — or any fare — from London to New York this spring because it doesn’t “have access to real-time pricing information,” it said.

In fact, ChatGPT data ends at September 2021; it doesn’t “know” anything that’s happened since.

However, the bot could answer which month the London-to-New York route is usually the cheapest, which it said is “January and February, or during the shoulder season months of March and November.”

As for the best airline in the world, it said: “As an AI language model, I cannot have personal preferences or opinions.” But it went on to name the top five airlines named to Skytrax’s “World’s Top 100 Airlines” in 2021.

The list wasn’t correct.

The list provided by ChatGPT appears to be Skytrax’s airline ranking from 2019 instead.  

“Where should I eat?”

Specific questions

I had many more questions for ChatGPT, such as:

“How should I spend five days in South Africa?”
“Which chateaux accept visitors in Bordeaux?”
“If I only have one day in London, what should I do?”
“Which rides have the longest lines at Disney World?”

But before I could, my screen said “Access denied” alongside an “error code 1020” message.

This error may be caused by overloaded servers or by exceeding the daily limit, according to the tech website Stealth Optional. Either way, all of my previous chats were inaccessible, a huge negative for travelers in the middle of the planning process.

A new window didn’t fix the problem, but opening one in “incognito mode” did. Once in, I clicked on “Upgrade to Plus,” which showed that the free plan is available when demand is low, but for $20 per month, the “Plus plan” gives access to ChatGPT all the time, faster responses and priority to use new features.

With access again, I quickly asked about wait times on Disney World rides, a subject which I had spoken to luxury travel advisor Jonathan Alder of Jonathan’s Travels about last week. Alder lives close to the park and has lost count of how many times he’s visited, he said. Yet, only one of their answers — Epcot’s “Frozen Ever After” — overlapped.

ChatGPT mentioned that FastPass and Genie+ can reduce wait times at Disney World, which is partly right. The company phased out its “skip the line” virtual queue FastPass program when it introduced Genie+ in the fall of 2021.

The takeaway

ChatGPT is fast, chatty and feels like you’re interacting with a human. I found myself responding with unnecessary pleasantries — “Ok, sure” and “Thank you” — out of habit.

I could see how it could save travelers’ time, especially if they are looking for an overview or are at the early stages of planning.

But information will need to be current, of course — and bugs and error messages, which I faced several times in addition to the “1020” message mentioned above — will need to be fixed.

OpenAI states that the current ChatGPT version “is a free research preview.” It also says the system may “occasionally generate incorrect or misleading information” and that it’s “not intended to give advice.”

When I asked it about its travel planning abilities, it said it “can assist with many aspects of travel planning” but that it may not be able to “provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances.”

My verdict: Travel agents’ jobs are secure for the time being.

Source link

#asked #ChatGPT #plan #vacation #Heres #happened