I‘m chained to my desk, head down, desperate to make my deadline – no change there, but what is different today are the distractions. Currently capturing my attention is a huge navy blue stingray hovering across the reef like an aquatic magic carpet. Earlier on, I spotted a pair of inky-black stingrays, with their long tails trailing behind them like whips.
Later, I watched a school of jackfish leap from the water as they gobbled up their tiny silver prey. I’ve also spent time musing over the colours of the Indian Ocean; milky lilac in the early morning light; Tiffany-blue in the bright afternoon; molten gold under a cherry red sunset. And while all of this might not sound conducive to a productive work environment, it’s been a whole lot better for me, both mentally and creatively, than my usual procrastinations (flicking between social media and staring at the walls of my home in Hong Kong). Instead of feeling more anxious, I feel revived after every mini-break. Open air, and surrounded by nature in one of its most beautiful forms, this might just be the office of my dreams.
It can be found at Vakkaru, a luxury resort in the Maldives, which has hosted the likes of Madonna. The coral-ringed resort has just introduced a ‘Work Well’ package, offering guests staying for 21 nights or longer the option of a free WFB – Work From Beach – upgrade. More than just a desk and Wi-Fi connection, the deal comes with a bump up to a larger villa (one with an ocean view office decked out with a printer and stationary supplies), an hour a day with a personal trainer, and daily deliveries of brain-boosting snacks and drinks, such as fresh fruit kebabs, green juices, smoothies, and peanut butter cookies. Everyone also gets there very own ‘Vacay PA’. My personal assistant is Dima, from Belarus, who along with some traditional Maldivian butlering – unpacking suitcases, delivering snorkelling gear, making dinner reservations – can confirm flights, photocopy documents and set up boardrooms on the beach.
At £13,499 for two people for three weeks, it is an eye-wateringly expensive deal, but there have been numerous enquiries from high-ranking business people, entrepreneurs and tech gurus from around around the world, tempted, in part, by the Maldives’ no quarantine requirement.
A consultation with a personal trainer sets the tone for my stay, because Vakkaru’s Work Well programme is as much about reaching personal goals as it is about toiling in the tropics. “Studies have shown that 21 days is the time it takes to change thought patterns and develop new habits but you can see quite big improvements in just a few days – more flexibility, better concentration, and better sleep,” says yoga instructor Anna Tsoy.
Gym bunnies have the option of going full throttle with a personal trainer, focusing on weight loss, toning up and increasing stamina.Twenty-one days of tennis coaching is also available for those who want to perfect their lobs and serves, but I opt for a more holistic timetable, working on my yoga, posture and meditation practices, which I hope will bring a laser-like focus to my work.
Mornings begin in life-affirming fashion at 7.30am, with the resort’s sun salutations class, performed on a platform perched above the Indian Ocean. All are welcome at these complimentary group classes – including the mother and baby bottlenose dolphins who seem to swing by each day, much to our delight. There’s also an evening Ashtanga yoga class and regular sound therapy rituals using the reverberations of crystal singing bowls to bestow a trance-like state of calm. Weaving these free classes into my schedule means I can save my one-to-ones to try out some more unusual practices, such as yoga with massage, thoracic heart opening (to expand the chest and banish laptop slouch), and five senses meditation, which helps with muscle memory and concentration. I find that what works best for me is to schedule these sessions at the end of the day, as a way to wind down and switch off from work.
Science says that frequent breaks make for the most productive work day, with the highest performing individuals following a pattern of working for 52 minutes followed by a 17-minute break. Stick to the plan and research suggests you’ll be more motivated, focused and creative, more likely to hit on those elusive ‘a-ha!’ moments and more likely to stick to your long-term goals. And while at home I might stop to vacuum or cook or go for a walk, at Vakkaru I can plunge into my private pool, pull on a snorkel and float among angel fish, or cycle around the island breathing in the scent of frangipani.
There are a few glitches along the way (my Wi-Fi signal drops a couple of times and there’s no socket near my outdoor desk to keep my laptop charged) but by day two I’m sleeping more easily, looking less slouchy and knocking my deadlines out of the park. Give me 21 seamless days and I’m pretty sure I could write a novel, despite, or perhaps due to, all the glorious distractions.
How to do it
Turquoise Holidays (turquoiseholidays.co.uk/01494 678 400) offers seven nights at Vakkaru staying in an overwater villa from £3,699 per person, half-board, including return seaplane transfers and international flights. This is based on travel from 5th May – 31st July 2021.Vakkaru’s Work Well package starts from £13,499, B&B, for 21 nights, based on two adults sharing.