Work from the beach: How some made the most of telework

The view from Paz Magat’s Ocean City getaway rental. The Wheaton resident is one of many who worked near the beach during the pandemic. (Courtesy Paz Magat)

With working from home becoming the new norm during the pandemic, the lack of a change in scenery led some people to get a bit stir crazy.

That presented an opportunity for property managers and hotels on the beach, which decided to pivot their marketing plan to socially-distanced getaways that don’t require the use of vacation days at work. The offer: work from home, from the beach.

“They can come down and work, and they decided they’ve had enough of being cooped up at their house. They’d rather work at the beach,” said Kim Looney with Century 21 New Horizon in Ocean City, Maryland.

Among those looking for a change in scenery was Paz Magat of Wheaton, Maryland.

“It had been well over a full year, working from home in my small one-bedroom apartment and [I] just decided I needed a different view,” Magat said.

She rented a place in Ocean City in March, and spent four days working on her computer while staring out over the ocean.

“I purposely chose a location that had a balcony, so I could at least be outside and breathing the ocean air while on my laptop,” Magat said.

She’s not alone. Heather Knowles, rental manager for RE/MAX Realty Group in Rehoboth Beach, said she had several families that came to the beach with their laptops. While parents would work, the kids would attend virtual classes. Knowles said those work-from-home families are also staying longer.

“I have one family that is going to be leaving in August, and they’ve been here almost a year,” Knowles said.

For Knowles, Wi-Fi and desk space quickly gained importance when it came to a property’s features.

“A lot of guests have been reviewing the reviews to see how the Wi-Fi did, were there any issues while they stayed,” Knowles said.

The hotel industry saw it, too.

Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said the long-term bookings have spiked during the pandemic, with many people being allowed to work from home.

“We had not seen that before,” Everhart said.

The stay on the beach actually allowed Magat to be more productive. She saved some of the work that required “deep reflection and thought” for the trip to the beach.

“When you’re in a different environment, at least for me, it kind of gives you a little creative spark,” Magat said.

With vaccines going in arms and more people returning to work, Knowles thinks next year, the work-from-home-from-the-beach crowd will dwindle.

Everhart, on the other hand, wonders if it could lead to resort towns gaining more residents, because some people will be allowed to continue to work remotely.

“A lot of businesses are seeing that is productive for them and has a good result, so I anticipate we’re going to see a number of our visitors become residents,” Everhart said.

For Magat, she feels more employers realized during the pandemic that it doesn’t matter where their employees are as long as they can log in and get their work done.

“I think this remote work environment has really kind of forced the hands — to some extent — of some employers to trust their employees a lot more than they were probably comfortable with in the past,” Magat said.

The trip to Ocean City won’t be the last time she takes her work on the road to a vacation destination, she said.

“I certainly think this will become a much more regular practice for me,” Magat said.

Mike Murillo

Mike Murillo is a reporter and anchor at WTOP. Before joining WTOP in 2013, he worked in radio in Orlando, New York City and Philadelphia.

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