For most of us, working from home is a daily grind spent at the kitchen table or holed up in a box room.
But imagine setting up office with a view of tropical plants and the ocean — Barbados, to be precise.
Determined to attract visitors while tourism is on its knees, the island’s government launched a 12-month Welcome Stamp visa that allows people to work from ‘home’ there for up to a year.
According to Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc, almost 4,000 people have used the scheme, more than 500 of them from the UK.
But is it really a passport to paradise? Surely, there’s only so many balmy ocean views and beautiful sunsets one can take before pining for proper English tea and Blighty . . . isn’t there?
Four of those now WFB (working from Barbados) share their experiences with SADIE NICHOLAS. Prepare to be sickened…
We gave up our belongings and our house to move
Pippa Moss, 30, is an actress and acting coach and lives near Southend-on-Sea, Essex, with her partner James, 31, a performance nutritionist. She says:
‘James and I were so desperate to seize the opportunity to move here that we gave up the bungalow we were renting from his mum and sold our furniture and my prized road bike.
‘Now we don’t have a home to go back to — but we’re very relaxed about that as we’re having the time of our lives.
Pippa Moss moved to Barbados with partner James when they spotted an advert online
‘It all began one morning last autumn when James woke me to say he’d just spotted an advert online for the visa. ‘We could work in Barbados, what do you think?’ he asked.
‘After a long discussion, I reasoned that my usual acting work was slow due to the pandemic, and James’s work had gone online, so why not?
‘We wanted to turn our experience of the pandemic into something positive.
‘Having applied for the visa, we told our families — who were supportive if a little sad — and booked return flights for around £800.’
‘We rented a one-bed apartment on a farm on the Atlantic coast of the island for £800 a month and arrived on New Year’s Eve.
‘Now, instead of looking out at grey skies and an overgrown garden with two old sheds and a rusty barbecue, I work on our veranda with horses grazing beneath fruit trees.
‘One slight disadvantage is the early starts, we get up at 4am to keep to UK working hours.
‘Of course we miss our friends and family, but we wouldn’t be allowed to see them at the moment anyway.
‘We plan to stay for the year, returning to the UK next Christmas if restrictions have been lifted. By then we’ll be eager to see my nephew and James’s niece.’
Coming here has changed our outlook forever
Howard Abernathy, 46, owns two businesses — one selling champagne (finestfizz.biz) and another providing online wine tastings (domainedivine.co.uk) with wine delivered in test tubes.
He lives in Wandsworth, Southwest London, with wife Randi, 45, who works in financial services. Howard says:
‘Working from home in Barbados is one of those ‘pinch me’ moments that rarely happens in life.
‘Like most people, until the pandemic we were very tied to the structure and limitations of office life.
‘We never took more than a couple of weeks off work at a time for a holiday, either.
‘If someone had told us a year ago that we’d be living in Barbados we wouldn’t have believed it. Yet, here we are!
Howard and Randi Abernethy say working from Barbados is one of those ‘pinch me’ moments
‘Covid-19 changed everything. I took my business online, we both worked from home and, when I saw an advert on the internet for the Welcome Stamp visa, I realised we could work from anywhere.
‘We’re lucky to live in a lovely area of London with a terrific sense of community, which was hard to leave behind, but we knew we may never get an opportunity such as this again.
‘We’d never been to Barbados, either, but had heard great things. As we don’t have children, it was an easy decision.
‘Now, my ‘office’ is the tropical garden of the three-bedroom home we’ve rented for a year on the north-west coast of the island, a five minute walk from the beach.
‘I work against a backdrop of lush palms, bright pink bougainvillea, and a mango tree where monkeys congregate every morning to feast on the fruit.
‘Another tree is home to an enormous flock of colourful parakeets who get very noisy as the sun goes down at teatime.
‘Our work hasn’t suffered. Business is booming and I’m doing at least one online wine tasting every day. Meanwhile, Randi works indoors as she needs to use multiple screens.
‘After applying for the visa, it was relatively straightforward getting organised. We rented out our four-bed terraced house, arranged for my brother to look after our dog, Chewie, and arrived in Barbados in early October.
‘There followed three blissful months without restrictions, bar wearing masks and social distancing.
‘We quickly realised how much we’d missed face to face interaction — a casual chat on the beach or at the market, where we buy freshly caught fish and local vegetables, has such a positive impact on our wellbeing.
‘Even though Barbados is currently in a three-week lockdown with strict rules, we can swim in the sea at sunrise and eat all our meals outdoors beneath a blue sky.
‘This experience has already changed our outlook and approach to working life for ever. Who knows where we might choose to work from next!’
I watch monkeys in the trees as I work…
Katie Holmes, 36, co-owns a digital marketing consultancy (redquokka.com) with her partner Carl, 38. They live in Wimbledon, Southwest London. She says:
‘Three weeks ago, Barbados went into lockdown, but running along the beach at sunrise it’s easy to forget there are restrictions. I’d rather do lockdown here than in our London maisonette.
‘Instead of overlooking grey rooftops, we have a balcony with views of the ocean and a wildlife conservation area brimming with tropical trees and monkeys. Our spirits have stayed as bright as the colours of the flowers.
‘Thank goodness for the day last July when I heard that Barbados was offering the chance to live and work from ‘home’ on the island.
‘Carl and I looked at one another and said: ‘Let’s do it!’ Without children and with our parents in good health there was no reason not to.
Katie Holmes moved to Barbados with her partner Carl to enjoy ‘countless magical moments’
‘When friends asked: ‘Why Barbados?’ we replied that it has sunshine and beaches, so why on earth not?
‘The application process was simple. Then we had a month to pay the fee — 2,000 US dollars (around £1,500) for an individual or 3,000 dollars (around £2,100) for a family.
‘We rented out our London flat, booked flights for £400 each in the BA sale and arrived at the start of November.
‘We’d found our apartment online and signed a 12-month contract. The rent is £1,250 a month including bills, which is similar to our mortgage in the UK.
‘There were countless magical moments before lockdown was announced, including swimming with turtles, drinking sunset cocktails and watching shooting stars.
‘Carl’s joined a five-a-side football team, we’ve become friends with a couple from London who are here with their baby, and a lovely older British couple with a holiday home on the island have shown us around.
‘There have been a few wobbly days while we’ve adapted to life here, especially when we bought a car — I’ve never seen so much paperwork!
‘Finding food we want can be a challenge as most of it’s imported and supplies are inconsistent, and a lot more expensive than at home.
‘The other downside, if you can call it that, is that while we’ll occasionally do Zoom calls with clients on the beach, we mostly have to work indoors as it’s tricky to see our laptop screens in the bright sunlight.
‘Coming to Barbados is one of the best decisions we’ve made. We’re already considering extending our visas.
‘It feels like we’re making the most of life rather than trudging through the pandemic, which is what we were doing in London.’
Our winter clothes are still in the suitcase
William O’Shea, 57, is an IT consultant and lives in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, with his wife Eva, also 57, a housewife, and daughter Dexia, 17, who was due to take her A-levels this year. William says:
‘Our daughter’s doing her A-levels this summer and, in normal times, we’d never have considered an adventure during the most important academic year of her life, but it’s working well.
‘Dexia missed five months of school during the first lockdown, so had become used to remote learning, and her friends are studying at home again now. It’s not that different for her doing the same but from the Caribbean.
Will and Eva O’Shea moved to Barbados with their daughter Dexia
‘She’s using work provided by her old school and, just like her friends, she’s waiting to hear how A-levels will be assessed after exams were cancelled.
‘Like others, our plan was forged last summer after we saw an advert for the Welcome Stamp visa with seductive photos of beaches and the headline: ‘Come and work in paradise!’
‘The winters in North Yorkshire are harsh and we knew a lockdown then would be tough — and inevitable.
‘After a family discussion we decided it was too good an opportunity to miss, given that I was working from home, and received our visas within a week of applying. We arrived in September.
‘We’re now renting a lovely two-bedroom house 150 ft from the beach, with front and rear patios, a barbecue area and a communal pool, flanked by tropical plants and trees.
‘We spend 80 per cent of our time outdoors and laugh that we packed winter clothes ‘in case it gets cold’ — they’re still in the suitcase as the temperature is around 80f (27c) most days.
‘Working from an office inside the house, my day starts at 5am so I can keep to UK hours and finishes at 1pm, which means we can enjoy the beach in the afternoons.
‘Dexia misses her friends but keeps in touch via video calls and has made new friends here — as we all have.
‘We have tennis and golf lessons, and joined a beach club where we go snorkelling and kayaking.
‘We’ve eaten delicious meals in restaurants by the sea — although I do miss Harrogate fish and chips! — and the sunsets are so spectacular that my friends are tired of the photos I send.
‘Our five-bedroom Victorian home in Harrogate is rented out until September, when we plan to return.
‘Locals are optimistic that the current lockdown will be eased soon and we can’t wait to resume our adventures.’