From Silicon Valley to Saint John: Workcation Success ‘Almost Overwhelming’

For most, the impact COVID-19 has had on
borders is perhaps the worst part of the pandemic. For Mark
Hausen, it’s been the best.

At the same time the pandemic was restricting travel to the
point where, at times, even going to Moncton was prohibited at
times, Hausen says the pandemic was figuratively removing all
borders. At least when it comes to what we consider to be

A senior member with HR Technologies, a Toronto-based
company that specializes in workplace management, Hausen
is especially attuned to this shift. He says the old idea of
having to base your business out of a handful of international
cities has been “totally removed” across the globe.
“You no longer need to go into markets looking for talent,”
said Hausen. “You can hire from anywhere and work from

But this isn’t just theory. It’s an idea Hausen, and his co-worker
John Ly, have put into practice as the inaugural participants in
the Saint John Region Chamber of Commerce’s pilot
‘Workcation’ program.

A partnership with UStation – a shared cafe-like workspace
uptown – the idea was to court professionals to spend about
a month living and working in Saint John to get a taste of
what life could be like out of a large city. The hope was to
arrange “workcations” for 20 people, with a goal of getting six
professionals to move to the city.

The response was “almost overwhelming,” said Chamber
CEO David Duplisea.

More than 300 applications were submitted, he said, and to his
surprise he found the applicants were across the board in
terms of age, not just the late twenties-early thirties cohort he’d

These applicants included tech workers, but also those in
finance, engineering and consulting. The applications provided
a volume of data about the types of people interested in Saint
John, Duplisea said. What is clear so far is that they all “just
want to live, work and play in the same place.”

The success of the program is so significant it’s changing the
Chamber’s focus. Instead of trying to lure “brick and mortar”
businesses to the city, Duplisea foresees the Chamber
working instead to attract companies and people.
Hausen and Ly arrived in Saint John on July 1 and are here
throughout the month. They’ve been put up in rooms at
Chipman Hill Suites, growing their glutes, they joke, walking
up and down Chipman Hill every day.

Hausen spent years in the software mecca of Silicon
Valley, where once those with tech aspirations had to flock
like would-be starlets to Hollywood. There was no work-life
balance in the Valley; just work.

Now he’s working from Saint John, showing that you needn’t
devote your life to your job. It’s possible to suit your work to
your lifestyle and needs.

Even before they saw a news article about the Workcation
program, Hausen and Ly had discussed taking their work on
the road. Although they were both keen, there were naysayers
at first. But, as their departure date neared, even those who
questioned the idea became envious.

“Don’t think, just act,” is Ly’s advice to anyone asking about the
program. There’s no question for him or Hausen; it will be

Neither has experienced any issues working from Saint John,
they said. In fact, being in the Atlantic time zone has made it
feel like they have an extra hour compared to eastern
markets.  “It just feels like home at the end of the day,” Ly said.
They both drove here – which they absolutely insist be done –
forking their routes in Campbellton.

Ly said the Chamber’s support has been key.
Working with the Chamber’s program director John Simpson,
the pair have received a bevy of curated experiences, both in
the city and all the way up to Burnt Church and Halifax.
Ly has been struck by “the rich history everyone carries
around them, in terms of pride of province and country …
they rave about history and the deep roots they have with it.”
They’ve also noticed how it seems people here have a
certain freedom.
“I feel a lot of people are pursuing their passion and the
barriers are less,” said Hausen. “There’s more focus on
self.“Most certainly, absolutely, unequivocally

it’s something to try … it’ll exceed every expectation.