Recruiting and working with Workampers can be a very rewarding experience. Workampers routinely become "part of the family" at many businesses and come back each season, or stay year-round! Besides performing the day-to-day customer service tasks, Workampers are renowned for a variety of skills and experience that can improve the bottom-line of any business. Part-time, full-time, seasonal or year-round, there are Workampers who can cheerfully and productively fill any need, from maintenance to management.
Workamper News provides avenues for Employers to share immediate or future staff needs. Employers can run a help wanted ad in the online Hotline system, or have even more exposure online by running a banner ad, creating a Featured Employer website page, or recording an episode of our podcast.
It’s also a great idea to ask your Workamper staff to share their experiences. In your end-of-the-season interview or recap with your Workampers, request (if they are Workamper News members) that they award a star to your operation in the Praise Your Employer tool or write up their experience and post in Workamper Experiences. These are two tools that Workampers use when researching a potential opportunity, so seeing positive feedback from your past Workampers will be helpful in highlighting your operation.
As with any worker & boss relationship, the most desired attribute is – respect. Workampers are looking for Employers who understand and appreciate the value that they can bring to their operation. Another positive is management that is flexible, but provides a clear outline of expectations. Be truthful in the information you give an applicant and keep the lines of communication open.
Put yourself in the shoes of the Workamper - the secret is to consider the Workamper applicant’s outcome when marketing and hiring. The majority of Workampers are not living the lifestyle for the job experience. This is not true in all cases, but is the vast majority. Their outcome, or overall Workamping experience, is going to be determined more by the program and how management staff interact and develop a stronger understanding of the Workamper’s paradigm. This is key to developing a strong Workamper program.
Workamper News is not an agency, so we do not have a list of Workampers that we know are available at a certain time. One tool that you can use to build your applicant pool, aside from running any advertising, is the Awesome Applicants Resume Database. Employer Gold members can login to the website and search the resume database anytime.
Our Workamper members fill out their resumes and maintain them. WKN does not review or revise Workamper resumes. In a Workamper’s Awesome Applicant Resume they should provide you information like when they are available, where they’d like to work, work history, contact information, plus an overview of their skills and objectives. Workampers can also upload photos to their resume. You have a variety of options for searching the database to find the most likely matches to your open positions. You can also save resumes to make them easy-to-find later, print resumes, and rate them (which only you will see).
When you read an ad that maintains your interest and causes your heart rate to increase, you are experiencing a magical allure. This is developed through thoughtful crafting by the Employer who understands that Workampers are not as interested in the job as they are the experience.
The mystical ad that captures the interest and develops the excitement in the reader has been crafted so it provides more information about the outcome for the Workamper who is selected for the opportunity.
Please note that, yes, it is important to provide information such as location, job description, duration and benefits, but they should not be the embodiment of your ad. If the Workamper reader is more interested in the experience as compared to the job, you direct your attention to developing your ad text to address the overall outcome for the Workamper. As you design your ad copy include the specifics such as location, job description, etc.
View some sample ads, here.
A lot of Workampers are planners. They have an idea of where they want to be for the next year or two, so advertising early is never a bad idea!
Typically, Employers who are looking for summer help (April/May – Sept/Oct) begin advertising and looking for applicants in the winter. Thus advertising in the summer for your winter openings is the norm. Note that if you have an immediate opening, for whatever reason, the online Hotline system and the Awesome Applicants Resume Database are great avenues for fulfilling that staffing need.
If you are an Employer looking for a large number of applicants, or if you need help year-round, there is no wrong time to advertise! Having a consistent presence - like having a Featured Employer website page ad plus doing some online Hotline ads before your season begins – will insure you’re getting in front of all Workamper members.
Stuff happens. Workampers are unable to show up due to health or family reasons. Maybe your business has expanded quickly and you need more help to keep things running smoothly. Instead of waiting for the next issue of our bi-monthly magazine, run your ad in the online Hotline system to begin receiving applicant inquiries the same or next day!
The Hotline is updated each weekday (Monday through Friday). An employer can schedule a Hotline ad for two weeks at a time. When an ad is scheduled it is sent in the daily Hotline email to thousands of our Workamper Diamond & Platinum members on the first day of the 14 days it is scheduled for. Seven days later, our Workamper Gold members will receive your job listing in their Hotline email. Fourteen days later, our Workamper Intro members (the largest group) will receive your job listing in their Hotline email.
Your ad is also posted on the Hotline website page for 14 days; accessible by our Workamper Diamond & Platinum members. The Hotline email is one of our most popular Workamper tools.
Another avenue is to search the Awesome Applicants Resume Database. An Employer Gold member can access this database at any time. Login to the website and enter in search criteria to pull up some results. You can then sort those results by availability date, so you can more quickly find the Workampers who are available now.
Obviously, there could be many factors at play here. Timing: Are you advertising too late in the season? Many Workampers plan ahead and don’t wait until a month or two before the season begins to find a job.
How does your ad read? Are you providing enticing statements about the experience your Workampers will have when they work with you? Or are you just vaguely outlining some of the job basics? Ads that are too brief often get overlooked; if you’re not willing to put forth effort to acquire educated applicants, the Workampers may think that’s a reflection of the effort you’ll put towards your Workamper program. Is it too much text? 200+ words often looks like too much to read. Scale back the text and then direct applicants towards a website page with more details, or include a super-charged audio recording with your ad to layout those details.
Where are you located? It’s just a reality that there are states more heavily desired by Workampers (like AZ, FL or TX in the winter). Some folks do not know about the beauty or uniqueness of your area. Play up those things in your ad text or via a super-charged audio recording. If you direct Workampers to a website, try to have great looking photos that show off your area or operation.
What contact information are you using? If you only include a phone number in your ad, make sure someone will be answering that phone or that there is a working voicemail. Be sure to check your spam folder often if your main contact point is via email. Only providing your website URL will rule out non-internet users, and often leave folks wondering if it is okay to call or email.
If you are listing specifics about the hours worked or compensation provided – is it clear? Make sure you include if it is so many hours per person or per couple, and is that per week, per month, etc. Have someone else not in your business review your ad text and ask them what they think – did they understand your offer or get a “happy feeling” from your ad that made them want to send their resume right away?
Do not over-value your site! For-profit employers who offer RV sites, hookups and/or other perks in exchange for labor should be certain that their exchange is proper and fair. The following formula can be used to determine the equivalent hourly wage.
The value of the site (monthly or seasonal rate, not daily or weekly) including hookups and perks (if any) divided by the number of hours worked per month = equivalent hourly wage.
At the very least, the equivalent hourly wage should equal or exceed the applicable minimum wage ($7.25 in most states, higher in some states). If it does not, wages should be added, or the hours reduced. In most cases, Workamper News recommends a maximum of 15 hours per week in exchange for a full hookup site at a for-profit business.
In some situations, additional hours may be justified by offering additional perks, light duties and/or an exceptional working/living environment. Workampers at for-profit businesses should never be expected to "pay" more for their site than a long-term customer would be charged. Bottomline: If you want above average Workampers you need to offer above average compensation and working conditions.
For questions about tax or labor law ramifications within your particular state, one resource you can look to is your state's campground/RV park association.
Workampers are generally not exempt from labor/tax laws, and should be treated like any other employee (W-2) or independent contractor (1099). Most Workamper positions fall under the 'employee' classification.
It is critical that business owners correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.
Generally, you must withhold income taxes, withhold and pay Social Security and Medicare taxes, and pay unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. You do not generally have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors. If you classify an employee as an independent contractor and you have no reasonable basis for doing so, you may be held liable for employment taxes for that worker.
The general rule is that an individual is an independent contractor if the payer (Employer) has the right to control or direct only the result of the work and not what will be done and how it will be done. If you are requiring your Workamper to work specific days/hours and do the assigned tasks a certain way, then the Workamper should be treated as an employee.
If you treat your Workampers as employees - in cases where an RV site, or other lodging, and/or meals are provided in exchange for work, there is an IRS regulation (irc 1.119 (b)) which allows for the exclusion of the value of these items from the employee's gross income, provided the following three tests are met: 1) The lodging is furnished on the business premises of the employer, 2) The lodging is furnished for the convenience of the employer, and 3) The employee is required to accept such lodging as a condition of employment. Employer provided meals may also be excluded from gross income. (Reference: IRS Publication 525 - "Meals & Lodging").
Be sure to check with your specific state as well, as guidelines for bartering may vary.
No, RV sites for your Workampers do not have to be on premises. Most RVers travel with a tow or towed vehicle, and will have a method of transportation they can use to go to and from their work location.
There are many Employers who do not provide an RV site as compensation. Those opportunities usually pay wages for all hours worked. If the Workampers you are hiring will need to find their own camping arrangements, it would be beneficial if you would provide them a list of the closest, quality campgrounds/resorts.
It can be a bit strange to hire someone based on a phone interview, but that is the primary method that Employers use to interview Workampers. We recommend spending at least an hour or more interviewing and getting to know a serious applicant. Email communication is not the best method as you do not get a feel for the applicants mannerisms, attitude, etc. Emails can be typed and re-written to sound the best possible, and may not be the true reflection of the applicant.
Second best to an in-person interview would be a video call. There are many avenues today for doing this, like Skype and Facetime. Again, make sure you are setting aside a good chunk of time to accomplish this call so both you and the Workamper can get all your questions asked and answered.
All Workampers are not right for all jobs. Employers must screen applicants to ensure that they are suitable for the position being filled. During the interview process, Employers should be certain that all applicants fully understand what will be expected of them. Problems between Workampers and Employers are usually a result of miscommunication. Being clear up front can prevent misunderstandings later.
For this reason, we strongly recommend that employers prepare a simple “Work Agreement” that includes general duties, hours, starting/ending dates and compensation. Both the employer and the Workamper should sign the agreement, and both should retain a signed copy.
Click here to view a Work Agreement sample.
Note: If you are providing accommodations and/or meals in return for work, you should include a statement equivalent to the following in your Work Agreement: “In order to properly perform their duties, this person is required to accept employer provided accommodations and/or meals as defined elsewhere in this agreement. Per IRS regulations the value of the accommodations and meals will not be included in your gross income.” Check with your local accountant as state regulations may differ.
Stay in constant communication with the Workampers that you have hired. There are many "excuses" you can make to touch base with them via email, phone, or mail.
Send them emails about things in the local area - like recommended restaurants, cultural activities, entertainment, things to see/do. Mail them some coupons/discount cards/information packets for local businesses (your Chamber of Commerce may already have a welcome packet you could use). Be sure they have the best driving directions to your location. Have them connect with a previous/current Workamper on staff. Check in to see if they've thought of any new questions. Wish them a happy birthday or holiday. Etc.
Staying in the forefront of your future Workampers' minds will hopefully help keep the excitement for the new opportunity alive, and also more quickly alert you to any changes the Workamper may have encountered.
Communication. Communication. Communication. This is the key to a strong Employer-Workamper relationship. You may be hiring Workampers many months before they will actually arrive to begin work. It is important to stay in touch with your Workamper hires during this time.
Send them an email at least once a month, even a brief one, just to maintain the connection and see if any new questions have come up. A month before they are to arrive, call them on the phone to insure plans have not changed and the arrival date is still set. A week before they are to arrive, call them and give them any specific instructions for finding your location. You can also communicate with them via mail – send them information about your local area (always ask an RVer if you can send them mail as they may be using a forwarding service and prefer to communicate only via email or phone).
You can find many “excuses” for contacting your Workamper hires between the time you hire them and they arrive to your operation. NOT communicating with your Workampers can lead to no-shows. If you do make multiple attempts to get in touch with your hire, and he/she never responds, you will have given yourself a bit of a buffer to find a replacement.
A strong Workamper program can help decrease your stress and increase your bottom line. There are many keys for developing a great Workamper program that is talked about ‘round the campfire by other Workampers.
Your starting place is the WOW Workamping Experience course. This online course will help you kick-start your Workamper program, or re-vamp your current Workamper program. WKN President and former HR Director, Steve Anderson, will take you through how to craft an offer; create a recruiting program; what to do before, during and after the hire; plus strategies to keep the Workampers you've hired and turn them into super-recruiters! (Intro members receive a preview; Gold members receive the full course. Click on My University when logged in.)
Other ways that employers help themselves stand out in the crowd: Thank your Workampers in your advertising in Workamper News; Ask your Workamper staff to share their experiences via the Praise Your Employer tool and the Workamper Experiences forum; record a Jobinar; take a video walking around your operation to show off the living and working environment; have a list of your former Workampers who would be willing to talk to your applicants/new Workampers.
The short answer is, yes.
The unemployment program was designed to help folks who are experiencing downsizing and layoffs, to maintain their lives until new employment can be found. That is the moral purpose of the program. WKN hopes that Workampers understand that the positions they take on are seasonal, and thus they will not file for unemployment.
An unemployment judge once told Steve, WKN President who used to be HR director at an amusement park, that if he wanted the system changed, he should contact his state representatives and begin the lobbying process. In his experience, he found that it was cheaper in the long run to pay the higher unemployment taxes than utilize time and capital to continue appealing each unemployment claim.
What Steve estimated at the amusement park is that the percentage of Workampers filing unemployment was less than 1% and the value they brought to the business far outweighed the increase in costs.
It is recommended that any business that has someone doing work for them needs to have a Worker's Compensation policy in place.
There are some federal workers' compensation statutes, but for most employers, the system of workers' compensation rules and regulations they usually deal with is enacted by the states. The Dept of Labor website has links to each state's Worker's Compensations Officials - here.
ARVC (the Association of Recreational Vehicle Campgrounds) recommends working with Leavitt Recreation & Hospitality Insurance - www.LRHInsurance.com One of their agents told us, "If they are trading the work for site rent they still need to have work comp. In states like CA it is a $100,000 fine and up to 1 year in prison if you have workers and no work comp in place. Most of the time if they have 1-5 employees they are looking at $750-$2,000 per year."