Workaway can be a great way to travel the world, and is usually worth it for the budget traveler. However, the way the Workaway Feedback works could be improved.
At the beginning of 2016, Couchsurfing changed it’s references system for hosts and travelers on its website. Workaway could definitely benefit from its own upgrade. Here are the basic flaws:
1. Workaway feedback can be left by anyone
Unfortunately, Workaway does not require that the person leaving feedback have actually volunteered for the host, or vica-versa. At my last Workaway experience, I was told that I was their first volunteer from Workaway, yet they already had some feedback on their profile. I learned that the person leaving feedback had just been a friend who happened to also be on Workaway. I’ll also admit that I once had someone leave feedback for me because they knew me personally and liked my work, but I hadn’t specifically worked for them via Workaway (I did sign up to work for them later). On Couchsurfing, if you have not been hosted by someone, you can only leave a “personal” reference, instead of a reference as a host or a surfer. Granted, most Workaway feedback is from
2. Negative feedback won’t be posted
This was a huge shocker for me. After an exceptionally worst-case-scenario hosting in France, I tried to leave a negative feedback for the host. It didn’t have any opinions or my own discomfort, but simply let future volunteers know what to expect as the host’s profile was completely falsified. When it was posted, it simply showed that there was negative feedback left, but everything I had said was removed. I wrote directly to Workaway to query why. This is their reply:
The reason the text does not appear is that when negative feedback is left, it is our policy to publish the negative feedback smiley and keep the comments for our records.
We do this to avoid “revenge” feedbacks and then having to deal with a situation which is often subjective and personal to each individual case.
Obviously the purpose of feedback is partially to acknowledge the host and tell about how much you liked (or perhaps disliked) the activity, but more importantly it serves as a guide for future volunteers. If this information is removed, it defeats the purpose of the feedback.
3. Feedback is not requested by Workaway
Unfortunately, no website demands that you leave feedback. As covered in the point above, feedback has a purpose to inform future volunteers of what to expect. Positive feedback serves the vital role of acknowledging your host for a great experience. Negative feedback usually also fills in points that were missing from host profiles. Often the host doesn’t mention there is no running water, that the volunteer must pay for their own food, that it will cost an extra €100 to get out to the plantation on local transportation or whatever (all of which I’ve seen in feedback or experienced personally), and the only way to find out these salient points are through the Workaway feedback. This isn’t to say all profiles are untrue or lacking! Quite the contrary. Most hosts will say that they have no internet, only eat vegan, live off the grid with no utilities or have wild working hours, and the volunteers who accept these limitations are happy to do so.
This is also a disadvantage when the host or volunteer leaves feedback and the other does not reply. While Couchsurfing will follow up to get the feedback posted, Workaway doesn’t even know that you’ve volunteered, and thus doesn’t know to do so. But even when you do leave feedback, it doesn’t require for the other to respond, beyond informing them that they have new feedback. This can also create a misleading picture if all the feedback on a host’s profile is left by the host (all of which is positive) and none of the volunteers comment to verify the accuracy of the feedback.
4. Feedback cannot be changed
Once again, Couchsurfing has the right idea on this. Earlier, you were able to modify any reference left for a host or surfer later on. With the recent update on their website, you have a certain time frame in which to do so, after seeing the feedback left for you. This is not the case for Workaway. As soon as you submit your Workaway feedback, it’s set in stone and there permanently. This could obviously raise problems if you left your feedback first, and then the host or volunteer said something you want to clarify upon. There’s no way to do this, other than writing the clarification in your own profile where it doesn’t really belong. This could also discourage people from being the first to leave the feedback.
5. Not all feedback shows up for the volunteer.
This is a strange one. Basically, all feedback left by the host shows up on both the host’s and volunteer’s profile page. But if the volunteer leaves feedback for the host, it shows up on the host’s profile but will only show up on their own profile if the host responds. It’s not necessary for it to do so, but there are many reasons why it would be good. Also, because all feedback from hosts shows up on their own profile, they can leave plenty of great feedback for other volunteers and make themselves look really good, even if the volunteers don’t agree. I’ve unfortunately seen this, where the hosts leave great reviews while the volunteers say the experience was less than optimum.
Overall, Workaway is a great way to travel around the world while getting new experiences and skills and learning about the local culture. I’ve personally completed ten Workaway experiences now in nearly as many countries. Despite the disadvantages of the Workaway feedback, it’s still a great site. I only think I’ll try HelpX.net next since they require hosts to respond to requests, something definitely lacking on the Workaway site. Although I’ve seen a jump of nearly 2x the number of hosts on Workaway in the past year, the website can still be improved. Hopefully someday we’ll see a comparable platform to Couchsurfing.