In today’s world of remote and hybrid work, we are working on the go more than ever before. But there’s evidence younger workers are doing it on sly in the form of what is being called “hush trips.” That is where remote employees work from a different destination without disclosing their location to their boss. The theory is that if they plan to work as normal, there is no need to inform their boss or colleagues. 

A new survey by Resume Builder finds that 44% of Gen-Z workers have taken a hush trip. The platform surveyed 916 workers between the ages of 18 and 26 last summer. Here are some other key findings:

  • 57% of those who had taken a hush trip gave the impression they were still working normal hours
  • 65% used a virtual background to trick their employer
  • One-third worked two hours or less per day
  • The majority got away with it, but those who were discovered suffered consequences: 71% were reprimanded and 7% were even fired. 

The reasons for taking hush trips come down to vacation time, or lack thereof. Half of the survey respondents said they took a trip because their PTO request was not approved. Twenty-seven percent said they did not have any PTO to use, and 20% did not want to use their available PTO. 

Another survey by a vehicle rental website that polled over 1,000 full-time workers revealed another reason for keeping quiet about these trips includes avoiding the “hassle” of company approval. 

Workcations vs Hush Trips

Now there is a difference between these hush trips and workcations, which have been around for decades. In a workcation, a worker leaves their current geographical location to work from a different destination. You are asking for permission or letting your boss know, depending on your situation. 

One of my coaching clients recently took her small team to Amelia Island in Florida for a four-day workcation. It happened in the off-season, so they did not spend their days lying on a beach, but it provided a new and interesting location to inspire creativity. They collaborated on strategy sessions for 6-8 hours a day and still had time to explore the area and dine in local restaurants. A workcation can be the perfect way to break up the monotony especially if you work from home and see the same four walls every day. It is a chance to freshen things up a bit! 

Workcations can also be convenient based on events. If you have an event one weekend and another nearby on the following weekend, it makes more sense to work at a remote location rather than traveling to the same area twice. Just be sure to check internet connectivity and mobile phone service when considering your destinations. 

Work-Life Balance

A trip can help you feel more balanced in life, even if it is not a true vacation. The top reasons listed in the second survey for taking a workcation are:

  • Visit family and friends (51%)
  • Change of scenery (48%)
  • Stay productive at work (44%)

This is another example of employees adjusting their work-life balance to gain greater control over their lives, mirroring the trend of “quiet quitting.”

Related: Do You Live to Work or Work to Live? 

HR is Concerned

In a perfect world, employees would be honest about their travels so that they do not turn into hush trips. Keeping your location a secret can illustrate an unhealthy work culture and that you do not trust the organization or your leader. And businesses suffer when leaders fail to promote transparent communication with their employees. 

But there are legal risks associated with hush trips that are keeping Human Resources departments up at night. They worry about issues from health and safety to wage and billing, including having to pay taxes or wages in different states. But data security is the real issue. If employees are working on public Wi-Fi on company devices, it could put the company at risk for cyber attacks and viruses. 

And the rules are always changing, which employees may not be aware of. A friend of mine works as a consultant for a large corporation and often travels out of the country. When she made her plans to go to Spain last year, she figured it would be business as usual but found out at the last minute that there had been a major IT reorg that was rolled out in earnest. New technology for a virtual desktop was designed so that employees would no longer have to take their work computers to different countries. This certainly made sense from the company’s point of view since there was no company-owned asset outside of the country and if something did happen to it overseas, the connection would be cut, and no information could be compromised. But the implementation of the new system was flawed, and my friend was not able to work remotely on her personal laptop like she had planned during her trip. She had to have someone else set up meetings she was supposed to facilitate and email documents back and forth between multiple machines. She had been forthcoming about her trip to her boss so he was able to help her as much as he could while she was away. Imagine if she had tried to keep that trip secret! 

Businesses need to have a clear travel policy in place but beware that an overly strict policy could entice workers to hide their whereabouts even more. 

How to Ask for a Trip Truthfully

So, how can someone come clean about taking a trip? It really depends on the type of relationship you have with your boss. If you do feel comfortable sharing that you would like to take a trip, outline some of the benefits such as sparks of creativity. Innovation tends to happen with fresh ideas and a fresh location. Or maybe there is a way to build it into your work? For example, if you are constantly interrupted at the office to put out fires and you can’t dedicate any time to “deep work,” you could benefit from focused time to work on projects that may not be possible in your current work environment. 

If an employer does grant a trip request, it can improve morale with the employee because it demonstrates trust and it may even improve productivity. If the work gets done, does it really matter where it is being done? In the end, it all comes down to communication between employees and the manager. 

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