Image used for representational purposes only.
Image used for representational purposes only.

The rise of 'hush trips': Employees sneak into work from secret getaways

Increasing realisation that remote work may be done efficiently from a variety of locales has given rise to a new trend of hush trips

Manish Pant scampered to look for his sweater as he logged in for a work Zoom call. The sweater wasn’t to keep away the cold; it was to make his boss believe that he was at home in Nainital, and not in Goa. Planning and subterfuge became part of Pant’s work repertoire as he stayed in Goa for two weeks, mixing work with pleasure—all without informing his supervisor. You see, he was on Workation.

The pandemic, though was over two years ago, catalysed alternate options for almost everything. Workcations, which combine work and vacations combines business travel with leisure trips. Now, with companies asking employees to come back to the office, a new travel trend has appeared— hush trips.

Travel enthusiasts say the idea of a ‘hush trip’ is simple: it lets employees work remotely from a location other than their usual one, without informing their employers. Hush-trippers continue to do their work tasks and take meetings, from hotel rooms and coffee shops, without mentioning where they are located.

A recent Monster survey revealed that about a third of employees think their supervisors don’t need to know where they work remotely. Vicki Salemi, career expert for Monster, believes hush trips are popular because people have become more mobile with the rise of post-pandemic remote work. “At first, we had no choice but to work from home, but that expanded once the world started opening up again,” she says.

People have been working from exotic locations, not to take "time off to enjoy the location, but rather enjoying it at night and on weekends to make the best of both worlds,” Salemi explains.

Hush trips seem to have become a part of working life, with more HR departments wishing to bring employees back. “Post-Covid, we enjoyed being digital nomads. We realised that we didn’t have to be in the office to get work done. Now, with work from office becoming mandatory, many are planning hush trips to get their travel fix,” Pant says.

The trend of hush trips and “employee nomading” raises concerns, from health and safety to wage and hour issues, for bosses and HR teams. Though it sounds appealing, this covert style of remote woking has its disadvantages: unreliable Net connectivity, significant time zone differences, and trust issues with the employer in case they discover your secret are a few.

Shaista Sabharwal, Global CEO and Board Member, The Taplow Group S.A, agrees that the trend does perpetuate distrust. “If organisations can be flexible and move towards hybrid working models, employees should reciprocate by being responsible team members,” she points out.

Experts agree that hiding their travel signals a disconnect between bosses and employees, and points to a shaky work culture. Roopa Badrinath, Founder and Principal Consultant, Turmeric Consulting, feels that hush trips indicate a lack of trust, transparency and flexibility. “A workforce that feels the need to hide their location of work indicates a deep-rooted issue with the company culture or policies,” she elaborates.

Today’s workforce places great value on flexibility. About two-thirds of Millennials (67%) and Gen Z (63%) workers believe remote work affords better work/life balance, according to a survey by Deloitte. About six in 10 said they would like the option to work from a remote location more frequently after the pandemic.

“I feel it increases productivity, improves mental well-being, offers a boost to morale and quality of life, and allows for a level of spontaneity and flexibility in travel. A hush trip averts the stress of explaining reasons for travel to bosses, getting approval, and sidestep a potential no,” Pant says.

Salemi cautions, “Despite the change in location, the main con relates to compliance, especially visa and tax implications. There can be data security risks from using public WiFi at airports, train and bus stations,” she says.

From a career advancement perspective, if the entire team is back in office despite having a remote option, you may be “out of sight, out of mind”. Badrinath feels hush trips are a desperate cry for flexibility and work-life balance, which makes it important for companies to create a work environment where employees feel safe to discuss their needs and preferences openly. The prevalence of hush trips also reveals the value employees are placing on autonomy in their professional lives.

“Company policies should include flexibility in location as long as it does not interfere with deliverables, collaboration and company operations,” says Badrinath. “As a leader, I do not endorse hush trips due to underlying trust issues, but I am definitely in favour of flexible work arrangements that allow employees to balance their personal and professional lives,” Badrinath adds.

Disadvantages of remote working

Unreliable internet

Connectivity problems

Time zone differences

Trust issues

Security risks

The New Indian Express