These workers take ‘hush trips.’ Here’s how they’re hiding them from the boss

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Hush trips may be getting harder to pull off.

Some companies are getting strict about their return-to-office policies, and it’s not as easy to slip away for a workcation without notifying the boss.

In the past year, nearly one in 10 workers embarked on a hush trip, according to a survey of 1,010 full-time workers by the vehicle rental website Price 4 Limo. And 27% said they did so to avoid having to use paid vacation days while they were gone.

Many workers keep mum about these trips to fend off productivity concerns and tax ramification questions from their employers.

But others told CNBC Travel they stay quiet for different reasons. Each asked CNBC to refrain from publishing their full names to prevent being identified by their employers.

Avoiding the ‘hassle’ of company approval

A Singaporean named Alicia said she’s taken several trips without telling her employer.

“It’s easy for me since I don’t have to go to the office, and my manager isn’t even based in the same region,” she said.

Her employer, a tech company in Singapore, also has a 30-day remote working policy, she said. But she hasn’t applied for it because “I’d rather not go through the hassle of applying and getting approvals, which can take weeks.”

She spoke to CNBC Travel during a one-month trip to Thailand, her longest covert trip yet, she said. For other trips, she extended her time away without telling her employer “so as to not burn though … PTO days.”

Workcations vs. hush trips
  • 45% of employees have taken a workcation in the past year
  • 8% didn’t inform their companies
  • Top reasons: to visit family and friends (51%); change of scenery (48%); and to stay productive at work (44%)

So far, her trips have all been in Asia, so she can stay on similar time zones to easily attend meetings. To hide her location, she blurs her video call backgrounds, or uses a virtual background, and keeps small talk to a minimum to prevent unwanted questions, she said.

“I don’t like to lie blatantly, and that won’t happen when the questions don’t come,” she said.

Alicia said before traveling she slowly reduced how often she went into the office and joined colleagues for after-work drinks, which has made it easier to slip away for short stints.  

But not everybody has been so lucky.

“I know people who have done [hush trips], and their manager calls for an in-person meeting with a client the day before,” she said. “They would have to book a ticket back ASAP.”

Alicia said one reason she’s not worried about getting discovered by her employer is that she recently resigned from her position.

“I’m serving my notice period this month,” she said. “If I get caught, it doesn’t really matter to me.”

Neither traveling nor her resignation has affected her work ethic, she said.

“At the end of the day, I’m still delivering on my job.”

Concerns about coworkers  

Maryland resident Ellie said she’s taken two hush trips to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in the past year.

“My employer would not mind, however I don’t want in-office co-workers to be envious or feel like I’m not working to the same capacity,” she said.

She works in the office two to three days per week for her job in digital marketing, she said. When she leaves, she travels outside of work hours, she said, departing after work on Wednesdays and working remotely for the rest of the week.

If I can be in nature before and after my work hours, I am always happier.
Ellie
Digital marketer

Like Alicia, Ellie relies on background filters for Zoom calls and recommends checking Wi-Fi and mobile phone service before booking a trip. So far, the only hiccups she’s encountered on her trips relate to internet connectivity.

“I am a big camper and love the outdoors,” she said. “If I can be in nature before and after my work hours, I am always happier — as long as there is Wi-Fi!” 

Companies in the dark

While hush trips are working for some workers, it’s not ideal for companies to be in the dark about their their employees’ locations, said Amy Zimmerman, chief people officer at the digital payments company Relay Payments.

“It’s important to foster an environment where the team member is honest about their travel and [it] doesn’t turn it into a ‘hush trip,'” she said.

At the same time, employees who are given leeway to take workcations should follow common sense guidelines while away, Zimmerman said.

“For example, it’s not good judgment to take a Zoom meeting from the pool while in your bathing suit,” she said. And for trips where workers are “missing important meetings or having others pick up your slack … it’s best to take PTO rather than trying to work during your travel.”

An account executive at a public relations agency in Singapore, who asked to remain anonymous, told CNBC Travel that he occasionally traveled without informing his superiors at his previous job because he rarely had physical meetings and worked mostly from home. He said he switched off his webcam during meetings and avoided talking about the weather to mask his location.

But he doesn’t need to do that anymore, he said, because his new employer has a flexible work policy that allows him to travel while staying on the clock.

“Thankfully with my current company, we’re very open with work from overseas arrangements,” he said. “Several of my colleagues have homes in Malaysia … and they travel between Singapore and Malaysia on a weekly basis.”

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