Taking a secret 'hush trip' could help with burnout — but might land your company a surprise tax bill
More remote workers are traveling without their employer's permission, also known as "hush trips."
The discreet workations are poised to be one of the top travel trends in 2023, according to Forbes.
Hotels are taking advantage of the growing work and travel overlap by discounting longer stays.
A software engineer working in Puerto Rico for two weeks after his boss told him not to. A couple traveling through South America when they're supposed to be in Miami. A remote worker based in Germany secretly spending his winters in the Canary Islands.
Depending on whether you're a business owner or employee, the above scenarios might be straight out of a nightmare or a dream come true.
Most recently dubbed "hush trips," secret workations like these are poised to be one of the top travel trends of 2023, according to Becky Pokora, a credit card and travel rewards advisor at Forbes. That's despite remote workers' every effort to keep them low key.
"Anybody loves the opportunity to be productive in paradise rather than in their home office," Pokora told Insider. "I think as long as remote work stays an option and working from home in general we're going to see more of this."
Hush trips are the most recent addition to the growing lexicon at the intersection of work and travel, joining longtime favorites "bleisure," "workation" and "digital nomad." The space's recent growth is in part due to WFH trips becoming more accessible as hotels and vacation rentals offer discounts and packages for longer-term stays, Pokora said.
"If you're paying $200 a night to stay somewhere and you still have to spend all day working, you might not be willing to kind of front that money," she said. "But I do think we're going to start to see some of those prices come down."
Jim Detert, a professor at the University of Virginia's public policy and business schools, says hush trips are yet another example of workers recalibrating their work-life balance to have more autonomy over their lives, similar to the "quiet quitting" trend that took over the internet last year.
But hush trips are more of a mixed bag when it comes to worker wellbeing, Detert said, noting that while travel has many benefits, secret-keeping can take a mental toll.
"I think it's it's probably healthy in one way and not in another," Detert said. "The side that's not so great is most of us with a conscience and some sense of desire to be honest and transparent are not going to feel great if we have to do this in a way that's deceiving to your employer."
One remote worker based in Germany who secretly works from the Canary Islands during the winter told Insider that living in a warmer climate has boosted his mental and physical health, which has in turn made him more productive at work. In fact, he said he was promoted to a leadership position and given a raise during his first "hush trip."
"I'm actually moving toward my career goals faster than I would be if I was stuck in Germany," he said. "By being in a place that keeps you in a good mood and allows you to be happy and healthy, you're naturally going to be more effective and efficient."
On the employer's side, hush trips can cause tax and legal headaches if they go on for too long, Courtney Leyes, a partner at the law firm Fisher Phillips, told Insider. In November, a tech startup CEO said he was hit with $30,000 in surprise taxes after a former software engineer worked remotely in California and Texas without telling the company.
The first thing businesses need to do when it comes to regulating hush trips is to have a clear travel policy in place, Leyes said, noting that overly strict policies could backfire and provoke employees to hide their whereabouts from their bosses.
"It's kind of like parenting — whenever you're super strict and nobody can ever tell you anything, people do things on the side," she said.
On top of having a travel policy, Detert said companies need to make their case to employees about why they need to follow certain rules.
"If you can't present any of that, then it's logical that employees are going to say this is once again just an attempt to control me independent from a logic that says that's necessary," he told Insider. "And in that case, people are going to quietly retaliate or quietly take a benefit that they're not being allowed."
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