Some virtual workers are moving to another country without telling their bosses or coworkers.
One virtual worker who's secretly moving to Mexico told Insider it's worth the risk of being fired.
Some employees are working virtually from places like Europe or Bali without telling their managers or coworkers, according to recent reports from Vice and Fortune magazine — and they're taking elaborate measures to make sure no one finds out.
One WFH employee told Vice he bought a plane ticket as proof he was returning to the US from Europe, where he "temporarily" relocated during the pandemic. Immediately after sending a photo of the ticket to his boss, he canceled the flight.
In order to justify his inability to come to in-person work events, he told coworkers he had moved to a different state, the report says. He then created an intricate VPN and router system to conceal his computer's location, according to the outlet.
Secretly moving abroad is an extreme example of employees defying orders to return to the office, as corporations struggle to lure workers back to their cubicles and meeting rooms in the name of collaboration and company culture.
Another employee told Fortune that her manager is aware that she has been working virtually from Bali, but has requested she not tell her coworkers in order to avoid potential backlash. During meetings, she uses a fake Zoom background and takes phone calls in a sound-proof booth to conceal any noise that could give away her location, according to the report.
A 23-year-old marketing professional based in the UK told Insider that he's in the process of applying for a residence visa in Mexico, where he plans to move for at least a year without the permission of his employer. He requested to remain anonymous in order to not expose his ruse.
"Since Brexit, the British passport essentially lost all of its power in Europe," he said. Before the UK voted to withdraw from the European Union, British citizens could live and work throughout EU member states without a visa.
He told Insider he's willing to risk his job in order to travel internationally and hopes to become a full-time content creator instead of remaining in his corporate role for much longer. Once in Mexico, he said he plans to work UK hours and hop between Airbnbs.
"I'm going to do it anyway," he said, explaining that he would move to Mexico even if his company finds out. "But I'd rather not get sacked."
A recent survey of 1,481 workers found that 40% of HR executives discovered employees working from outside their home state or country in the past year. Approximately 28% of employees surveyed said they have worked outside their home state or country since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but only a third reported those days to HR.
While many companies have allowed employees to work remotely full-time, most do not permit working across international borders because of the regulatory risks spanning tax, insurance, and immigration law. It also can also create compensation concerns, as most company pay scales are calculated with the local cost of living in mind.
Even Airbnb, which was applauded for its "work from anywhere" announcement this spring — allowing employees to temporarily work in over 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location — doesn't yet have the infrastructure to support full-time international moves.
"Everyone will still need a permanent address for tax and payroll purposes, but we're excited to give you this level of flexibility," Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky wrote in the announcement. "Most companies don't do this because of the mountain of complexities with taxes, payroll, and time zone availability."
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