Insights & Trends
Are Hush Trips Hurting Your Company?

Are Hush Trips Hurting Your Company?

Libby Zay

8 Nov 2023
5 minute read
What is a hush trip? A woman on her phone with a suitcase

The latest work-life balance buzzword is the “hush trip.” If you haven’t caught wind of this travel trend, it means that your colleagues may secretly be working from a cabana or campsite. And it’s popular: In a 2023 survey, 56% of working adults said they’re very or extremely likely to sneak in an under-the-radar “working vacation.” 

But when employees play hide-and-seek with their whereabouts, it could present complications for companies — and it might be a sign of deeper workplace culture issues.

Keep reading to understand why companies should pay attention to this trend, as well as the actionable steps they can take to prevent risk and to nurture a culture of open communication and trust.

What is a hush trip?

A hush trip happens when someone keeps their employer in the dark about conducting business from an alternative to their normal location. These stealth travelers plan to perform business as usual and then enjoy leisure activities in their off-hours.

Unsurprisingly, the practice is common among remote workers and digital nomads. But at some point in their career, virtually any employee may plan this type of workcation. Here’s how:

  • A hybrid employee who teleworks on Fridays leaves for a getaway to Florida on Thursday night. They take Zoom calls from their hotel during the day on Friday and then have the full weekend to unwind at the beach.
  • A business traveler turns a conference in Chicago into a mini-vacation by adding a leisure extension to their trip, a practice known as bleisure travel. (In a survey by Banyan, 3 out of 4 business traveler respondents said they participate in bleisure.)

In each case, staff members gain more time at their destination, perhaps even without using any precious paid time off (PTO). The practice can be a game-changer for those in the know — but it could present problems for companies.

Telework: By the Numbers

  • Before the COVID-19 pandemic, telework accounted for 5% of work hours.

  • During the pandemic, that number jumped to 50%.

  • Today, 27.5% of companies employ people who telework some or all of the time.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Business Response Surveys, 2021 and 2022

The Drawbacks: Why Hush Trips Hurt Companies

It’s easy to see why cloaking work whereabouts can have upsides for individuals, but the practice comes with several potential pitfalls for companies.

Difficulty locating employees

Employers are responsible for ensuring the safety and health of their workers, a concept known as duty of care. In the event of an unforeseen emergency or crisis, companies may face delays supporting personnel in undisclosed locations.

Legal implications

Depending on the destination and length of the trip, there could be issues related to work visas, taxes, and insurance.

Security and data protection issues

When an employee’s physical location changes, safeguarding company data can be more complex. And while on the road, the chances are higher that people may connect to unsecured Wi-Fi networks or conduct business in public spaces where sensitive information could fall into the wrong hands.

Misuse of company time

Some staff members may struggle with self-discipline and accountability on the road. Different time zones could require them to meet deadlines off-hours, or it could be tempting to shave off a few work hours for leisure activities.

Friction among colleagues

If word gets out that an employee is taking hush trips, it could cause feelings of inequity and resentment among colleagues. Morale or team cohesion may be negatively affected.

Unhealthy work culture

If staff members feel they need to conceal their locations, it could be a signal of a breakdown in trust. As trust erodes, it may cause negative feelings or lead to retention issues.

Employees Value Time Off

If given the choice, nearly half of U.S. workers would choose more vacation time over a salary increase. And, when it comes to retention, research suggests that people are more likely to stay at jobs that enable them to pursue their passions outside of their jobs.

The Benefits: How Combining Work and Play Helps Companies

Considering all the downsides, it could be tempting to abolish remote work from exotic locales altogether. But mixing business and leisure has its pros, too.

Benefits for Companies:

  • Access to a global talent pool: Hiring remote employees who can work from anywhere can expand a company’s access to a diverse talent pool.
  • Increased productivity and creativity: Some people thrive in non-traditional work environments. And research shows that exposure to new places and experiences can lead to new ideas and insights.
  • Increased talent retention: Allowing staff members to travel freely may lead to improved morale and long-term satisfaction with their work arrangements.

Benefits for Employees:

  • Save vacation days: Hush trips allow staff members to spend more time at a vacation destination, perhaps without using up precious PTO.
  • Increased job satisfaction: Many employees consider combining travel and work a perk, which in turn could make them feel more positive and loyal to the company.
  • Prevent burnout: Changes in scenery can be rejuvenating. Globetrotting can help people maintain their mental well-being and give them a sense of work-life balance.

Have Laptop — Will Travel

Research from Skift + Navan found that 39% of Gen Zers and millennials will decline a job that doesn’t let them travel.

The Solution: How to Eliminate the “Hush” in “Hush Trip”

Should companies tighten the reins on employees who travel while on the clock? Not necessarily. The problem isn’t the trip itself — it’s the hush-hush nature in which the journey is taken.

So, how can companies foster a culture in which staff don’t feel the need to conceal their whereabouts? In most cases, preventing hush trips comes down to having clear expectations around employee travel. Here are five tactics to employ.

1. Establish Clear, Flexible Work Policies

The key is not to discourage people from going on trips, but instead, to make sure the traveling is done correctly. Create a framework that outlines expectations, such as availability during work hours, and essential processes, like how to inform colleagues of travel plans. This ensures that remote workers remain accessible and responsive to colleagues and clients.

2. Educate Employees on Data Security

Outline protocols for safeguarding sensitive company information. This may include requiring the use of a secure virtual private network (VPN) or encryption tools. Share best practices for protecting confidential data, like using strong passwords and avoiding sharing sensitive data while on public Wi-Fi.

3. Openly Allow Bleisure Travel

Encouraging bleisure travel can be a boon for companies looking to strengthen culture and promote employee wellness. Adding a bleisure component to a company’s corporate travel policy can help ensure employees don’t feel as though they need to keep their travel plans under wraps. And when they do extend trips for leisure, they’ll better understand company expectations — like when to use their business vs. personal credit cards.

The Bleisure Boom

According to Phocuswright, 66% of companies already allow or plan to allow leisure extensions on business trips. Companies can adopt travel management software like Navan that makes extending business trips easy and practical for employees — while ensuring that business and personal expenses are kept separate.

4. Offer Travel Incentives

As the modern workplace evolves, so too must the strategies for motivating and inspiring employees. Incentivizing travel has emerged as a game-changing way to create an environment where employees feel valued, inspired, and deeply connected to their work. And doing so creates a positive feedback loop that reinforces the value of taking time to rest and recharge.

5. Emphasize Results Over Location

Encourage managers to focus on outcomes rather than physical presence. By valuing the quality and timeliness of assignments, companies can empower employees to manage their schedules and locations. 

In an intensely competitive environment for talent, companies that place a premium on the well-being and contentment of their employees will thrive.

Travelers around the world book business, personal, and bleisure with Navan for a trusted, quality experience. Get up and running with Navan in just 5 minutes.

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