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.
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:
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.
It’s easy to see why cloaking work whereabouts can have upsides for individuals, but the practice comes with several potential pitfalls for companies.
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.
Depending on the destination and length of the trip, there could be issues related to work visas, taxes, and insurance.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.