Many workers keep quiet about these trips to fend off productivity concerns and tax forking questions from employers.
But others told CNBC Travel that they remain quiet for various reasons. Each asked CNBC to refrain from publishing their full names to prevent identification by their employers.
Avoid the “hassles” of company approval
A Singaporean named Alicia said she took several trips without telling her employer.
“It’s easy for me because I don’t have to go to the office, and my boss isn’t even in the same area,” she said.
She said her employer, a technology company in Singapore, also has a 30-day remote work policy. But she didn’t apply 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 secret trip yet, she said. For other trips, she extended her time away without telling her employer “so she wouldn’t burn out despite her … PTO days”.
Business vacations vs. silent trips
- 45% of employees got a job in the last year
- 8% did not inform their company
- Top reasons: visiting family and friends (51%); change of scenery (48%); and staying productive at work (44%).
So far, all of her travels have been in Asia, so she can stay in similar time zones for meetings with ease. To hide her location, she blurs the backgrounds of her video calls, or uses a virtual background, and keeps small talk to a minimum to prevent unwanted questions, she said.
She said, “I don’t like to lie blatantly, and that won’t happen when the questions don’t come.”
Before traveling, Alicia said, she slowly reduced the number of times she went to the office and joined colleagues for after-work drinks, which made it easier to escape for short periods.
But not everyone is so lucky.
“I know people who have done that [hush trips]and their manager calls for a personal meeting with a client the day before.” “They will have to book a return ticket as soon as possible.”
Alicia said one of the reasons she didn’t worry about her employer finding out was because she had recently resigned from her position.
“I’m going to serve my notice this month,” she said. “If I get caught, I don’t really care.”
She said that neither her travel nor her resignation affected her work ethic.
“At the end of the day, I’m still doing my job.”
Concerns about co-workers
Ellie, who resides in Maryland, said she’s taken two silent trips to Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley in the past year.
“My employer didn’t mind, but I don’t want my co-workers to be envious or feel like I don’t work in the same capacity,” she said.
She said she works in the office two to three days a week for her digital marketing job. When she leaves, she said, she travels outside of work hours, leaves after work on Wednesdays and works remotely for the rest of the week.
Like Alicia, Ellie relies on background filters for Zoom calls and recommends checking your Wi-Fi and mobile before booking a flight. So far, the only hiccups she’s encountered in her travels has to do with internet connectivity.
“I’m a big camper and I love the outdoors,” she said. “If I can be in nature before and after work hours, I’m always happier — as long as there’s Wi-Fi!”
companies in the dark
Amy Zimmerman, chief personnel officer at digital payments company Relay Payments, said that while flights of silence work for some workers, it’s not ideal for companies to be in the dark about their employees’ locations.
“It is important to foster an environment in which team members are honest about their travel and [it] Don’t turn it into a “silent ride,” she said.
At the same time, Zimmerman said, employees who are given leeway to take work leave should follow common sense guidelines while they are away.
“For example, it’s not a good idea to take a Zoom meeting by the pool while you’re in a bathing suit,” she said. And for trips where “workers miss important meetings or make others take up your free time…it’s better to take a PTO than to try to work while you’re away.”
An account executive at a public relations agency in Singapore, who asked not to be identified, told CNBC Travel that he sometimes traveled without informing his bosses at his previous job because he rarely had physical meetings and mostly worked from home. He said he turned off his webcam during meetings and avoided talking about the weather to hide his location.
But he said he doesn’t need to do that anymore, because his new employer has a flexible working policy that allows him to travel while staying around the clock.
“Fortunately with my current company, we are very open with working from outside arrangements,” he said. “Many of my colleagues own homes in Malaysia… and travel between Singapore and Malaysia on a weekly basis.”