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Remote work: Are ‘hush trips’ risky but worth it?

Young attractive woman in dress, sunglasses and hat, working in laptop on the beach Remote work
Remote work: Although eschewing the office or kitchen table for a beach bar sounds like a great idea, are there any downsides? Photo: Getty

Being able to work remotely comes with many perks. You can skip the morning commute, spend more time with family and friends and spend your lunch break unwinding, rather than inhaling a supermarket sandwich at your desk.

The office nine-to-five is becoming a thing of the past. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of people flexibly has increased dramatically, with three-quarters of organisations now offering hybrid working arrangements.

According to ONS data, 78% of people working from home say it gives them an improved work-life balance, while 85% say they want to work from home part-time in the future.

While some people prefer to work from a home office or a cafe, some are making the most of their autonomy and choosing more exotic locations.

"Hush trips" see employees do their job from a different country while their employers think they’re working at home.

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Although eschewing the office or kitchen table for a beach bar sounds like a great idea, are there any downsides? And is taking a hush trip a risky move?

Working from a different location can come with many benefits. A change of scenery can help you feel renewed and refreshed, which can boost your mental wellbeing. Exposure to sunlight is thought to increase the brain’s release of a hormone called serotonin, which boosts mood and helps you feel calmer. Working in a quiet, relaxing environment may also make you more productive, too.

Depending on what your job is, working abroad every so often shouldn’t be a problem. However, it’s usually better to be transparent with your employer about your location to avoid any problems. If your boss finds out you’ve been working abroad without telling anyone, it may lead to trust issues ⁠— which can lead to issues such as micromanaging.

Additionally, Alan Price, CEO at BrightHR, says it’s important to think about visas and tax laws.

“In some situations it is possible for employees to work remotely from other countries, but they must first make sure they have the appropriate visa and social security status to do so, and adhere to relevant tax and other laws,” he says.

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“Similarly, they must understand the employment jurisdiction which applies and ensure all relevant laws are adhered to. An employee who works abroad, even for a short time, can obtain protection under the local employment rights of their host country ⁠— known as mandatory laws ⁠— in relation to holiday, minimum pay and termination.”

Any protection acquired will depend on the host country in question, but it’s worth noting that there are many countries ⁠— particularly in Europe ⁠— where individuals are afforded greater protection against dismissal than they are entitled to in the UK.

“It is possible for employees to seek to rely on those enhanced rights if they are conducting their work abroad and their employment is terminated,” Price says.

An employer’s duty of care doesn’t end if an employee works abroad, so it’s important they are aware of and approve a worker’s location.

“This includes ensuring any risks to the employee’s health, safety and security associated with their location, accommodation, travel and required workload are evaluated and mitigated,” says Price.

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“There may also be data security implications for some employees who want to work in a different country.”

And while working abroad seems like a good solution for a busy worker with limited annual leave, it may be more beneficial to just take a break from work and go on holiday. Burnout and stress are at all-time highs across professions and many people have difficulty unplugging from work while taking time off.

According to a survey of 20,000 professionals, 54% say they are unable to fully switch off while on paid time off ⁠— and return to work feeling like they need a holiday. If you’re in need of a rest, going abroad to work is likely to be counter-productive. It may be better to simply take time off and come back feeling refreshed.

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