Workers hide their locations and put their jobs in danger so they can roam the world even while their workplaces call them back.
John shoveled snow off his Philadelphia front porch during the 2020 winter. At the very least, it is what he claimed to be doing to his boss.
The tech expert was actually visiting places including Lebanon, Dubai, Vietnam, Canada, and Australia while on his world tour. He continued to do so even after beginning a new career last year with a company that thinks he resides and works in Houston.
John (not his real name) uses a VPN to hide his residence, works during US business hours, uses virtual Zoom backgrounds, and keeps an eye on the Houston weather to give away his supposed location. The 30-year-old travelled to Houston in May to pick up a laptop his new firm sent to the home address he gave them—in reality, a friend’s home—before returning to Dubai in order to maintain the façade.
John is one of many “stealth workers” who are lying to their bosses about their location.
The high expense of living in major US cities, the adaptability of remote work, and a desire for improved work-life balance are what motivate them.
They acknowledge the possibility of losing their employment if discovered, but they say it’s worth it.
People want the freedom to work from anywhere, and they don’t stop just because their bosses try to get them back in the office, said David Abraham, co-founder of Bali-based coworking company Outpost.
The pandemic changed the nature of the workplace and gave many workers the chance to work from home for the first time. Some people found that not being tied to an office allowed them to relocate to a new neighborhood or even a foreign country. Since 2020, at least 30 countries have begun to issue visas for digital nomads, making it suddenly feasible to work, for example, from Portugal for a company with headquarters in New York.
There is growing resistance from people who don’t want to give up their remote-work lifestyle when life returns to normal and many firms advise employees to return to the office.
According to a Topia survey on global mobility, 66% of employees don’t notify their employer every time they work remotely from outside of their native state or country, and an increasing percentage of workers claim they would rather quit than be compelled to return to the office.
Chris, a New Yorker who lives with his parents, travels for around seven months out of the year, which his US-based employer is unaware of.
In late 2020, the huge media company’s 29-year-old software engineer began traveling. Before seeing Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Greece, Turkey, South Africa, and Israel, he first traveled to Cancun in Mexico. His $130,000 yearly salary and lack of rent obligations enable him to travel and stay in Airbnbs for $25 per night.
Chris is aware that by taking this risk, he may lose his job—something that has already happened to friends and friends of friends—but he claims it will be worth it. Instead of waiting till he is older and in poorer form, he prefers to go now.
Since the pandemic, people feel like they have more entitlement over their own lives, said Outpost’s Abraham. They don’t want their bosses telling them where to work. As long as the job gets done, they say: ‘What’s the difference?’
This lax approach runs counter to how most firms view digital nomads. Salesforce Inc. and Spotify Technology SA have both established work-from-anywhere policies. However, many other businesses have informed employees they must come into the office at least a few days a week.
According to Chantel Rowe, vice president of product management at Topia, working abroad comes with a variety of tax and immigration difficulties, some of which may have an impact on businesses’ bottom lines. If employees spend a specific period of time—typically more than half the year—in another nation, the company may be liable for additional taxes. Employees who work overseas without the appropriate work visa risk fines as well.
Many businesses forbid employees from working abroad due to this risk, as well as cybersecurity and safety issues.
I definitely feel like the Covid free pass is running out, Rowe said. Companies are saying: ‘We’ve got big problems to deal with, without having tax and immigration authorities cracking down on us.’
Employees don’t feel guilty about giving false information regarding their employment. Many argue that their employers shouldn’t choose their location at all. Companies under pressure to keep talent include: According to a Topia survey, 41% of workers claim that the ability to work from home is a factor in their decision to switch employment.
Kate, a marketing consultant from Warsaw, saves money to travel whenever she can. The American, 31, worked from Airbnbs while traveling to Kenya for a month, Cape Town for two, and Nigeria for one.
She takes extraordinary measures to convince her superiors that she is in Poland, including getting up at two in the morning for a call while attending a wedding in the Caribbean and participating in a Zoom meeting while driving to a safari. The employee, who was born in Los Angeles, claimed she doesn’t let her managers know where she is because she worries they’ll assume she’s laxing off, which she claims isn’t the case.
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