Recently, a concerning trend has emerged in the corporate world — the rise of hush trips. These secret, unauthorised vacations taken by employees have become a growing concern for the human resources (HR) departments. Hush trips not only disrupt workplace dynamics but also pose significant challenges for HR professionals who strive to maintain transparency, fairness and employee engagement within the organisations.
Expressing her concerns, Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India, says that unannounced trips may indicate a lack of trust within the team or organisation, which is a major issue. Instead of resorting to hush trips, if employees communicate their needs upfront — such as requesting to work from a different location for a specific period — they would come across as transparent and more trustworthy.
How do hush trips damage the work environment?
Hush trips affect the workplace adversely, as they do the following:
Undermine workplace culture & team dynamics
Hush trips can disrupt the established workplace culture and team dynamics within an organisation. When a group of employees embarks on a secret vacation without involving their colleagues, it creates a divide between those included and those left out. This exclusionary behaviour can lead to decreased morale, a breakdown in trust, and the formation of cliques within the workplace. Such divisions hinder effective teamwork, collaboration and the overall productivity of the organisation.
“Such behaviour directly impacts the organisation and contributes to a toxic culture of mistrust. It can even lead to excessive monitoring and mistrust on the part of the managers, which upsets team morale and dynamics”
Uma Rao, CHRO, Granules India
As Rao rightly puts it, “Such behaviour directly impacts the organisation and contributes to a toxic culture of mistrust. It can even lead to excessive monitoring and mistrust on the part of the managers, which upsets team morale and dynamics.”
Hush trips often involve employees taking unauthorised leaves of absence, thereby violating company policies and procedures. These policies exist to ensure fair treatment and proper management of employee schedules. When employees go on undisclosed vacations, workflow is disrupted, gaps emerge in work coverage and other team members end up bearing the burden of additional work. Human resource departments are tasked with maintaining attendance records, enforcing policies and handling disciplinary actions. Hush trips only complicate these responsibilities and require HR professionals to address the issues proactively.
Affect employee engagement & trust
Employee engagement is crucial for a thriving and productive workplace. Trust is the foundation of engagement, and hush trips can erode this trust among employees. When some individuals are aware of and participate in secret vacations while others remain uninformed, it creates a sense of inequality and unfairness. This can lead to feelings of resentment, demotivation and disengagement among employees.
Raise legal concerns
From a legal standpoint, hush trips can raise various concerns for the HR departments. These trips may lead to a violation of labour laws and work-hour regulations — such as excessive leaves, unauthorised absences and so on. Additionally, if an accident or injury occurs during a hush trip, employers may face legal liabilities if the trip was not officially sanctioned or insured. Therefore, it becomes a challenge for HR professionals whose responsibility is to ensure compliance with labour laws, mitigate risks and protect the organisation’s interests.
“As long as the employees are fulfilling their responsibilities and communicating any issues that may affect their work, their opting to work remotely should be acceptable. However, it is essential to take security measures to ensure that company assets are protected.”
Atul Mathur, executive VP, Aditya Birla Capital
Tarnish reputation & image of the organisation
Hush trips can damage the reputation and image of an organisation, both internally and externally. Internally, it creates a perception of favouritism, exclusivity and lack of transparency, which can lead to disgruntled employees and increased turnover. Externally, if news or rumours of these hush trips spread, it can negatively impact the organisation’s reputation among potential recruits, clients and stakeholders.
According to Atul Mathur, executive VP, Aditya Birla Capital, even employees working remotely should be expected to attend meetings and fulfil their responsibilities, unless there is a genuine emergency.
Anil Mohanty, senior HR leader, believes that in all organisations there exists a mix of highly engaged, productive individuals as well disengaged / unproductive individuals. This situation can occur anywhere, be it a work-from-home setting or elsewhere. However, what truly matters is the overall productivity and successful completion of tasks and deadlines.
According to him, it doesn’t make a difference whether employees are working from home, enjoying a movie at a cinema, or collaborating with others. The key lies in delivering the work on time and maintaining integrity.
Mohanty goes on to emphasise the importance of meeting deadlines and completing tasks while acknowledging that individuals have the freedom to enjoy their own lives. “It is important to value productivity, adhere to schedules and engagements, and take responsibility for one’s own output,” he asserts.
“As long as the work is being done and deadlines are met, individuals should have the flexibility to enjoy their personal time, whether they are at a pub or at home. The main point is to maintain a balance between work and personal life while ensuring tasks are completed satisfactorily”
Anil Mohanty, senior HR leader
“As long as the work is being done and deadlines are met, individuals should have the flexibility to enjoy their personal time, whether they are at a pub or at home. The main point is to maintain a balance between work and personal life while ensuring tasks are completed satisfactorily,”opines mohanty.
On the same lines, Mathur adds, “As long as the employees are fulfilling their responsibilities and communicating any issues that may affect their work, their opting to work remotely should be acceptable. However, it is essential to take security measures to ensure that company assets are protected.”
“It is crucial to maintain professionalism during work hours and ensure that dedicated work time is not used for personal activities,” advises Rao.
Not all employees have the same level of sincerity and transparency. The notorious ones can easily influence the sincere performers. It is not difficult for the honest and diligent workers to get dragged into being part of activities such as hush trips either. And of course, in the long run, these do spoil the workplace culture, unsettle the dynamics of the team, eventually leading to disengagement of employees. Add to this the issues of trust, legal compliance and the overall reputation of the organisation! It can be quite a nightmare for the HR to maintain unity and bonding amongst the employees while keeping productivity high.
Therefore, it is imperative for HR professionals to nip hush trips in the bud. They can start by establishing clear policies, promoting transparency and fostering a culture of open communication and fairness.