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Meet The Secret Nomads Whose Bosses Don’t Know They’re Working Abroad

5 Mins read

Some people have been remote working for months without their bosses’ knowledge. Working from home 24/7 is difficult for many workers. Looking after kids, living with housemates in a cramped space and missing colleagues are just a few of the difficulties. But for those who travelled frequently pre-pandemic, they have felt the effects of lockdowns even more deeply. Let me take you to meet the secret nomads. […]

NOTES: Meet The Secret Nomads Whose Bosses Don’t Know They’re Working Abroad

Let’s find out how they do it, what they get from it and what advice they’d give to an aspiring digital nomad – secret or otherwise.

Frederick, 39, German, works for a tech company

I spent the first few months of the pandemic working from home in Zurich, where I live alone. I was really strict on following all the rules, I barely saw anyone, and I did all my grocery shopping online. To keep fit, I did all my exercise in my tiny apartment.

Then I went on holiday to Mexico, for a break from work. I met people there who were remote working and I instantly felt jealous. They had such a good work-life balance and they didn’t seem to get stressed by work at all.

Life on the road isn’t always what it looks like on Instagram, of course.

Whereas for me, within two days of being back at work, in isolation, it was like I’d never been on holiday. I was back to being stressed. I knew there was no point in asking my boss if I could work from abroad. He has young kids so he’s really paranoid about hygiene and staying safe. So I decided I just had to go for it, for my own mental health. I persuaded a gym buddy, Matthias, to come with me. Neither of us ever put our cameras on during calls anyway. So as long as there’s no background noise that would seem weird, no one can find out.

Round trips, fun and a careless exposure

Since then we’ve worked from Mexico, Brazil and Italy. I don’t want to say exactly where. But trust me, it’s been so much fun. We work most of the day then go kitesurfing, if there’s wind. In the evening we got take-out when restaurants were still closed. But now we go out for dinner or eat with people where we’re staying.

The lowest point was when I caught COVID in Brazil. We went to a party in a favela a few days after we arrived. In hindsight, it was a dumb idea. Tons of people dancing and singing, it was kind of inevitable that someone would spread COVID. I felt ill for about 10 days and I had all the symptoms you hear about. It was stressful because I couldn’t take any time off work, even when I felt really sick. I got pretty worried when I had a really high fever, but I didn’t want to risk getting worse by going to a local hospital. So I just decided to ride it out. At least I’ve had the antibodies since, so that’s reduced my worries even more about travelling around.

Do I have any regrets about working abroad secretly?

Not at all. Everyone I know back in Zurich has been so miserable in lockdown. If you have the choice, why put yourself through that?

Matthias, 38, German, works for a finance company

I’ve been working abroad with Frederick for most of the last 8 months. My boss and colleagues have no idea. Or at least, if they do, they’ve never said anything to me.

Even my parents don’t know I’m not in Switzerland. They’re getting older and I just don’t want to worry them, so I’ve just never told them. They’ve been isolating, so they’ve never asked me to go and see them.

In Brazil we got an apartment. We would work from there during the day then go kiting in the afternoon. I schedule all my work meetings in the morning, after which they’re out the way.

I was the same as Frederick, I hated being in lockdown at home. I’m really into fitness and I hated not being able to go to the gym. Whereas while we’ve been away we’ve been able to go kiting, surfing, running on the beach, whatever.

If anyone thinks we don’t work hard just because we’re travelling at the same time, they’re wrong. I’ve actually been promoted while I’ve been away. It’s not affected my productivity at all. Of course, I’m creative with how I use my time. I sometimes work late into the evening if I’ve taken time off during the day to have a long lunch or travel to a beach. But I’m happy to do that.

I think the pandemic has shown us that workers are happier when they get to choose their hours and location. Happy people do better work. I really hope companies take notice and change their policies as offices reopen.

Hello, I will like you to meet some of the other secret nomads, Rene, Manuela …

Rene, 28, French, works for a sportswear brand

I usually live in Berlin. I went on holiday to Tenerife in February to escape the winter and did a few days remote working from there, to save on my …

“… it was actually super easy to hide it from my boss and the rest of the team. Everyone’s in their own world. We barely ask each other “how are you?” now that we’ve all been working in our home offices for so long. So no one asked how I was, so I didn’t have to lie.”

Manuela, 36, Russian-Spanish, self-employed

I usually live in The Netherlands but I took off in my campervan in October 2020. I’d already had the van for a few years but …

If you’re a good employee, they can’t get that mad. You’re just prioritizing work-life balance, after all.

Go to Euronews to read more, so much more …

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No One Wants To Work Too Much. So Why Do We Do It?

Many people have an inaccurate beliefs about their workload. Here are a few pointers to address this.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Get more done in the same amount of time by learning to work more efficiently. Better manage distractions and attention seeking activities. Learning a comprehensive workflow management system is another way to get more done in less time. 

Ultimately your own work-life balance is completely up to you. No one can “give you” better balance. You have to take it.

Question Assumptions

Stop thinking that other people expect you to be available all the time. Also, trying to conform to the expectations that other people have for you is exhausting and ultimately futile.

You Have a Habit of Distraction

Your most important resources are not your time or your money or even your attention. Your most important resources are your body and your mind.

Manage checking your communication channels during workday every 1-3 minutes. Else, you get conditioned and wont be able to “shut it off,” workday, work week or at your personal time.

You Have Control

Studies show that a boss’s work-life balance is an important factor in the work-life balance of their employees, and that if all better utilize downtimes, everyone will likely to be physically and emotionally healthier.

Recommended: The Third Space according to Adam Fraser is the transitional gap in between what we do. It’s not what we do, it’s what we do in between what we do that is most important.


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