- The freedom of remote work has led some employees to go abroad — to live and vacation.
- Insider spoke to an advertising employee who went to Mexico for vacation but chose not to tell their coworkers.
- They said after the stress of faking it and taking video calls at 2 a.m., they’d never do it again.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with an employee in the advertising sector. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their career, but Insider has verified their identity and former employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
I didn’t ever expect to find myself working from the bathroom floor of a hotel room in Mexico at 2 a.m., but that’s exactly what happened in May 2021. My job is based out of a city in Europe that had strict lockdowns in spring of 2021, and honestly, I was tired of it.
I know it can be seen as irresponsible, but I decided to go on a vacation
After everything was booked, my boss told me they really needed me for a series of meetings that week. So I decided to have my cake and eat it, too — I’d go on the vacation I’d planned and work from Mexico, and hopefully no one would be the wiser.
I’ve always used a set background on video calls so that if I ever had to work from somewhere other than home, no one would be able to tell. That made it a lot easier to work from anywhere, because I didn’t need to find a good background — I just needed strong WiFi, although even that could be an issue.
I thought working on vacation would be the fairly easy — but it wasn’t
At one hotel in Mexico, the WiFi kept cutting out, making it really difficult to get my work done that day. Plus, my partner was annoyed that I was working during our vacation.
It felt like I was losing at both things I was trying to do. I wasn’t able to fully enjoy my vacation, and I wasn’t able to submit the quality of work that I usually do.
One night, I had a call that I really needed to be on at 2 a.m. Mexico time
The call was early morning in the city where I’m based, and that night, my partner and I went out to a club In Mexico. I remember thinking: “I’ll just stay out and stay up until it’s time for the call, then I’ll do it and go to sleep.” It seemed like a good plan.
We stayed out until around 1 a.m. and then went back to our hotel. My partner was ready for bed, and obviously I couldn’t have the risk of being in the same room as them while they were sleeping, so I decided to take the call from the bathroom. Since there wasn’t a chair in the bathroom, I took it from the bathroom floor.
Luckily, my part of the presentation was the beginning of the meeting. I did my part, and then I turned my camera off and put my settings on mute. The next thing I knew, my partner was shaking me awake. The meeting — which had gone on for over an hour after my presentation — had ended, and I was the only one left in the virtual meeting room. I was also slumped over on the bathroom floor, sleeping next to my laptop.
I ended up calling in sick when I got home, because I realized trying to work from vacation didn’t end well
I was so embarrassed about the call. I wondered if anyone had noticed that I hadn’t spoken or said goodbye when the meeting ended, but when I got back to work the next week, no one said anything, so I don’t think they knew. But I was like: “I’m never doing this again.”
That’s the thing about remote work: It makes anything seem possible. But the reality is, you can’t work from anywhere. You need reliable WiFi and a desk and a chair, at the very least.
But at the same time, I honestly find office culture a little ridiculous. Like, did I really need to be working those days? I work in advertising and marketing. If I’m not at work, it’s not like someone’s going to die. I’m not a doctor.
I won’t ever take a vacation and try to work at the same time again
There are more important things in life than work meetings, like sleep and actually enjoying your time. There’s this pressure that nothing is more important than work and you always have to be over-achieving, but the truth is, my clients don’t notice if I’m putting in 80% versus 100%. You can’t phone it in all the time, but I think a balance is really important.
That said, the stress of lying and deceiving — and the steps it takes to conceal the lie, like blocking your coworkers on Instagram stories — takes away from the enjoyment of the vacation. It’s just not worth it.