- Insider recently spoke to a 32-year-old nonprofit worker who went to Vegas while working remotely.
- They didn’t tell their boss, and everything was going smoothly until an unexpected Zoom meeting.
- “Many workers can work anywhere,” they said. “If you allow work-from-home, it should be flexible.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a 32-year-old nonprofit worker. They spoke on the condition of anonymity to protect their career, but Insider has verified their identity and employment. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
When I started working entirely from home, I didn’t think I would find myself taking a Zoom call from a Vegas casino while trying to make my boss think I was in my home office.
But in September, that’s exactly where I was.
I work at a nonprofit, and I’m entirely remote
Even still, there’s the expectation that I’m working from home and sitting at my computer the entire day. My boss is a big rule follower — I feel like she doesn’t even move from her desk between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day.
Even when I work from coffee shops, I feel the need to explain it to her. I feel like she’s judging me every time my Zoom background is something different than what she knows to be my home office with all my plants behind me.
We have this strict Zoom culture at my job
You always want to make sure your icon is green to show that you’re available and actively working.
The other day, I had a doctor’s appointment. I had to log in an hour late, and I let my whole team know. It’s strange, because at previous jobs, I could have just hopped online later. I wouldn’t have had to let anyone know.
But this is more intense. It feels archaic in a sense. Why does it matter where I’m working from and what time I get online if I’m getting my work done?
I have family in Las Vegas, so I often visit
I figured I would just work from there and no one at work would be the wiser. On a day that I didn’t have meetings, I worked entirely from the pool. I didn’t tell anyone, because I don’t think it matters.
I was working — why does it matter that I was doing it poolside in Vegas?
When I did have Zoom meetings, I was careful about where I was working
For us, the expectation is that we always have our camera on. That makes traveling a bit more tricky.
Sometimes I would go to a Starbucks and just mention that I was working from a coffee shop. But other times, I would find a nondescript background and pretend I was at home.
There were times when I was at the bar in the hotel lobby during Zoom calls, but no one could tell because the wall behind me was blank and white. I used my AirPods Pro, which are noise-canceling even when you’re speaking, which was a super useful feature for me.
Everything was going well until my boss added an unexpected meeting to my calendar
I was in my hotel room, and I knew I needed to find somewhere to Zoom from that was less obvious. I went down to the lobby to find a chair or couch that had an unassuming background, but everywhere that I had used before was taken.
I was literally walking around the hotel and casino with my laptop, trying every chair in the lobby with my Photo Booth app open on my computer to see what my background would look like, but I couldn’t find anywhere.
Finally, I walked through the casino and saw a bar in the corner with a couch up against a wall. I sat there and checked my background; everything looked fine.
When I found a nondescript background, the next challenge was my audio
Casinos are really loud with all the dinging of the slot machines and the conversations of the people drinking and playing. I was worried my boss would be able to hear it, so I quickly sent a chat to one of my coworkers and told her the truth — that I was in a Vegas casino and I was worried our boss would be able to tell.
My coworker said she’d set up a quick Zoom for us to check what our boss would be able to hear. With my noise-canceling AirPods in, my coworker said she couldn’t hear the casino sounds.
I was so thankful, but it was such a stressful situation. I was totally scrambling, but it worked out in the end.
I wish I’d felt like I could be honest with my boss about where I was
It would have saved me a lot of time that I spent frantically trying to find a couch in the hotel lobby with a white wall for a Zoom background.
I don’t know why employers don’t understand that many workers can work from anywhere, and if you’re allowing work-from-home, it should be really flexible. I think that mindset — that you have to be sitting at a desk nine hours a day or you’re not actually working — is going to make certain generations obsolete one day.