scorecardI secretly moved to Africa and didn't tell my boss. I never got caught — but it wasn't easy.
  1. Home
  2. Careers
  3. news
  4. I secretly moved to Africa and didn't tell my boss. I never got caught — but it wasn't easy.

I secretly moved to Africa and didn't tell my boss. I never got caught — but it wasn't easy.

Jen Glantz   

I secretly moved to Africa and didn't tell my boss. I never got caught — but it wasn't easy.
Careers6 min read
  • Insider spoke with a sleep researcher who was working remotely from Africa — and no one found out.
  • She was six hours ahead of her job's local time in Virginia, so she adjusted her schedule.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with a 31-year-old sleep researcher for a neurology clinic who secretly worked her remote job from Africa without her boss ever finding out. She asked not to be named to protect herself, but her employment has been confirmed by Insider. The following has has been edited for length and clarity.

In 2018, I found myself working my dream job as a sleep-lab manager. I had experience as a nurse and in healthcare administration, and landing this job and climbing to upper management felt like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. These types of jobs are rare, so when you land one, you don't want to lose it.

A big part of the job involved reviewing patients' sleep studies

The studies included pages of data about them. I was in charge of going through the resorts and pinpointing abnormalities in them for the doctors, so they could then review and prescribe treatment for the specific sleep disorder.

I was also doing management work, which included managing technologists, maintaining the integrity of the lab, and seeing sleep patients.

A few months into doing the job, I found out that I was pregnant with my son

I worked in the office up until the day I went into labor. But after I had him, my boss gave me the green light to start working from home. Since a big part of my job included reviewing these sleep studies, I didn't need to go into the office.

At that time, I was the only remote employee who worked for this company. Working at home wasn't a luxury a lot of other people had the option to do, and I felt grateful. It was the only way I could take care of my son and not lose this dream job.

When my son was 4 weeks old, my husband got a job in Tunisia, Africa

That's when things got interesting. My husband works for the government, and I didn't know how long we'd have to be there for.

But we decided to pack up and make the move anyway. I felt conflicted, because I knew that if my boss had found out about this, there was no way he would've let me keep the job.

I was able to work remotely from Africa, without anyone finding out, for over a year

I think they would have given the role to someone else if I told them I was going to be living in Africa and never coming into the office. It would've sounded like a logistical nightmare from a human-resources standpoint.

But it was a risk I decided to take, and I'm glad I did.

I made my new reality work a few ways, like leaning into the time change

My job involved reviewing sleep studies, speaking to patients and doctors to share results, and scheduling appointments.

I was six hours ahead of the Virginia sleep lab when I was in Tunisia. That worked out in my favor, because I'd wake up, tend to my newborn, get the house ready, and start my workday at 10 a.m. my time, right as the lab was opening and the patients were waking up.

In America, I'd start the job at 5 or 6 a.m., when the patients were waking up. That made it difficult to juggle working from home as a mom.

However, it did make the end of my days feel longer, since I'd usually work 10 to 12 hours and finish my workday at around 9 p.m.

I couldn't share any details of my life or living situation

Tunisia is such a beautiful tropical country. I got to do so many interesting things, like visiting Roman Ruins in Carthage, enjoying the beach, and constantly traveling to Europe, which was just a short and inexpensive flight away.

But I couldn't share any of these details with my coworkers or my boss. When they asked details about my weekend, or new things in my life, I kept my answers generic and short, which was normal. We didn't talk often about our personal lives at work.

When someone in the lab would ask me to come in and train them, I was able to stand my ground and just say that I'm a remote worker and can train them over the phone. Luckily, no one questioned or pushed back on that.

It was hard taking phone calls

The most challenging part of the job involved having to talk to patients at all hours of the day and night. Part of my role involves calling patients to share the results of the sleep study. Sometimes, patients would call me back at 2 a.m. my time, and I would have to answer because they would want to talk through problems and results.

Luckily, the calls weren't over video, so patients weren't able to see me. That made it easier to take these calls from anywhere in the house, without them knowing it was the middle of the night for me.

I also disguised my phone calls with 2 main strategies

First, I had a Google voice number, which made it look like I still had an American phone number when I was overseas.

I also used a VPN (a virtual private network). It makes my phone think I'm in the US, which allows me to use apps or programs that might not be available in the country that I'm living in, like Zoom or Facebook.

Having a VPN helped me use those platforms, watch certain TV channels, and have access to functions of the internet that weren't offered in the country I was in. It also masks your IP address, so nobody can know that you're in a location outside of America.

It was hard being fully remote

To work remotely in another country, you have to be extremely disciplined. You have to make sure you're on a schedule and getting all your work done so you don't raise any suspicion.

I was new to being a remote worker when we moved to Africa, so there was a learning curve in terms of figuring out how to be completely paperless and do everything electronically. I had to learn different ways to scan documents, electronically sign studies, and troubleshoot computer issues from thousands of miles away.

This would have been a challenge regardless of where I worked remotely, but at times, It made me wish that I was back working in the lab and not from home, many miles away.

Being away from working in an office did make me work more efficiently

I was able to take on big projects, like helping the lab get accredited, which involved submitting a lot of paperwork. I was able to do this all without having to leave my house in Tunisia.

I was scared of losing my job

My biggest fear during the entire year was that one day, my boss would find out, and I'd lose this job. I'd worked really hard to get to where I was. I knew if I was fired, it would be hard to replace this job, especially remotely.

It's a job that's so rare. I wanted to hold onto it, not get caught.

The dream job became boring and too repetitive

After a year of working remotely from Africa, I started to get bored with the job. I wasn't interacting with coworkers, and I was completely alone reading these sleep studies. I did miss interacting with people in person, and I grew frustrated with having to sit in front of my computer all day and stare at the screen.

We were living somewhere that was so inexpensive, and we didn't really need the income I was making at this job.

A few months earlier, I started a food blog

The blog was starting to take off, in terms of readers and followers. I was finding ways to monetize it, mostly through ad and affiliate revenue.

After a year of working remotely in Africa, I decided to quit and officially leave my sleep-lab job.

At first, my boss was angry I quit

He'd let me work remotely, I knew how to do the job so well. Still, I was glad I quit. I wanted to stop living this double life.

I didn't do any kind of reveal about the secret life I was living, but after I left, I did start posting on social media about living in Tunisia. Some of my coworkers figured it out, and they were surprised. My boss never reached out and said anything.

I was really proud of myself when I left this job

I'd been so scared of getting fired, and I thought I'd never find another job that I loved. I was wrong. There are so many cool jobs out there, and you shouldn't hold onto an opportunity that you no longer enjoy just because you think you'll never make money doing anything else.

You will. There are so many different ways.

If you've moved to another country without telling your boss and would like to tell your story, email Alanis King at aking@insider.com.




Advertisement