The pandemic has created a new workforce of remote workers: employees who thought they were proverbially tied to their desks only to learn in recent months they can — and have to — work from home. “The significant change in work brought about by the pandemic has opened up new options for companies and their employees, and has many employees questioning what they always thought they knew about the nature of work,” says executive coach Alicia Daugherty.
And one question might be: Now that I’m a remote worker, should I take this chance to move?
“Given the fact that many companies are starting to embrace working from home forever, it's only natural for employees to start considering their options for living beyond where the office used to be,” says certified career coach Gracie Miller, who lists reduced cost of living, finding a better school catchment area, and the chance to be closer to family or experience a new culture as some of the many reasons remote work employees might consider moving to a new city or state.
But before you pack your bags, there are a few important things to consider, these experts say.
Is your remote work really permanent?
Some companies are declaring remote operations will be in place for the foreseeable future. But Daugherty points out that actions speak louder than words. “Pay attention to what the company is actually doing,” she says. Exiting long term leases and closing or combining offices are signals that remote work is here to stay. Absent of clear action like that, before you move, “have a clear plan on what to do if your ‘permanently remote’ job is no longer permanent,” Daugherty says.
Assess the risks
If remote work is a choice — not a requirement — at your company, Miller cautions you to understand any risks that might come with a permanent move away from the office. “Find out if your company has any different policies around employees who are going remote full-time permanently,” she encourages. For example, some companies may reduce the pay of remote workers — which could negate or significantly reduce any cost savings you’d gain from moving.
Consider travel expenses
Your company may have impressive travel expense policies that reimburse you for business-related travel. But “if your company is headquartered in Philadelphia and you have moved to Charleston, will they pay your travel back for the occasional meeting?” Daugherty asks. If you don’t know, ask HR about these policies before you plan to move far from the office.
Think about time zones
If your move could take you to a different time zone, how might that affect your ability to do your job? “If you live in Chicago and want to move to Italy, you will have to work nights to be available for meetings,” Miller points out. “For many people, working nights is a deal-breaker and should be heavily considered before committing to a move. Similarly, if you're a designer and need to see fabric samples in person, can they be sent to your new home in time for deadlines if you move to a more rural location?” For all jobs, Miller says that you’ll need to think about “what logistics are unique to your job that might limit your geographic choices?”
And ask: will the move make you happy?
A decision to move isn’t all about your job. “Once you've weighed the risks, limitations, and time zone factors, it's time to think about what would bring you the most joy and fulfillment,” Miller says. “No one gets all of their joy and fulfillment from their career, no matter how successful they may be.” If a move could bring you more joy — whether that’s by being closer to family or allowing you to recreate in a place you love — and won’t affect your career, then it might be time to pack your bags and have a serious conversation with your current employer.
If you’ve decided to move, Daugherty says it’s important to be transparent with your boss.
“Have a discussion with your boss about what brought you to the decision, what it means for you and the company, and what you can expect from each other,” she says. Explain how you plan to “sustain your performance and how you will manage your career, and be clear on what help you may need with that,” she adds. And “reassure your boss that you are committed to the company, and your ability to relocate and remain in your role will only make you a more loyal employee.”
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