Cross Country Move: New Job or New Lifestyle?
October 28, 2014 11:28 AM   Subscribe

I am moving across the country. Do I keep my current job and commute by plane or do I leave that job and find new work there? (... many details within...)

*Asking for a friend*


I currently work for a non-profit education company in a large city on the west coast (Call it A), but I'm from a medium sized city in the South and have been wanting to move back there for quite some time now. I love my hometown (call it B), and I miss my family. I love A as well, but I'm ready to go home.

Last week, my boyfriend received a job offer in B. It's a one-of-a-kind job that sounds like it was basically written with him in mind! He's accepted the job and we've started to plan our move!

Today, I informed my boss, and I was expecting 1 of 2 things to happen. One: She is willing to let me work remotely until the organization expands to B in June (my preference), or two: I am unable to work remotely, in which case, I will do anything I can to support the company during the transition. What I did not expect was option 3: I travel back and forth between A and B every week. It would look something like: Fly to A Monday night (4 hour flight), work 3 long days, fly back to B Thursday night. Stay in B Friday-Sunday. Repeat process on Monday. I would do this for 6-7 months, and then hopefully stay with the company when they expand to B.

I'm worried. I've never traveled like this for work. I understand that their are pros: frequent flyer miles, I get to keep my job, i get to fulfill the commitments I made, I continue to get paid during this time of transition, etc. There are also cons: I'm only living in Nola 3.5 days per week; it will be a new city for us, and my boyfriend will be exploring it without me half of the week; I'll be lonely; I'll be spending over 8 hours a week on a plane; it's a non profit company so we are talking economy flights - nothing fancy.

On the other hand, if I say no to option 3 and part ways with this organization, that means that I am essentially moving to B without a job. Finding a job will likely not be a problem, but I won't have the luxury of time; therefore, I probably can't be as picky as I'd like to be.

So I have a big decision to make, and I have only a few days to decide . . .

-Specifically , has anyone been in a similar situation?
-How does it feel to travel so often?
-How does it feel to spend so much time away from your partner and home?
-What is a reasonable amount of time to "try this out"? I've thought about having an introductory period where either of us could call it quits if this isn't working . . . what other middle ground is there?
-Is there a name for this commuting arrangement so that I can look up other related experiences?
-Being that this is a non-profit, I am not sure what types of reimbursements I should expect, flight, hotel, car, food?
-Am I missing anything?
posted by milqman to Work & Money (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
-Being that this is a non-profit, I am not sure what types of reimbursements I should expect, flight, hotel, car, food?

It strikes me that this is actually something you are well within your rights to ask your boss about, as this is information that could definitely affect your decision. Even if you really really wanted to do this for them, if they were also expecting you to foot the bill yourself on top of it, I'd definitely be saying "oh HELL no".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

I moved across the country and was unexpectedly offered the chance to keep my job and work remotely from my new city. I hated that job, and part of the reason I moved was because I felt no commitment to it and wanted to get the hell out of there, but I absolutely jumped at the chance to have a steady paycheck while I settled down in a new city.

So I would say yes, absolutely, and don't even discuss the trial period option or anything like that. Say yes, do it for a few weeks and see how you feel. In the meantime, look for other jobs in your new city, save money, and if it turns out you hate the arrangement, tell your employer and give notice. Saying yes doesn't have to be a lifetime commitment, and you don't need to feel badly that you aren't sure you want to stick it out until they open a new office. Nobody would be certain, jumping into a brand new situation like this. If you end up not liking it, well, at least you gave them another few months of your time before resigning like you had originally planned.
posted by something something at 11:37 AM on October 28, 2014 [11 favorites]

Ugh, this sounds seriously horrible and soul sucking. And that's aside from the fact that it's not even clear whether they're going to put you up while you're in City A or whether you're on your own for renting a second apartment, etc. I would go back to your boss and try to negotiate something like working remotely most of the time, with a trip out every 1 or 2 months for any in-person tasks that need to happen. Since you thought remote work might be an option, I assume you're doing some sort of job where you don't NEED to be in every day (i.e. obviously a receptionist or a teacher can't make this work), so lay out a clear plan for how remote working with limited in-person hours could potentially work.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:38 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I work in a field where everyone travels M-Thursday every week. We fly economy and stay inexpensive hotels. Most people have partners that deal with it (many have kids). They do it because they can make shit load more money doing it and have great experience. It's not that bad. I did it to in the new place i moved to and have made great friends on the weekends. I would see if you could alternate weeks or something like that.

I would definitely see if they would pick up the travel expenses. This will run them 1k a week at minimum probably as a ball park figure. Are you worth 50k more a year?
posted by sandmanwv at 11:40 AM on October 28, 2014

Jet lag is a killer in situations like this. You will never really be able to adjust fully to one time zone. Be prepared to feel like absolute crap, especially at first.

I have some friends, a couple, where the husband did this. It was really hard on their relationship -- he was exhausted from the travel and the long days, which meant he didn't have the energy to do much when he was home. They were both SO MUCH happier when he eventually got a job that was local.

I would really look into the possibility of working remotely if you can.
posted by ananci at 11:41 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Absolutely what something something said. Say yes (assuming they are planning to cover your expenses like flights and accommodation at least), then look for a new job in New Orleans while still gainfully employed and getting paychecks. I would ask about working remotely (eg maybe only fly back every second week for full Monday-Friday? some other compromise?) but don't be "remote work or I quit".
posted by the agents of KAOS at 11:50 AM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Did the boss insist option 3 was the only way to keep the job, or can your friend just continue the job remotely? I don't think flying back and forth is very practical. I mean, what is it about this job that requires your friend to physically be there? Almost everything can be done remotely these days.

Personally, flying takes a lot out of me. I get jet lag and I usually get dehydrated. I just feel crappy the whole day when I have to take long flights. How is your friend with flying? Also, what's the car situation like? Does your friend have someone to take her to and from the airport all the time? Will she be willing to leave her car at extended parking? What will the employer reimburse your friend for? Your friend is well within her rights to ask about what she will be reimbursed for as she works on making this decision.

I think the opportunity to keep the job while moving is good, because then your friend can look for a job within her own city while getting a steady paycheck if she wants. But maybe she can push for a full telecommute or a bi-weekly airplane commute.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:04 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Not your same situation at all, but my husband is a flight attendant so he travels 3-4 days a week while I live regular life at home. I miss him when he's gone but honestly it would be really hard to have a life where we're both home all the time! I LOVE my alone time. I love eating shitty frozen pizza and watching Gilmore Girls and not speaking to anyone after work. It definitely took some getting used to, but I really can't imagine going back to 100% home together. He enjoys flying every day and not having to think about work once he's home. I guess that might be different for your situation, but the time apart thing can definitely be done and isn't terrible! If you or he enjoy your alone time, I'd say go for it. You can always keep looking for a job once you're there!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 12:18 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Try to negotiate alternating one week of this with one week working from home. Even if they won't go for that, it sounds bearable to me given that it's only for a few months.
posted by hazyjane at 12:19 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

-Being that this is a non-profit, I am not sure what types of reimbursements I should expect, flight, hotel, car, food?

I don't see how this could possibly be worth it if they don't reimburse you.

Just spitballing - $1000/week as mentioned above sounds right to me. Let's say you get paid $60k at your non-profit job, or $5,000/mo. You'd be spending $4,000/mo just to make $1,000/month! That makes no sense. Even if you were unemployed for several months in city B, you'd still be ahead of the game.
posted by desjardins at 12:21 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I've thought about having an introductory period where either of us could call it quits if this isn't working . . . what other middle ground is there?

If the "us" that you're referring to is you and your company, if you are an at-will state, then there's no need for an introductory period. Try it, if you don't like it, quit. If they think it's not working out, they'll let you know.

If you're reasonably sure that you can keep your job when they expand to your new hometown, and you don't hate your job, I don't see why you wouldn't say yes, at least for the time being.

They can't mean for this to be on your dime. I mean that makes no sense.
posted by lyssabee at 12:25 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Unless your employer is willing to pay FULLY for your travel (either by a corporate AMEX card they pay, or reimbursing you for expenses incurred), I'd say this is a no-go. Given that you work for a non-profit, I'd be willing to bet a lot of the travel costs would be coming out of your pocket.

I think a better bet would be to look for a new job in Southern City.
posted by tckma at 12:34 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

This sort of commute is fairly common in my industry. It's a shift, but it's not too bad.

Definitely make the non-profit eat all the travel costs, same as they would for a consultant. It's expensive to hire someone. If they went the temp route, it would have up to a 40% markup. If they used a recruiter, they would pay a fee equal to one or two months. And they'd lose productivity while bringing them up to speed. Considering you'll be local again once they open their new office, they're making this offer for their own financial well-being.

If necessary, they can save on travel costs by letting you work remotely on weeks where you aren't needed in person.

Travel time is work time. Yes, you might need to work more than forty hours a week. But that eight hours is not part of your weekend. And even if you pay for it, sign up for Clear now.

The biggest hit personally is juggling chores and social time. Find a fluff-and-fold to handle your laundry, and get a house cleaning service. Just don't even make it a discussion between the two of you.

But other than that, it can be an enjoyable experience. Your boyfriend gets some time to make NOLA feel like his new city. Not the town he moved to for his significant other. You get to see your West Coast friends on the non-profit's dime. And the next few vacations you plan will be much nicer than your budget would regularly afford, thanks to frequent flyer miles. (And don't forget hotel/rental car points)
posted by politikitty at 12:43 PM on October 28, 2014

In your question and in some of the answers I see comments like "given this is nonprofit..."

Nonprofit does not mean non-income. Do not let the tax status of this organization dissuade you from following up and confirming their willingness to pay all of your travel and City A lodging expenses before you commit to this arrangement. Their tax status and their willingness and/or ability to pay for these costs are completely unrelated.
posted by AndrewInDC at 12:48 PM on October 28, 2014 [7 favorites]

is there any reason you're not considering living in A for the additional seven months until your company's office in B is open? long distance is a bit of a drag but much less so when you have a clear endpoint.
posted by noloveforned at 1:01 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Long distance commuting is actually pretty common. From my perspective it would be a choice of whether I enjoy letting someone else drive me to work. The extended weekend can cover a lot of sins, as well. Especially if you enjoy the work and you have a terminal date (June '15). I should also point out that if you get acquainted with the flight crews there will be some definite benefits to being a regular.
posted by ptm at 1:23 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

The other thing to think about is that you will eventually have a shortened weekend or two due to flight cancellations and other travel delays. Even an unanticipated overnight stay has a pretty big effect.

I worked from another office for a while, flew out Sunday night and back Thursday evening. It was tiring. Very tiring.
posted by hwyengr at 1:24 PM on October 28, 2014

-Being that this is a non-profit, I am not sure what types of reimbursements I should expect, flight, hotel, car, food?

They should pay 100% for all of it. Now, I might be willing to grant a little bit of wiggle room on food - like, I'd probably accept a per diem for food that's on the low side, because I'd be paying for food anyhow, and possibly with no income - but that's it. All flight (including transportation to and from the airport) and lodging costs must be 100% covered, in addition to rental cars, if you need them. This isn't really negotiable. They can't expect you to pay for flights and hotels.

Also, as others have said, see if you can negotiate the travel down to a week a month, or even every other week. That would be a lot easier to deal with. But I'd probably do this even if they don't grant you that, provided they a) pay for/reimburse all travel expenses, and b) are confident that the situation will be temporary.
posted by breakin' the law at 1:27 PM on October 28, 2014

Response by poster: *From OP*


Thank you for all of your responses so far!!

I think it goes without saying that this is a non-starter if they expect me to pay for airfare and City A lodging. The fuzziness is more around things like food while I am back in A, or cab/rental-car to/from the airport. The types of things that a normal business trip would include but that a long term assignment might not (or might otherwise handle with a per diem).

I would like to hear a little more about the "Soul-sucking" (as Rainbowbrite put it) parts/details I should be thinking about... I know this part won't be fun, but is it bearable or torture? Why?
posted by milqman at 1:33 PM on October 28, 2014

I know this part won't be fun, but is it bearable or torture? Why?

This entirely depends on your personality and whether you groove on constant chaos in your life.

There's a segment of the IT industry that works similarly, and it's the kind of thing that is cool when you're young or if you don't like participating in your family (and they don't want you around) most of the week, sort of a working divorce, but it's just not at all appealing to people who don't want their weeknights to belong to someone else, or like going to the doctor or having dinner with their family. I have a friend who did it while her husband was working and going to grad school, because he wasn't ever going to have time for her anyway, but then he graduated and she got a local job and pregnant immediately thereafter.

It's impossible for me to fathom. Why would you leave a place you don't like to move to a place you like and then spend over half your free time in the place you don't like and spend all your time in the place you do like unpacking, doing laundry, and then packing?
posted by Lyn Never at 2:47 PM on October 28, 2014

Personally, I would hold onto whatever job I have as long as possible, using whatever leverage I have, until I find a new, more convenient job in City B. The job market is just too frightening now to have a period of unemployment on your resume. As long as your job isn't extremely specific to a geographic area (like, you work on an offshore oil rig, and you're moving to Nebraska), you should be able to find something, but it may take a while, and already being employed gives you a giant gold star on applications.
posted by deathpanels at 3:01 PM on October 28, 2014

Also, it occurs to me that if you company is desperate enough to hold onto you that they would pay for your airfare, you might be able to use that as leverage to get them to let you work remotely for real.
posted by deathpanels at 3:04 PM on October 28, 2014

I've thought about having an introductory period where either of us could call it quits if this isn't working

There's nothing stopping you from quitting your job if it's not working for you.

You don't have to give anything to your employer in exchange for this.
posted by yohko at 2:30 PM on October 29, 2014

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