a rovin', a rovin', a rovin' i'll go!
June 29, 2020 11:47 AM   Subscribe

I asked my employer if they'd be open to me Working From Away permanently, and it looks likely they'll say yes. I am thinking of leaving the big city I moved to and returning to the big town/small city I had lived in previously, and WFA there. Is this wise? Escapist?

I moved from a Big Town/Small City to Large City in fall 2019. My thought process at the time was:

* I loved a lot about the BT/SC, especially its incredible natural setting, my emerging community of friends, Quaker meeting, and the pace of small-actually-large-town life.
* However, I wasn't making enough at my job to keep afloat with my debt payments. I also felt somewhat stagnated in my career - I was locked into a career with very formalized advancement and little leverage, even though I also had some skills that would be compensated much better in other sectors. I took part-time work on the side to help, but I felt like I was treading water financially and career-wise.
* I also felt a vague sense that a bigger city at this point in my life could provide more opportunities with dating, hobby groups, etc. I've moved enough times to be disillusioned with the idea of Find Myself in the LC, BUT combined with the career stuff, it did seem like the BT/SC wasn't an ecosystem that would support my long-term growth.

So I moved. I jumped out of higher ed into applied research, increased my income ~60%. I found my new LC to be an interesting new environment with some really fun opportunities for hobby group stuff (a couple of sports). It did feel a little bit like "ah yes, this Starting Over thing again," which I'm pretty used to, so despite some angst I just started going through the motions. I'm mostly happy with my job and have learned to appreciate it more over time, and had some early successes that have helped protect/affirm my value to the team, although it continues to be a hard and uncertain time of course. I'm very aware i'm fortunate to have this job stability and to make progress on paying off debt and developing savings.

I also have a couple of wonderful friends here - one friend moved at the same time from BT/SC in fact, and became really close. BUT. I've made no solid connections to here at all - I really don't see people at all bc of quarantine of course, and I also just feel really really disconnected from the region. I have no family here, my closest friends are largely either near BT/SC or scattered around, my family is several hours away. Rationally, I know that it's kind of a perfect storm shitty time right now to climb the mountain of getting used to a new city, and that it won't necessarily be like this forever. But

(1) what happens if it IS like this for a good long while? I can't see my hobby groups safely resuming for months for instance, or making coffee dates with new potential friends or whatever. and

(2) I don't think I WANT to climb this mountain. I've done it so many times. No place is perfect, and moving isn't a salve for combatting my deeper issues with building and connecting with community over time. But I just really yearn for the beautiful natural environment and kind consistent friendships of BT/SC, even if I'll miss my new friendship here a lot. I feel like if so much of my life is going to be conducted remotely anyway (my job will either be entirely WFA indefinitely, or at least entirely WFA for the next several months seguing into a mostly remote position in late 2020), I might as well be in a happy, supportive environment. I also want to adopt and start a family at some point (I'm 30, and I want to start this process by around 33-34), and I honestly think BT/SC would be an amazing place to do it. I also have never really moved back to a place before? I keep going forward and forward, so heading back somewhere I enjoyed, with the major problem that didn't keep me there (financials/career) solved, feels like a really kind-to-myself move.

I guess I am afraid, however, that I'm making an emotional decision (find comfort in familiar place) that may not actually be as prudent and practical as giving here more time, staying put and waiting for the world to change more, etc. I also would likely be committing to a remote work career for the forseeable future. There's a small window that I'd be able to use my new position to renegotiate a better situation at my previous employer, but I'm not banking on that, especially with the hiring freeze stuff. And this means if things didn't work out long term with my current employer in a WFA situation (though they've been working well so far!) I would be in a tougher spot than a LC environment, potentially, if I wanted something local. I think I like remote work, but I'm not sure how it will feel in years, yknow?

There's... so many factors... and I just want to make sure I'm going about this in a way that makes sense and not missing anything. What do you think? Any guidance? What do you hear in this, and what questions might I ask to guide this process more skillfully?

Thank you!
posted by Sock Meets Body to Work & Money (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
From reading this, it sounds like your heart is telling you to go home. Listen to it.
posted by Amy93 at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

Other than this part,

my job will either be entirely WFA indefinitely, or at least entirely WFA for the next several months seguing into a mostly remote position in late 2020

it sounds to me like BT/SC is your best bet (read: what you actually want).

That said, not knowing for certain that your new job will give you the opportunity for remote work permanently would give me pause. Unless you'd be really fine giving up that job, I'd be sure to get in writing that you can WFA before making a move.
posted by nosila at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2020

I might as well be in a happy, supportive environment

I also want to adopt and start a family at some point (I'm 30, and I want to start this process by around 33-34), and I honestly think BT/SC would be an amazing place to do it

feels like a really kind-to-myself move

Work is only a percentage of your life. You've had an opportunity to realize you really appreciate that specific location, that it's where you want to be in your family-formative years, and you clearly love it and want to move back.

You have so much less control over the future of work than you do over the future you want for yourself personally. You can see a fairly clear path for the near future, that's about as good as those predictions can get. Maybe you'll have to or want to make different choices in the future, but for now it's pretty clear where you want to be.

I personally think one thing you're going to see happening in the After, whenever we get there, is people leaving the population density of large cities and employers moving more to remote work. I'd be willing to gamble on any employer thinking people are going to be able to come back before a vaccine is wrong, and by the time that happens many jobs will be entrenched as remote. Maybe don't buy a house right this minute, but move back and rent and drag your feet a little bit if necessary to get to a point of "well, if you want to keep me you have to keep me remote, it's up to you" but kinda knowing they'll do it.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:21 PM on June 29, 2020 [2 favorites]

This seems to your major downside: I would be in a tougher spot than a LC environment, potentially, if I wanted something local.

I've lived in a big city, worked remote and continued living in a big city. Remote coworkers don't connect you to the same city-job networks as other places -- they are more likely to have remote roles in the future, but those also tend to be fairly competitive (at least at present -- it may change as more go remote).

I would weigh this differently depending on your career and only you or your network can know that -- some jobs have very strong local opportunities, others can be found as careers many places.
posted by typecloud at 12:26 PM on June 29, 2020

Will your job keep you at the same salary level? Because if so, GO. That's the dream: a small-town life with a big city paycheck. Unless BT/CC is like Napa or something, the cost-of-living savings will mean that you'll probably end up living pretty large. It sounds like you really want to move back (and boy do I feel you), and that would just be icing on the cake.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2020 [3 favorites]

If BT/SC and LC are in different states in the US, you might run into issues where the company may or may not be able to legally employ you from out of state and there could be health insurance issues. I'd suggest checking those out before making a decision.
posted by kbuxton at 1:18 PM on June 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

The one drawback that comes to mind is that you may have difficulty with career advancement from this point if you are in BT/LC. Not just externally--if your company doesn't have a very strong remote work culture you are likely not to be seen as "in the mix" for internal opportunities.

You may or may not care about this, especially if COL is significantly lower in BT/LC, but of course kids are expensive, too.

(Usually with these questions I advise sticking it out a little longer but the fact is you may not be able to even "give LC more of a chance" for several more months, or longer.)
posted by praemunire at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2020 [1 favorite]

This is not a forever decision. Things change and you can change your mind again. After, when you moved last fall, it never occurred to you that this is what you options would look like 6 months later.

I think the pandemic is going to be around for a while. We are three months into and the situation in the US is getting worse, not better. (Assuming you are in the US) Figure we are no where near being able to just control the spread of the virus and even further away from being safe to socialize in unrestricted ways.

This is a chance to work in your hometown for 60% raise. My only suggestions is that you include in your budget regular trips back to BC to get face-to-face time with your co-workers. Maybe your employer would pay, but if not, it might still be a good investment in your career especially as others are returning to the office.
posted by metahawk at 4:41 PM on June 29, 2020

I moved from a big city to a big town/small city two years ago, and have been so happy with that change. So I’d recommend that, to the extent you’re like me. I’ve lived in lots of different types of places around the country for the previous 20 years, so I get the desire for big city and also the desire to try different things.

But BT/SC really is the best of both worlds for us. We have enough density to have high walkability but low enough to afford a nice old single family home with a medium/large yard. We have music and arts and culture and restaurants but also rather sleepy quiet Sunday mornings. While the new urbanism hip is great for the youthful and busy (and wealthy), as I get older (and have a toddler) I appreciate the slower pace and easier life. That’s all ‘normal times’ talk, and of course very high density has its own implications for public health during a deadly pandemic with no end in sight.

We can obsess over comparing details when buying a new vacuum or toaster oven, but for big stuff like this you have to listen to your heart and your gut. Flip a coin. Don’t do what it says but pay attention to how you feel when it’s in the air. Good luck!
posted by SaltySalticid at 6:56 PM on June 29, 2020

My employer was happy with me working remotely for four years; I generally traveled to the office about once a month for a day or sometimes two. One downside as mentioned already was being less visible; the office workers knew me but didn't see what I was doing and didn't feel I was part of the group. The bigger downside was that when the company hit rough waters those who worked remotely were first on the list of people to lay off.

(I actually moved back, living in a not-large city and commuting more than was good for me, to be able to work in the office again, but the remote working had damaged my work relationships and although I survived longer than others I too was "let go" albeit later than the first wave.)

That's not to say you shouldn't go back to BT/SC, just that you should make sure you have an escape plan if your current employer changes. It was great to be out of the big city and I don't regret my moves (I've been happy in the not-large city ever since.)
posted by anadem at 9:59 PM on June 29, 2020

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