Jun 21, 2021
How often have you dreamt about moving to a different home or community, only to become so overwhelmed by the amount of work it represents that the dream starts to feel more like a nightmare? Moving is one of those decisions that can have life-transformational effects, and yet the heavy lift it takes to make it happen can seem so daunting that many people simply don’t.
But now, more than ever, inaction could be a missed opportunity as the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased mobility in the American workforce. For the first time ever, many of us have the freedom to choose where we live, rather than live where we work.
If you’re considering a remote work-enabled move, but are hesitating not knowing where to start, use these tips from remote workers who have recently relocated as your guide:
This is what she came for. Kimberly enjoys some down time with her daughter. Their family just left Chicago to work remotely from Laguna Beach.
This might be the scariest hurdle of all, but you definitely want to get this out of the way sooner rather than later. You don’t want to find out after the fact that your company is going back to work full time. Prepare your request professionally, including details about your schedule and covering any productivity concerns so your employer knows you’re being thoughtful and intentional about the transition.
Kimberly L recently moved with her husband and young daughter from Chicago to Laguna Beach. “I was a little bit nervous to ask because my employer had hinted that we’d be meeting with clients again in person before the end of the year. But they said as long as I was willing to fly back for the big meetings, they would make it work for a year,” said Kimberly. This was a workable compromise for her. If you negotiate a similar situation with your employer, she recommends talking with them up front about who will pay for your travel expenses so it’s not a surprise expense.
When you’re remote and have endless opportunities, deciding on the duration of the move is an important consideration because, if for no other reason, all of the other move-related decisions you have to make will be so much easier when this one is made up front. We talked to several remote workers about their short-term moves (12 mos or less) and they offer these tips:
If you’re moving short term:
Lease your space on Facebook marketplace, and share with friends and neighbors on social media. This is how Kimberly found a family in the same neighborhood who needed a year-long rental while their home was undergoing renovations.
Try leasing through FurnishedFinder.com or TravelNurseHousing.com. This is how Cassie G. rented her home in Indianapolis while she and her husband worked remotely from St. Croix for several months.
If you’re packing light, consider renting a storage unit to declutter your space, making it more comfortable for renters while they’re staying in your home.
Hire a property manager (or use a friend) who can help solve problems and stay on top of maintenance at your house while you’re out of town.
Get a remote system for your house. Jodi R and her partner moved from Washington DC to Naples, FL during the COVID lockdown. She gave a key to her apartment to a friend for emergencies and otherwise was able to keep an eye on things through their remote system, which included a video camera (they did not have renters in their DC apartment) and temperature monitoring and control.
Jodi keeps a 9a-5p work schedule for her D.C. company from Naples, FL. After work, you can find her on the beach.
This is where the dreaming starts to feel more real. If you don’t have a specific place in mind already, think about how you want your day-to-day life to change as a guide for narrowing your options. Many remote workers tell us they’re looking for affordability, a slower pace of life, more space or to be closer to their favorite outdoor activities. That still leaves a lot of options. But once you’ve narrowed your list, use these tips from remote movers to really get a sense of new communities. Of course, we also recommend checking MakeMyMove.com for incentive packages.
Cassie and her husband relied on their friends who lived in St Croix to help guide their move. If you don’t have friends or family in the area who can tell you what it’s like to live as a local, find a realtor or a point of contact at a local chamber or visitor center who can help you out. If you’re considering a relocation incentive program, the staff that manages the program can make for great guides as well.
There are Facebook groups for pretty much everything these days and the local groups in the place you are considering can be an endless source of knowledge from finding housing to services to schools. You might even make a friend or two.
Use a tool like NerdWallet’s cost of living calculator to understand how far your income will go in a new community compared to your current city or town.
Is it available and affordable in the community that you’re considering? Check the local board of realtors and/or realtor.com for home buying. Rental searches can be a little more dispersed. Try Facebook marketplace/groups and ask local realtors to guide you in the right direction.
Remote work doesn’t necessarily mean work from home. If you’d prefer to work from a co-working space or coffee shop, check to see what’s available nearby. Whether you’re in tech or not, local tech organizations can be a great resource for recommending co-working space.
If you’re moving with the kiddos, this can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make and another good opportunity to pump the local Facebook group for information (specifically for parents if there is one). Check greatschools.org for data about performance and diversity. Ravi B and his wife moved from Chicago to Bloomington, IN last year and said after all the online research, what really made the difference in their decision was talking to parents.
If you’re moving with a partner, this can be incredibly important in making sure you’re aligned on location, housing and schools. Ravi told us, “I’m data-driven and did a ton of research on the community, schools and cost of living. But in the end, it was the pre-visit to actually see Bloomington that convinced me and my wife that this was going to be a positive experience for our family. It made it real.” It’s also a great time to secure important services if need be - banking, contractors, healthcare, veterinarians, check out the local grocery stores, etc.
Moving blows. That’s a pretty universal truth. There are entire books written about how to do it without breaking yourself. In the end, the remote workers we talked to advise:
Don’t try to do it all at once
Even with the most organized spreadsheets and hired movers, just know that at some point most moves come down to throwing stuff in bags.
If you need them, here are tips for:
Cassie and Chad over-wintered in St Croix, while working remotely for their Indianapolis-based companies.
Chances are, you’ve already made the big move from office to remote work. What could possibly change at work when you move to a new city? Here are a couple of things our remote workers told us you should consider:
Keep time zone changes in mind. Moving from Chicago to California, Kimberly anticipates she’ll have to spend some time adjusting to a new rhythm. Although she’s living in Western time, her employer needs her to be available on Central, a two-hour difference.
Get on a schedule. Moving to St Croix in the Virgin Islands where she had previously vacationed, Cassie told us it was helpful to maintain a 9-5p work schedule in order to compartmentalize work time from relaxation time. “Monday through Friday, the only thing that’s really different about my day to day is the view. It’s just always sunny and warm where I work now.”
Cassie also recommends asking for feedback. Since moving to the island, she regularly checks in with her employer to make sure she’s continuing to meet performance expectations, not wanting any concerns to go unaddressed. As you might expect, she receives glowing reviews.
Whether you’re moving for a year or longer, your experience will be more enriching with friends. Making friends isn't second nature to everyone and can be challenging if you don’t have a network to plug you in. Here are a few tips to get you started:
If you’re moving through a relocation incentive program, program coordinators will often have planned programs to introduce you to community members. Tulsa Remote has been especially thoughtful about this aspect of their program.
Check with the manager of your local co-working space. The Speakeasy, a co-working space for entrepreneurs in Indianapolis, hosts a popular “Making Friends” happy hour for transplants.
Look for volunteer opportunities. Volunteerism is a great way to make friends and a meaningful connection to your new community. Hawaii’s relocation incentive program even formalizes volunteerism as a component of their package.
School-aged children are the golden ticket for making friends. Parents and guardians of their friends are a common connection for adult friendships.
Look for everyday opportunities. Did you hit it off with your realtor, landlord, your new dentist? Ask them who they know that might be a good match for socializing.
Ravi Bhatt moved with his young family from Chicago to Bloomington, Indiana.
This is an important one. Ravi advises that you think ahead about a plan B in the event that your current remote work job goes away. In a remote work world, he says it’s essential that you “own your career,” meaning, “If you have to find a new job from your new community, think about whether or not you’ll be able to get a new remote job or whether there are local employment opportunities.”
Additionally, he recommends that you think about how you define and describe your value, making sure that geography isn’t a main selling feature. For instance, if you’ve defined yourself as a “Silicon Valley software engineer” and you move to rural Nebraska, can you effectively articulate your value and capabilities without the “Silicon Valley” description?
Here’s our roundup of some great remote work employers, just in case.
“Just do it,” say all of the remote workers we talked to.
If you'd like to see what these tips look like in action, check out this story of a recent cross-country remote work move from one of our contributors. Or, if you're ready to move, start creating your to-do list using our free comprehensive moving checklist.