Office Therapist | With the Covid-19 Pandemic, should I make a permanent move and work remotely indefinitely?
Q: I’m currently based in New York City and given everything with the Covid lockdowns and the possibility for remote office work, I’m considering relocating to someplace that has a better cost of living and quality of life. I know a lot of people are moving, but do you really think it’s safe to assume you can permanently move away from an urban working center and still have reliable employment in the future?
A: Everyday I see more and more global companies selling their HQs and pundits forecasting about the future of fully remote work. With cases back up on the rise, it’s totally possible that office folks won’t go back to work until 2022, if ever. Within this crisis there’s an opportunity; you have the time, freedom and flexibility to make the move and set up a new life someplace else. If that’s what you want to do that is, and can afford the real estate land rush.
If you are a senior or mid-career person with a partner or family and are planning to move off a commuter line, then I say go for it! You were likely already planning this move anyway and can easily relocate with confidence. You won’t be changing jobs any time soon, aren’t required to be in the office as much and can easily come and go anytime you are needed once offices are reopened again. I would look in the suburbs, within a 2 hour radius of your job. Figure out the whole commuting thing a year from now if and when it becomes relevant again.
If you are a seasoned freelancer with a long list of clients, a close relationship with your employer, do a job that is largely remote anyway, or are an entrepreneur with some funding or savings, then I would say go for the full time country house life. Find a big, old house someplace in the middle of nowhere with some wifi and up and move to Idaho or the Catskills. And if you are looking for something a little more exciting, consider the digital nomad life and try relocating to a smaller city, like living in Seattle, Nashville, Lisbon, Barcelona or Berlin.
But if you are more junior (assuming you are career-focused) the opposite is true, and you still have a lot of experience and networking needed to get to those upper career ranks. Also, if you are not partnered yet (assuming you are family-focused) you need to consider how you’ll connect with like minded folks in any area you are looking at moving to. I know some people in the latter case who are actually moving back to the city to try and find partners after leaving a while back.
Many things have already changed forever, but major cities are ripe for evolution and reinvention and can never really be “over”. I personally liked being in NYC during the lockdown because at least I could walk around my neighborhood and see people in the parks. I never really felt the type of isolation that folks in the suburbs and rural areas have suffered from. If you want to stay where you are, I’d recommend getting some quality of life upgrades like a car and a pet or benefit from the rent decreases and find an apartment with a backyard and laundry to help in the coming months.
The real question to ask here though is, do you really want to live somewhere else? I’d try to think about 10 years from now, when you are looking back, what story will you tell of what you did during the Covid-19 pandemic years? Maybe that was the time when you started a new life somewhere or changed careers out of choice or necessity. If the answer to that question is yes, well then you should make the move immediately and do whatever it takes to make it work. There’s a saying that goes, follow your heart and the rest just falls into place.