What to consider before escaping the city to work remotely

You have probably grown quite familiar with working from home recently. Perhaps you’ve grown comfortable with remote work, and maybe this has you re-considering what your future looks like. 

If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According a Harris Poll, “39% of urban dwellers said the COVID-19 crisis has prompted them to consider leaving for a less crowded place.” Meanwhile, a Karbon survey found that 67% of accounting firm staff expect to work remotely more often in the future—just 18% want to return to the office full-time when it’s suitable to do so. 

COVID-19 accelerated the work-from-home trend, and modern technologies such as Karbon allowed businesses all around the world to continue operating despite some major disruptions. 

This is why you may have started questioning whether you even need to live in a metropolitan area any more. 

You might be enjoying the benefits of working from home—no commute, more time on your hands, and often better productivity

Whatever your reasons and personal situation, it’s a huge decision and you (obviously) want to make the right choice. You won’t find a definitive answer here, but there are some things for you to consider.

5 considerations before your “escape”

1. Can you perform your current role completely remotely?

First things first, you need to ensure your current position allows you to work remotely long-term. This doesn’t just refer to whether you can continue to deliver what you need to from a remote location—you also need to consider the culture and attitude of your business’ leaders. 

Many organizations are under the assumption that remote work is a more temporary gesture, with some people already back in the office. Make sure the leadership in your firm or company has made the switch to a more virtual environment before you move more than a short commute from the office.

Remember that it doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” choice. Some workplaces have opted for a hybrid approach, which usually means a few different scenarios:

  • Staggered: Half the employee-base works from the office on some days and at home the rest. The other half of the team is on the opposite schedule.

  • Set terms: Each team member works from the office at least one, two or three days per week.

  • Infrequent meetings: Once every few weeks to a couple of months, the whole team gets together for high-level meetings.

These possible scenarios that may involve you needing to venture to the office shouldn’t dash your dreams of escaping. A once-a-week/month commute is totally doable. But it should be considered, nonetheless.

Key question to ask yourself: Is this the right move considering my current role and company?

2. How would a move impact your career prospects?

Remote work adds the possibility of mobility. But you need to know whether or not a move limits your ability to progress in your career in the long-term.

It’s a common wrong argument that working remotely can make it harder to stand out and move up the proverbial ladder. But depending on your company culture and how your team collaborates, others who live closer and meet more often may remain more top of mind.

Example: You work in an accounting firm with a hybrid work environment. All CPAs are welcome to come in as they choose or work from home. Sounds great, but in this case, choosing to stay home makes you less visible than those who stick around the city.

Of course, there are ways to excel remotely. Maybe you produce work faster without the commute. And maybe with the time saved from not commuting, you are now able to more easily jump on Zoom to provide clients with higher-value services.

Something else to consider is your field or industry—will your career thrive in a remote environment? Accountants, web developers, marketers and hundreds of other professions are ripe for the work-from-home trend. Others just aren’t. And that needs some thought.

In a city with a lot of activity, you’re engaged in more opportunities than you may realize. You may have built a network locally, where you can simply grab a coffee or lunch with mentors and advisors. There may be local events with opportunities for professional development or networking. 

All of these factors have an impact on your ability to find a job or advance your career.

Key question to ask yourself: Are my career aspirations viable from beyond the areas of prominent economic activity and job creation?

3. What is the impact of a change in cost-of-living expenses?

Working out the difference in your personal budget can also help your decision-making process.

If you save on commuting, grocery prices, and you trade in your monthly rent for a low-interest mortgage—all while making the same salary—it can be very enticing.

Keep in mind that moving away from some areas is more lucrative than others.

Moving a few hours out of San Francisco, Sydney or London, for example, can see you save significantly on everything from amortization to your daily coffee.

But moving to the outskirts of Indianapolis, on the other hand, wouldn’t see a huge relative difference—the cost of a decent house is about the same as a good apartment downtown. 

But there’s another aspect to cost-of-living: the necessary expenses that come with a suburban or rural move.

  • Vehicle cost: Many cities have cheap and reliable public transportation. But go beyond the city-center and you’ll need a car. On top of that, you’ll need to think about maintenance, insurance, etc.

  • Fees: Apartments don’t typically have a homeowners association. Nicer, newer neighborhoods almost always do. These fees typically start anywhere from $200 per month.

  • Home maintenance: Homeownership has many benefits. But for those used to apartments, it’s a different ballgame. You’ll need to factor in everything from mowing the lawn to replacing the water heater. It’s all your responsibility.

Key question to ask yourself: Is life outside the city really less expensive? And if not, am I comfortable with trading city expenses for those I’ll be taking on?

4. What is the impact on your relationships?

Even if you’re single and without dependents, a move impacts those around you. This consideration doesn't calculate in dollars and it might not necessarily impact your professional future. But don't be surprised when you realise that it holds the most weight in your decision-making.

A few things to think about in terms of friends and family:

  • Location: If your move brings you closer to family and old friends, it’s likely a plus. But if you’re moving away from everyone you’ve ever known, that’s a tough choice.

  • Kids: A child who has been at the same school their whole life means taking them away from their friends, too. On the other hand, a move may mean a better choice between great school districts.

  • Your social life: Remember that rural areas generally don’t have malls or a bustling restaurant scene.

Key question to ask yourself: How does this change family and social interactions for me (and those in my house)?

5. What does your life look like after the move?

Those who reside in the city live differently than those who don’t. Work is different, eating is different, activities are different. The list goes on and on. Trying to size up how you’ll adapt to a move is the most relative item to consider—and the most important.

Your career is just a piece of the puzzle. The cost/benefits are another. Of course, family is a big aspect too.

Key question to ask yourself: If all goes as planned with the move, what will life be like a year later? 

After all of the initial challenges, the boxes are unpacked and the kids are registered for school, you’ve adjusted to the new budget and have hit a flow at work. How will that feel to you?

Chances are, you haven’t thought about that future moment until now. It’s also likely that you don’t know what it will be like. Now, after you’ve put in your due diligence, you have to figure out if that uncertainty excites you.

The advantages brought by remote work are massive. You can eliminate stressful commutes, and allow yourself to locate near what brings you most joy. After thinking about these five questions, you might have realised a move is even more exciting than you thought.

But, remember, like any big life decision, you need to give the options proper consideration.