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Working remotely? Make that move

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Life since the pandemic has changed in a number of ways. Perhaps the biggest change has been in the way Americans work. Employees across industries have switched from working in an office to working remotely. In fact, just over half of working Americans are estimated to be working from home. 

While some essential roles remain on-site, new work-from-home (WFH) employees can reevaluate their lifestyles, including the areas in which they live. Plus, many companies now hire employees from any location, rather than limiting the applicant pool to one geographic location. As a result, many Americans have gained much more flexibility in location and have the chance to make a permanent move.

Working remotely

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced a worldwide experiment in working remotely. “Companies are able to measure how much is being done and finding that in a lot of cases, more work is getting done when people are teleworking because there are no distractions,” says Maria, an analyst in southern Maryland who went from teleworking one day a week before the pandemic to full-time.

Many white-collar jobs have made the switch and major companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter have announced long-term plans to keep most employees remote. And with 90% of Americans using the internet before the outbreak occurred, more and more jobs are able to transition to work-from-home.

Common remote jobs

Web developer A web developer is an individual who creates websites. They can be responsible for creating and maintaining the overall functionality of a website or for the website’s look and features. The median salary is $73,760.
Freelance writer Freelance writers can work for a number of clients and create content for different types of media, including sales copy, online publications or books. The median salary is $63,200.
Social media manager A social media manager crafts and curates online content for brands. They may work full-time at a company or freelance on behalf of several clients. The median salary is $56,770. 
Data entry keyer An online data entry job may include data verification, transcription or coding. The median salary is $34,820.
Call center representative Also called a customer service representative, this job entails processing sales orders and managing customer complaints. The median salary is $34,710. 

Not business as usual

Both employees and employers are experiencing benefits from remote work. Leland Howard, a business development specialist at a large international development organization in Washington, D.C., has experienced a significant increase in productivity. 

“Prior to the pandemic, I worked in a very open office, like a bullpen. My job is very intense in terms of relationship building, so I spend a lot of time on the phone. That was very hard to do in an open space. For me, I’m finding being at home a lot more productive than I was before.”

There’s also an easier way to manage pandemic-related stress when working from home, like going to the grocery store outside of peak hours to avoid crowds. Many companies are also offering flexibility in hours so that employees with families can manage children at home.

For Maria, she and her husband don’t miss the long commute. “I can roll out of bed and start working without worrying about the stress of waking up to an alarm, getting ready and dealing with traffic.”

And with more offices considering a long-term or permanent shift to working from home, some workers may consider relocating. “We live in the heart of the city for a reason, so we could walk places and go out to dinner easily. All of the benefits of living in a city right now have vanished,” says Leland. As a result, he and his husband are actively looking for a second home outside the city to gain better home office space and safe access to the outdoors.

Already the real estate market has responded with higher home prices, in conjunction with a much tighter inventory. In July, the median listing price was 8.5% higher than the previous year. 

Work where you vacation 

In addition to potentially moving during this period of remote work, it’s also possible to vacation while still clocking in. While this list of vacation-worthy cities is by no means exhaustive, it does provide inspiration of how it may look to take your job on the road. Of course, check local travel restrictions and quarantine requirements before leaving home, and follow the CDC’s travel precautions

U.S. cities to vacation

Miami, FL You can hit the beach year-round while enjoying an architectural landscape of Art Deco buildings. The cost of living is 14% higher than the national average, so you’ll definitely need a bigger budget whether you want to visit or move there permanently.  
New York, NY The city that never sleeps is home to some of the world’s best food, art and culture. However, it comes at a price with the cost of living 129% higher than the national average (primarily due to housing).
Los Angeles, CA California dreams turn into reality in Los Angeles, which is home to Hollywood and only about 36 days of rain each year. The cost of living is above average at 43% but still much lower compared to New York. 
Honolulu, HI Honolulu provides plenty of opportunities to get outside, from the beach to rainforest hikes. The cost of living is 88% higher than the nation’s average.
Las Vegas, NV In addition to casinos, Las Vegas also offers close proximity to multiple state and national parks, including the Grand Canyon and Yosemite. The cost of living is just 3% higher than the national average. 
Savannah, GA Few cities ooze Southern charm as much as Savannah. Sidewalks are lined with Spanish moss-covered trees and the Savannah College of Art and Design (aka SCAD) breeds a creative environment throughout the city. Plus, the cost of living is 10% below the national average.
New Orleans, LA The French Quarter’s Creole architecture is one-of-a-kind. New Orleans is also home to some of the best jazz music in the country. The cost of living is 2% lower than the national average.
Charleston, SC Another alluring Southern city is Charleston, which is conveniently positioned close to four beaches for water lovers. The cost of living is 4% above the national average.
Asheville, NC Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Asheville offers amazing outdoor activities plus a thriving arts and culture scene. The cost of living is 4% below the national average.
Washington D.C. The nation’s capital offers a bustling city center in addition to loads of free museums and parks. The cost of living is 39% above the national average.

Be realistic

If you’re thinking of a long-term move, it’s crucial to consider how far your current salary will get you in a new city. People leaving high-cost areas like New York or San Francisco may be able to save money by moving to a smaller, more affordable city. But if you think this is your chance to finally make that move to a big city, you need to consider what your new budget will look like before making any decisions. Also, think about the expenses of the actual moving process. For example, it can become costly for people with large families, especially for interstate moves. 

Making the move 

Ensure relocation is available

Just because your job is currently remote doesn’t mean your employer intends to keep it that way. Some companies plan on reintroducing office life in the future, even if it may not be 100%. Leland expects to go to the office just a few days a week at some point, with staggered schedules for employees working on-site. “When we think about a second home, it’s not a weekend house. It’s a place where we spend four to five days, come to the city for two to three days, then go back,” he explains.

It’s definitely a conversation you should have with your employer. Maria has a co-worker who is thinking about a move but is unsure of how the company will react. “There are more implications to that than just the person who wants to move. There’s a lot to think about tax-wise, plus folks higher up don’t want a mass exodus out of the area.”

Having a conversation early in the process saves you a lot of time and hassle making plans that may not be available in your current work situation.

Make sure you have the necessities

Working remotely requires the right gear, and it’s important to create the right setup wherever you’re located. Plus, access to some of these necessities may change if you end up moving away from your current location.

Reliable internet/Wi-Fi: When you live in a major metropolitan area, you probably take your quality internet connection for granted. But if you’re thinking about moving to a remote location, reliable Wi-Fi may be an issue. Maria lives in a rural area and is currently limited in her home office setup. “Because of having a VPN to connect, I’m back in the kitchen because the Wi-Fi signal isn’t strong enough,” she says. Part of her upcoming home renovation plans include reconfiguring the internet connection.

Laptop/computer: Storage and power are two important components of a WFH laptop. You don’t want your work to suffer simply because of a slow computer. Also, consider a monitor you can plug in to give you a bigger screen to look at when working from your home office.

Video conference app: Many companies likely have an account for employees to use a specific video conference app. Stay up to date on what to use so you’re not late for a meeting. 

Webcam/microphone: While many laptops come with webcams and microphones built in, you may want to buy a better clip-on model to ensure a crystal clear image for video conferences. 

Also, consider investing in a quality headset if you’re frequently on calls throughout the day.

Home/renters insurance: As you and your company invest in expensive home office equipment, make sure your homeowners or renters insurance is enough to cover these new items. You can file a claim to be reimbursed in case of damage or theft. These policies often cover your belongings while you’re traveling as well.

Have a back-up plan

The pandemic has caused many people to rethink their priorities in life. If you’re set on moving to a new area, whether to lower your cost of living, be closer to family or simply go on an adventure, then have a back-up plan in case your current employer doesn’t approve. 

It may be a good time to look for a new job, especially since job listings are more open to remote workers. You may have a better chance of finding a good fit in your field with a nationwide search, without being limited to your new area. This is especially promising if you’re looking to move to a more rural area without as many jobs available. 

Bottom line 

The new era of remote work has opened the door to new opportunities, even as the world continues to navigate the pandemic’s effects. People are beginning to reprioritize their values and rethink what they want their lives to look like. Whether you want more outdoor space or to capitalize on the chance to work and travel at the same time, it’s time to think outside the box. 

Of course, it’s smart to be realistic about how the costs of traveling or moving stack up against your current salary. But it’s also a good idea to consider the new level of flexibility that’s never been available before. As long as you have the right equipment, you may be able to find a job or leverage your existing one to make your dreams of moving actually come true. And in a period of history where there’s been so much negative change, working towards a positive lifestyle change by going to a new city may be worth the effort.

Lauren Ward

Lauren Ward is a writer for Coverage.com. She specializes in all things personal finance, including insurance, loans, and real estate.