Moving to the country? How to quit the city without quitting your career

You’ve had enough of city life.

You’ve spent more hours than you’d like to admit looking at cute cottages online.

You’re nearly ready to make the move. There’s just one (big) problem.

What to do about work?

Eight years ago, this was me. We’d found our dream house in Suffolk. My family and I were gearing up to swap our city home and its teeny courtyard garden for something with trees, chickens and tonnes of space (please don’t hate me.) With two young preschoolers, I knew I wasn’t willing to spend three or more hours each day just travelling to work. Plus, on a charity-sector salary, the train fare and childcare costs would have made commuting a non-starter. But when I started looking at job sites, it quickly became clear that about 95% of all the vacancies in my sector were in London and a couple of other cities. There were, literally, zero jobs that made use of my hard-won skills and experience located anywhere near our new home.  So, what to do?

For me, the answer was to take my job with me — to work from home (also known as working remotely.) At first, I worked for my old employer. More recently, I’ve been setting up and running myworkhive, to help more Mums (and anyone else looking for more flexibility) to connect with remote jobs. It means my commute is now about 15 seconds, and the view from my desk often features chickens. It’s not always been easy, and yes, working this way can sometimes be isolating. But working from home has allowed me to live where I wanted, and to keep my career going, without an epic commute.

If you’re thinking of making the move out of the city, there’s not much advice out there about the whole ‘work situation.’ So I wanted to share some of the things that I wish I’d thought through before making my own move.

What to do before you move

 

Consider asking your employer if you can work from home…

If you’re keen to stay in the same job, you could try asking your employer about working from home. In the UK, you’re entitled to make a flexible working request after 26 weeks in a job. When we think of flexi, most of us think of part-time or compressed hours — but remote working counts too. Of course, your employer doesn’t have to say “yes”, but you can encourage their support by making a clear business case.

When you talk to your boss, set out how you think it could work, and what you’ll do to minimise the impact on your colleagues. It might help to mention that remote working is a great way for employers to demonstrate their commitment to flexible working — which can help to attract and retain great people. And it makes organisations more resilient to things like travel disruption (there are no snow days when you work from home!) There’s also lots of data showing that working from home can cut office overheads, reduce workplace stress, and increase productivity.

If you’re planning to ask your employer about remote working, we’ve put together our top tips on how to have the ‘flex talk’ with your boss. And check out our Remote Guide for Employers  — especially the ‘making the case’ section. If your employer isn’t sure, you could ask for a trial period to see how it goes (that’s something you could do well before you move or even start house-hunting, as then at least you’ll know whether remote working is going to be an option.) And it doesn’t have to be all or nothing — working from home for at least for part of the week might make working from your new location do-able.

…or find a remote-friendly employer

But what if your employer really isn’t keen, or if you want to change career direction? At that point, you might be faced with having to find a new, remote-friendly job. Big-name job boards do list remote vacancies, but they can be hard to find (you’ll have to search through listings that just happen to have the word ‘home’ in, as well as iffy-sounding franchise schemes.)

myworkhive’s own job board was set up to solve this problem; we reach out to employers who really ‘get’ remote working, and we only list proper jobs and projects that you can actually do from home. If there are restrictions (for example, the employer wants you to attend monthly meetings in person), that’s made clear in the job description.

You can register as a candidate on myworkhive for free, which lets you bookmark jobs and keep track of applications. And if you go to the Advanced Search page, you can set a Job Alert that will email you whenever a new remote job comes in that fits your criteria. 

You might think that only certain sorts of jobs can be done from home. It’s true that there are lots of highly-skilled, techy remote jobs. But myworkhive is working really hard to winkle out the widest possible range of remote employers. We’ve come accross lots of different roles — including jobs in social media, copywriting, admin, sales, marketing, coding and more. (Take a look at our top five sectors for remote job seekers.)

If you can’t find a job that’s right for you, setting up your own business, or going freelance is another way to go. Around 70% of businesses in the UK start from home. This can be exciting and brings loads of flexibility in one way (after all, you’ll be your own boss.)  But unless you’re exceptionally lucky and really hit the ground running, working for yourself can also be a steep learning curve, with long hours and little money coming in to start with. So if this is your plan, you might want to start easing yourself into it as far in advance as you can. Long before the removal lorries arrive, you could be getting some training, putting together a business plan, developing your website, and beginning to try out your products or develop your freelance skills as a side-project. (Note to self: do this next time rather than just diving in!)

Whichever option you go for, try to get something sorted as soon as you can before the move — even if it’s just a ‘good enough for now’ solution.  Moving is stressful enough (especially if there are kids or pets involved!) without adding uncertainty over what job you’ll be doing and where your income will be coming from. 

Check out the commute

If you are going to be stuck with a long commute, it’s really worth researching your transport options before you move. A journey time of an hour and a half each way means 15 hours a week travelling — the equivalent of nearly two extra work-days. So it’s worth figuring out what that’s going to be like. If possible, ‘try before you buy’ — try the journey during rush-hour:

If you’ll be driving, what’s the traffic like? Tools like Google Maps and AA Route Finder let you explore journey times and route options at specific times.

If you’ll be commuting by train, is it crowded, or is there somewhere to sit and work? How reliable is the service? My Train Journey is a website and app that checks how often you can expect delays on your new route.

Suss out the rush-hour parking situation. Some carparks at tiny, rural stations can fill up quickly, adding extra time and hassle to your day.

Kids plus a long commute means you’ll need wrap-around childcare, plus a backup plan for those (inevitable) times when you’re delayed on the journey home. That can all be tricky to research if you’re new to the area; lots of villages now have their own websites and facebook pages, which can be a good place to ask around about local childcare options before you move.

Season tickets, road mileage and childcare can all add up, so it’s worth figuring out the costs beforehand. A mix of remote working plus shifted work hours might let you reduce these costs, save on travel time and miss the worst of rush-hour.

Get connected

A fast, reliable internet connection is vital when you work from home. Various online tools will let you research connection speeds and available internet service providers at your new location, before you go. For example, BroadBand Choices lets you see how different Councils are doing with meeting targets to introduce broadband. You can also pop in a postcode to see if super-fast fibre-optic is available in the area.

When you’re viewing homes, ask about connection speeds. You can check these yourself if the house owner doesn’t mind. (Try an online broadband speed test like this one from Which.) Don’t forget to check whether your phone works, too; if you’re used to the city, rural levels of connectivity and mobile phone reception can come as a shock!

Once you’re ready to move, you can get your internet connection sorted before you arrive. If you wait until after the move, you could be left for days (or more) waiting for your internet service provider to get you up and running — not great if you need to start working from home straight away. USwitch have a handy checklist to check if your current provider is available in your new home, plus a guide to how to either move home with your current provider, or switch to a new one.

After the move

Our top tips to help you get a flying start
 
It might look pretty, but a kitchen chair and no laptop stand is the fast track to a bad back. (Trust me, I’ve been there!)

Get your new work space set up as soon as you can

You’ve done it! You’re surrounded by boxes, and your to-do list is eight million items long, but you’re in your new home. When it’s time to work, it’s tempting just to clear space on the kitchen table and plonk your laptop down. That’s what I did — there just never seemed to be a good time to sort out a proper work space. Six months later, I developed a serious back problem. If I had one tip for moving, it would be, prioritise your own health and comfort. Even if your ‘desk’ is the kitchen table, do get a decent chair. And spend a few minutes googling ‘ergonics at work’ to get tips on how to set up your desk and computer properly. The folks at Posture People have a good blog with lots of info. (Try their article, ‘How to set up your home workstation.’) 

Tackle loneliness head-on

If you’ve moved a long way from friends, family and colleagues, you may find yourself feeling isolated. Even if you love your new home, it can be hard to go from working in a busy office to working solo at home. Have a think about how much social interaction makes you happy — and make a plan for getting some more ‘people time’ into your day or week if you need to.

Working from home doesn’t have to mean working by yourself. Coworking (where you rent desk-space by the hour or day in a shared office) is becoming more and more popular. New coworking venues are springing up all over the UK, US and beyond. Renting a few hours a week in a coworking hub can be a great way to meet other local entrepreneurs and home-working folks.

If (like me) you’re in a really rural area with no coworking near by, Work Jelly is another option. It’s a crazy name, but it just means an informal ‘pop-up’ coworking day. Sessions are usually free, and often take place every month or so. Try UK Jelly to find one near you (meetups in other countries are listed on Work at Jelly).

You’re also very welcome to come and join myworkhive’s own Virtual Coworking Community. We use an online communications tool called Slack to chat, share ideas and network — all online. It’s free to join.

New neighbours less than chatty? Try myworkhive’s online coworking group. We’re very friendly!
Checking in at the office, remote-style.

Look after your #careergoals

If you’re the only one on your team working from home, it’s easy to feel a bit left out. Check out our article on how to stay visible in the workplace when you work remotely

If you’re working for yourself, try setting aside some regular time to focus on your own career goals. For example, once a quarter, give yourself a few hours to reflect on where you’d like your career to be heading and research your next steps. Set down a few bigger milestones to keep you on track, and break those into smaller steps. What actions could you take this month to keep making progress? It can be something as simple as listening to a great work podcast or reading a blog written by someone you admire in your sector. 

If you’re waaaay out in the country, it can often seem like all the training and networking is happening elsewhere. But the rise of webinars, You Tube and online learning resources like Udemy mean it’s easier than ever before to keep learning and developing your skills, without spending a fortune — however far off the beaten track you live. 

Take time to enjoy your new surroundings, and give yourself time to adjust 

It’s a new way of life, and a new way of working. It’s OK to feel unsettled, especially if you’ve made a big change from the city to a really rural area. It can help to make time to keep in touch with old friends and colleagues. Now you’re a remote-working whizz, how about suggesting a coffee and catchup via Facetime/Skype?

It can also really help to pause from time-to-time and take a few moments to enjoy it all. This one took me ages to realise — there’s often so much to do, from painting walls to settling kids in new schools, that it’s easy for the move to become a giant chore. For me, something as simple as a quick lunchtime walk in the countryside, popping into the garden with a coffee, or walking home with the kids from the school run, is still enough to remind why I moved in the first place, and how lucky I feel to be able to work in a place I love.

I hope this has given you a few ideas. Some of it seems fairly obvious to me now (the joys of hindsight!) but at the time my work-life got a bit lost in the rush to organise the move and settle in our new home. If you’d like to share your own ‘moving to the country’ highs (or lows!), come and say hello on Facebook.

Happy moving, and happy remote job hunting! Lucy (Founder, myworkhive)

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