Considering a permanent WFH lifestyle? Read this FIRST!

I worked in a corporate office environment for the majority of my career. I started in Atlanta, moved to DC, and then spent the remainder in New York City. I received promotions and made location moves, all as part of what seemed the required sacrifice to “get ahead.” Now I have to wonder — is there another way today to get promoted without it?

I admit, I’m often envious of the flexibility I see many employees receiving today. It’s no longer the case that the best scenario you could hope for is a WFH option a couple of days each week (which I negotiated for myself and my team members after giving birth and other major life events) but moving to a more desirable location where the work/life balance is more ideal, and the cost of living is more affordable. Wow, as I sit daydreaming about what could have been, the reality of the opportunities that I would have missed start to weigh on my mind…

  • I sat a few doors down from my boss, and I made a point of stopping by his office each day, usually in the late afternoon. I used the time to build a relationship — one that ultimately became a true friendship. He was good for my career, promoted me a couple of times, and later in life, he’s been an outstanding reference. I maintain that relationship even today.
  • I was in the company cafeteria line, and I left my wallet at my desk. As I stood there explaining my situation to the cashier, a senior executive stepped up and paid for my lunch. It started a friendship that helped my career enormously.
  • I took the train to the city each day. One day I noticed that a divisional President for one of my largest clients was regularly on the same train. We started riding the train together once a week, and again, I developed a great business partnership and friendship.

These are just a few instances of being in close proximity to executives that can turn into valuable business relationships. Would these relationships have developed had I worked remotely? A few may have if I’d been extra vigilant for the opportunities, but certainly not the enormous number that I have. There is no doubt that proximity creates opportunity.

Let’s say that you agree with my assessment that being in a corporate office offers more relationship-building opportunities, but you still want to work remotely in a different city. Plus, you want to stay on the “fast track” in your career, add additional responsibilities, and seek promotions. That’s a lot to ask for. How do you make that happen?

It is important to enroll your boss before deciding to work remotely while other employees return to the office. Have an honest and direct conversation with them about your desire to move/remain in another location. Express your commitment to the company and to remaining an outstanding employee. Talk through the benefits for you and the company, like reduced distractions, office space savings, and commuting expense savings. Finally, it is crucial to share your goal of staying on the fast track in your career, even in this new location, and getting your boss’ buy-in. Together you’ll need to create a plan for your career options in light of your location choice.

Lastly, you need to consider ways to increase your exposure in both your company and your industry. “No” can not be in your vocabulary. Instead, say yes to anything that elevates your profile. Identify the people who can be “key influencers” in your career at your company and establish or grow existing beneficial relationships. Maybe it’s a quarterly virtual coffee, and whenever you are in the office, meet with them in person. Target your industry influencers for developing deeper relationships too. They are a great source of knowledge and experience. Volunteer for company committees, additional department responsibilities, and establish a solid relationship with your HR liaison. They can be a valuable resource too.

Be bold; go for what you want in life. After all, you only get one shot, and the worst that can happen is your boss says “no.”

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Kim Martin

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