how can I ask to keep working from home long-term?

A reader writes:

I am in a low-paying industry that is highly concentrated in high-cost-of-living areas, which means that it’s virtually impossible for me to live without roommates unless I want to spend nearly all of my monthly income on rent (which I obviously don’t). There are jobs in my industry in other areas, but significantly fewer, and the few that exist have less job security because they are generally smaller, less stable companies.

My job has its issues, but ultimately I’d like to stay with this company for the foreseeable future. The problem is, I am becoming increasingly unhappy living in this area. Maybe it’s the pandemic talking and I’m just missing being able to take advantage of the things that make city living exciting (museums, theater, excellent restaurants, etc.) but I’m tired of how expensive it is to live here. I want to have my own apartment and live in a place that feels like home. I like my roommates, but I’m in my late 20s and want to feel more adult and have my own space. Ideally, I’d love to keep my job but move to a completely different location and work remotely.

I’ve already been working from home for the past year because of Covid. My company has adapted quite well to remote work and we haven’t had many major difficulties.

Because they’ve responded so well to this change, I think the chances of them allowing me to move to permanent remote work is higher than it would have been at this time last year. We have a bit of a precedent for full-time remote workers from before the pandemic — one manager in my department has worked remotely for several years, as does another coworker who is at my level of seniority but in a different department (she moved and went fully remote during the pandemic).

Both of these coworkers were approved to work fully remote because their partners got jobs out of state. I don’t have that clear cut reason. If I were to talk to my manager about the possibility of moving and being permanently remote, how would I justify it? Tell them I want to be closer to my family? Say that living here is negatively affecting my mental health? Both of those are true, but I don’t know if my boss will see them as valid reasons to move out of state and work remote permanently. Is it even worth trying?

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today. Head over there to read it.

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Rusty Shackelford*

    I think “I can’t really afford to live here but I like my job and want to keep it” is a very clear cut reason!

    1. Harvey 6'3.5"*

      Yes. Also, would you be able to live in the state, just a less expensive, more rural or suburban location.

    2. iantrovert*

      This was the reason I gave my manager when I had a similar conversation a couple months ago. (Moving out of this area next month because I’m buying my first home, and thrilled!) I added some additional justification that it really is so much easier to be remote and not having to waste time staking out unbookable meeting rooms or annoying others with phone calls in more public areas given that there’s only one other person on my team who isn’t normally remote either. I’m close enough that I can get to the office if I need to, but it won’t be mandatory.

  2. I'm just here for the cats*

    I wonder, LW, if there is a different city that you could move to that is still within the state, but that would have lower cost of living. This way your employer doesn’t have to worry about out of state tax For example, there is a big city near where I grew up that has a high cost of living. But there are smaller towns/ suburbs around the city that have much lower cost of living. Are there areas around your current city or even elsewhere in the state that look promising that you would like to live in?

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Also find out the states where those other employees already work. If you are looking to go to the same state as someone who is already working in that state, that’s less complicated for your employer.

      1. Nicotene*

        Yeah there’s an order of operations here, I think. Tier one companies allowed no WFH, ever, before the pandemic. They may make a lot of noise about getting everybody back in the office ASAP. Tier Two has partial WFH (say, one day a week) but still expect employees to live in the area and come in on those other days. Tier Three has some full time WFH staff positions but may still not allow interstate, or may reduce salaries for locations. Tier Four has all employees fully remote forever and hires with this in mind. In my experience, you can push for a change one tier a lot more easily than four tiers. Just trying to help OP plan out her approach.

        1. goducks*

          I think this is true. You can maybe get a deviation from the company policy/preference that’s a little bit of a deviation, but if you’re asking for a large deviation, the likelihood that they decline is much greater.

      2. Quickbeam*

        Yes! My comepany just announced that people can move and WFH in any state where we do business. They do need to agree to some local travel for business reasons in that state. But the legal/tax issue was the reason.

    2. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      This is a good alternative. Plus, OP would still be near to the HCL city that she loves when things with the pandemic stabilize/improve and everything (i.e., restaurants, museums, theaters) opens all the way back up again.

    3. TWW*

      That’s what I was thinking as well. If you’re currently based in the SF Bay Area, you could relocate within California to some place like Stockton, Dixon or Vacaville. Your barely-making-it Bay Area income would be enough to live comfortably in one of those places, if you don’t mind a somewhat bleak location. And you’ll be close enough to to go into the office on occasion.

    4. Lacey*

      I was thinking this as well. I live in an area where everything is pretty similar in cost of living, but if I worked in the metro area 2 hours away, or even just outside it, I would be paying significantly more.

  3. not that kind of Doctor*

    This is definitely a thing that is happening. My employer was strongly opposed to WFH pre-pandemic, to the point of losing people over it. Now they’re jumping through all the hoops so people can live out of state. The first was a very high value employee who wanted to live near family (in California!!!) but the second is a relative newbie. It can be done!

    It does help that post-Wayfair we’ve had to register & collect sales taxes in most states anyway, so that’s one less hoop.

  4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    I’d leave your mental health out of it. I see more ways that opening that door can harm you than I do it improving your situation.

    I think that your best bet is trying to make the case that you working remotely permanently is the best move for the company. Productivity is a good argument. Freeing up valuable real estate at the office is a good argument. Reduction in overhead costs could work.

    If you do it right, your boss should be thinking you’re taking one for the team by working at home. You’re doing them a favor.

    1. hamsterpants*

      My concern with this is that it makes it really easy for your boss to say “thanks, but no thanks.” If you want permanent WFH for your own sake, then say so. Personally I’ve gotten much better results from saying that I needed to be close to family, than just about any other reason. For some reason, “family” is treated as a trump card the way “mental health,” “expense,” and “better productivity” is not.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        The fact that LW is asking the question indicates that she wants to work from home for her own personal benefit as well. It’s just not a selling point to some managers. “Oh, you’ve had struggles with your mental health? Have you tried EAP?”

        Also, I know that there are people who would offer to destroy their physical and mental wellbeing for the good of their employer, but those people are not as common.

    2. goducks*

      For that to work, the boss needs to agree with the LW’s assessment of what’s beneficial to the company. And, frankly, whether the LW’s assessment of their own increased productivity is shared by the boss. I have co-workers who think they’re killing it WFH, and they’re really, really not.

    3. Allonge*

      I think this is the best way to go no matter why you want to keep working from home. Yes, good managers care about employees’ happiness, but they are paid to care about work getting done. The best arguments are the ones that consider the needs of the business.

      In a way, it’s similar to asking for a raise. You don’t deserve a raise because your kids’ college is outrageously espensive, you get a raise based on the work you have done.

  5. Anonymous for this*

    One thing to clarify is whether your employer will continue to pay your current salary in the new location. Many employers — mine included — are proactively notifying their employees that if work in a different location is approved, salary will be based on salaries in new locale, not old. Lower cost of living in a new location may not be an improvement if it comes with a lower salary….

    1. twocents*

      Yes, and you can google for cost of living adjustment comparisons. It’s not as straightforward as lower salary = worse off. $40K in Cedar Falls, Iowa stretches further than $50K in San Francisco, California.

    2. Spearmint*

      Ugh, I’ve heard of companies doing this and its infuriating. When negotiating a job offer or a raise, the mantra is always “you’re paid based on the value you bring, not the cost of living or your personal situation”. I believe Alison has even advised not bringing up cost of living in these situations. But now, when the companies can benefit, suddenly cost of living is relevant.

      1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

        Right. I would be mad as hell to get a retroactive pay cut. I’m glad my company agrees with you and pays not based on locale, but rather based on what the actual position (and what skills you bring to the role) is worth.

        1. had it*

          My company pays a premium for expensive bases – it is only fair to adjust the other way too –

          1. Chinook*

            It is the same in the Canadian Forces – higher COL gets a premium. If you move to a lower COL, your pay reflects that even though it is not technically a pay cut. The national police force also gives a premium for some remote communities (usually just the really remote ones) but not for higher COL, which sucks for new members on partial pay during their first six months during the final phase of OJT training hen they had to be with a training officer at all times. In one northern Alberta community, housing was so unaffordable that those posted there had that waived and no other members complained because they all knew why there was an exception.

            So, I see that wge they use in the lower COL area as their base salary and the difference in the high COL area being a premium to ensure employees can live there. If you move out of the high COL, you lose the premium but are still being paid a fair wage. If you want the premium, you stay.

            1. Overeducated*

              Yup, this is how the US federal government does it. They actually tell you what the “base salary” is and what the “locality pay” is for each area, so if you move outside the expensive/remote location, it’s not a “pay cut,” it’s just your “base salary.”

        2. A*

          I mean, my employer is the same way and I’m grateful for it – but I don’t think it’s that simple. The salary range for positions and skillsets can differ depending on location, so I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable for an employer to have that work both ways.

        3. TL -*

          Well, what skills you bring to the role has a different value depending on where you are. Money is pretty relative to cost of living – offering someone six figures in Boston is a different valuation of their work than the same salary in rural/small town South.

          1. JM60*

            But their work is presumably just as valuable whether they live in Boston or on a farm several hours away. For instance, the code that a programmer writes doesn’t become worth less if the programmer moves to a lower COL area.

            1. Chinook*

              But what that hourly wage can buy does. A dollar buys more nd les in ifferent places. For an extreme example, ask an Alaskan what you can buy for $10 at the local grocery store vs. a Californian or Montanan. By making wages dependent on COL, they are valuing your job by what type of house you can buy instead of raw dollars.

              And, yes, it does speak volumes if what they pay you can only allow you to afford an apartment with roomates instead of living alone.

              1. JM60*

                Of course what your dollar buys varies from place to place. But if your job allows you to live anywhere (or at least a wide variety of places), living in a high or low COL area is a personal financial decision that is none of your employer’s concern. Your work that’s worth $X if you’re WFH in San Francisco is still worth $X when you’re WFH in rural Nebraska.

                One time it does become a legitimate concern of your employer is if they are making you move to a high COL area. In that case, they are making your expenses high for their benefit, so they should offset for that.

            2. Chinook*

              Also, don’t know how much work there is on a farm for a coder if you don’t bring the contract with you. You may be able to create a business need among the farmers for computer work (if they haven’t already filled it themselves), but you probable aren’t making as much as you would if you were in Boston.

              1. JM60*

                The business doesn’t need to be on a farm for a programmer to work while located on a farm. I work for a SF Bay Area tech company, and they wouldn’t have noticed any difference if I was living on a farm during the entire pandemic.

                While it’s true that there are fewer jobs on a farm, there are the (almost) same number of fully remote programming jobs on a farm as there are in a major metro area. That’s because if it’s fully remote, your location mostly doesn’t matter (unless your in a state they aren’t yet located in or if there may be timezone issues).

                1. TardyTardis*

                  Although if I could get a West Coast job with an East Coast time zone, I’d be in heaven. And there are other people who would like it the other way. There are mutants on both ends there (I knew someone at my job who actually came in at 5 am and worked till 2 pm. Her lunch hour was a bit early…).

      2. BPT*

        Well, but I think (pre-expanded ability to work from home), companies who wanted to be competitive in their pay had to do so based on the local market. While there are plenty of organizations who aren’t competitive or still underpay their employees, even in higher COL cities, it’s one reason you would often make more if you moved to DC/NYC/Chicago vs staying in a small town. If my organization was based in DC, and wanted people to come into the office every day, they had to pay people enough to have them live within commuting distance. Higher COL often equals higher pay if you’re expected to live within a certain area.

        I don’t think this is the same instance as “you’re not paid based on your personal situation.” There’s a difference in expecting your employees to live within commuting distance of the office and paying them according to that expectation, vs. paying employees based on their individual circumstances (type of housing, number of kids, marital status, etc) within those parameters.

        1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

          My company has had WFH long before the pandemic (I’ve been working remotely for nearly two years now), and they don’t set salaries based on locale. Some do based on your reasoning, but I think the objection now is, if I negotiated for a certain rate when I was hired, why should my salary get cut later because I moved due to a pandemic I didn’t cause?

          1. BPT*

            And I’m not definitely saying that companies should change pay based on COL, but it does set up some disparities for people who are unable to telework. In a large number of companies, there are going to be people who must stay in certain locales and the company requires it. For example, with my job, I’m required to live in the DC area and go into the office at least some days per week. So do we set up the disparity that those in a company that get the benefit of telework also functionally get more pay (based on COL) than those in the same company who are required to live in a certain place and go into the office? Not saying there is a great answer, but it’s more complicated than just saying compensation levels should always stay the same, even when some employees are getting an added benefit that they have asked for.

            1. HMM*

              Yup, this exactly. Adjusting for geographic area is not inequitable and in fact can make it become inequitable for those who can’t move. Keeping your HOL salary in a LOC location effectively means that you are now making relatively MORE than your peers back at the office, even for the same role. That’s especially the case if you move to a state with no income taxes. That’s pretty much an automatic increase (or as I like to call it “a stimulus bill every pay period”). How my org has done it is allowed employees to keep their HOL salary when they relocate, but their salaries are frozen until it’s caught up with the local market. But if enough people start moving, then I would expect for location-based pay to be instated and have no qualms with that at all.

              Beyond the additional business burdens Alison mentions, the company also takes a huge risk in doing all this work to let you move and get you set up in a new state… and then you leave anyway. My org has been burned on that before where the employee left for a new job merely two months after we had gotten his new nexus set up so he could be closer to family. We had asked him to stay for as long as possible after relocating, knowing that there wasn’t much we could or even would do to enforce it, and he swore up and down that he planned to be with us forever. We don’t hold it against him since we knew the risk going into it but it was seen a bit like acting in bad faith.

              The calculus is different if the employer asks you to move for the role, but if you just have a preference, it’s a pretty generous thing for the employer to help make it happen.

              1. Cascadia*

                Also, it can be really bad for the lower-COL areas that people are moving to. An influx of a lot of people with 6-figure incomes into small towns and rural areas has caused real estate prices to surge and is pushing out locals who have lived there all their lives. Rental markets are deteriorating, and many of the low-income hourly workers can’t find affordable places to live, despite all the businesses being desperate to hire, given the massive influx in new people.

                1. pancakes*

                  It sounds more like you’re describing the effect Palo Alto tech companies had / were having on Palo Alto for many years before the pandemic than a post-pandemic influx someplace else. Where exactly has there been a devastating influx of workers making six figures more recently?

                2. BPT*

                  While I’m definitely open to companies adjusting pay based on COL, I am a little conflicted about your point here. While this can definitely happen and be detrimental, what we’ve also seen in larger numbers over the past 20-30 years is a move away from smaller towns to cities, because of the lack of jobs and opportunities in smaller towns. It’s not always “big rich city people moving into small towns,” it’s often people moving back to where they grew up to be close to family, if they are suddenly able to telework (not all, but a lot). It’s sometimes people who would love to have lived in these small towns all their lives, but had to move away because there were no jobs.

                  In any shift like this (and I’m still skeptical about how much of an increase in long-term telework there will be), there’s going to be bumps. I think, if expanded telework is a thing that results in people making more money moving back to LCOL areas, as a society we would have to support things like a higher minimum wage for those workers already in these towns, expanded healthcare, rethinking zoning laws for how much housing can be built, etc, so there is not as much of a disparity. It would necessitate much more of an overhaul in our systems, not just company telework policies.

                3. doreen*

                  Of course, I don’t know for certain if it’s true – but I’ve read that people leaving NYC post-pandemic are driving up prices in the Catskills.

                4. had it*

                  This is my area completely. Rent for a 1 bedroom (if you can find one – there will be 50 people on the waiting lsit) is now $3000 and home prices are not in reach of most locals that have lived here their whole lives. People are moving here with their remote job that pays them San Francisco wages which would be double what the wage here would be.

                5. RussianInTexas*

                  Austin! Austin is experiencing what Palo Alto have.
                  The real estate prices in Austin shot up more than double of my area, Houston.

                6. pancakes*

                  Austin is a good example, with the median price of a home up 29% over last year. In places like the Catskills, there are lots of little towns, and many of the ones particularly attractive to city people were known as such before the pandemic, with prices accordingly trending upward. There are various ways places like these can discourage newcomers if they want to, more directly and doubtlessly more effectively than employers keeping wages low for fear of encouraging gentrification.

                7. Kyle Juszczyk*

                  Pancakes: Texas writ large, the oil business specifially. They have a slew of 6 figure workers. Imagine making 130K and the house average is less than 95$/sq ft (this was back 20 years ago before the market went 2.5X in price.) Everything seems cheap! Why negotiate, when the next guy (from HCOL) will swoop in at that great price!

                8. Just a small town girl*

                  Yup. This definitely happened where I live. I live in a small city that is about an hour and a half drive from a big city, but has a train you can take directly. This city used to be affordable but has now become very expensive to live in because there are so many people moving from the big city.

              2. pancakes*

                I’m not convinced that setting up a new nexus involves any sort of new or additional risk regarding employees leaving. If they’re not on contact they can leave at any time, whether working from home or not. I’m also not convinced that many companies are as scrupulous about trying to be equitable with pay as your comment suggests.

                1. not so much*

                  To reply to your previous comment – Idaho – there are many FB groups about moving from california to Idaho and very few of them are ‘moving back’. They are leaving California in droves.

                2. HMM*

                  Of course, a crappy company will be crappy regardless of the situation. I wasn’t trying to convince anyone that every company will behave like my (not-crappy, fwiw) org. It’s just one possibility in a landscape of endless options a company can take to address this real and growing movement of remote work.

                  The risk is not in whether the employee is incentivized to leave or not. It’s in the administrative labor that goes into making it happen at the request of an employee for no other reason than preference, that may or may not be worth it to the company. Whether you like it or not, having a business go through the work of allowing you to do something that you want but is not necessary to the business is a privilege to you, the employee. Do I wish it weren’t that way and that employees have more power? Of course! Is it that way in reality regardless of what I want? Yes.

                3. pancakes*

                  I suppose I tend to categorize that type of admin work as a cost of doing business, not a new or objectionable cost.

              3. Noname*

                I feel like this can get complicated because you can live within commuting distance and still live in a lower cost of living area from your coworkers. I moved about an hour away from my job recently, I still commute in every day but even that short distance of moving from a small city to a very rural town meant that I am now paying half as much in rent. Another coworker lives about an hour away in the other direction and he is now very close to a big city where the cost of living is really high. The money I get paid for the same job is going to stretch a lot further for me, but we made our own choices to live where we do. At what point does the pay change based on where you live?

                1. doreen*

                  The thing is that for most employers that change pay based on location, it’s not based on where you live- it’s based on where you are assigned to work. My employer does provide location pay so that working in NYC pays more than working in Albany. I’ve known a number of people who live in the area where commuting to Albany takes just about the same time as commuting to NYC – their pay varies with which office they are assigned to.

                2. BPT*

                  I think the pay changes when you fully telework and do not have to commute into the office. As in, anyone in a particular role who is expected to be in the office X number of days per week gets Y salary. You are free to set up your commute however you like within those parameters (live farther out and save money but have a longer commute, or live closer in with a short commute, but spend more to live there). But when you are fully remote and able to live anywhere without the expectation of weekly in-person presence, then your pay adjusts accordingly, because you have an added benefit and different expectations in your job than others do.

      3. Lucious*

        I’ve seen this dynamic go the other direction. Well before the pandemic , a professor of mine related a story. He’d been offered a job by his boss in San Francisco. My professor made $50k a year in Kansas, so he had a house + truck and an ATV. Life was good, and now they’d pay him double to do a different job in San Francisco.

        Fortunately he didn’t accept right away and did some research. After finding out $100k a year in San Francisco meant living out of a garage due to the real estate costs, he counter offered to his boss with an equivalent COL salary to what he made in KS – something like $250k a year. His boss unsurprisingly declined the offer.

      4. Gumby*

        Some people are paid not because that is the value of their work in an absolute sense, but because that is the value of their work *at that location*. A large company with offices in San Francisco, Atlanta, and Chicago will pay people different salaries at each location. It doesn’t mean that the project coordinator who lives in San Francisco brings more value than the project coordinator who lives in Atlanta. It just means that rent is more than twice as high in SF (even after the huge drop caused by COVID).

        I expect to see a lot of companies take a similar route to what the government does – base pay + location specific adjustment.

    3. Firecat*

      I took a 10% pay cut to move to a lower COL state and ended up with 5% more take home pay since taxes were so much less.

      Then that pay went way way further. Like $1.50 for a gallon of gass vs $4.35 further.

    4. Ali G*

      My org won’t change your current salary, but you are instead on a salary increase freeze until your salary is more in line with the local market. It’s definitely something to consider!

  6. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

    If you are truly moving near family, I would lead with that. Moving closer to aging parents is completely understandable.

    I also wouldn’t bring up mental health. For one thing, mental health and “prefer to live more cheaply” aren’t really the same. That’s kinda a jargon-y, pop culture view of mental health. For another, it’s more likely to stigmatize you then benefit you on the whole.

    1. Simply the best*

      They may not be the same thing, but the one can certainly influence the other. “I want to live more cheaply so I’m able to be in an environment that isn’t detrimental to my mental health, like one where I don’t have my own space or one where I am always stressed about whether I will be able to make rent.” Or “I want to live more cheaply so I can afford to proactively take care of my mental health, like paying for counseling.” I’m not sure what’s jargon-y about either of those things.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        I’m not the LW but needing therapy and/or medication to manage an imbalance in one’s neurotransmitters is a mental health issue. Thinking not having annoying roommates or living closer to a forest would make you happier is not a mental health issue. People with serious mental health issues are stigmatized enough without people equating everyday life dissatisfactions with mental health struggles.

        It’s like me telling someone in a wheelchair I know what they are going through because I walk better when my shoes are more comfortable.

        1. LDF*

          “Mental health” encompasses more than “diagnosable mental illnesses”. Taking a walk when I’m stressed is good for my mental health. Not having roommates is good for my mental health. That doesn’t take anything away from people with mental illnesses any more than “going for a jog 3 times a week is good for my physical health” takes anything away from people with a cane.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            It may be so, but I am not sure if it’s something an employer will care about. Living with roommates, as much as you may hate it, is your personal living situation, for you to deal with, and not something an employer should/would consider in your desire to relocate.

          2. Ray Gillette*

            It’s not like it’s either/or, as well. Your environment can exacerbate, or even cause, diagnosable mental health issues. For instance, living in a place with an upstairs neighbor who practices for her weekly tap dancing pogo stick recital and 3am would be a problem for anyone, but it’s that much worse for someone with a major sleep disorder.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              Absolutely, but it’s usually not company’s job to take things like this in to the account on wherever people can relocate, or paid more, or whatever else.
              Your living situation normally is your private business.

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I still wouldn’t bring it up because it’s not the employer’s business, and there are a lot of things that would benefit general mental health that are definitely beyond an employer’s purview.

          1. Ray Gillette*

            Despite my above comment, I agree with this. What’s most relevant to the employer is “I want to keep working here, and my current salary would got a lot further in a lower COL area.”

    2. drpuma*

      I wonder about not specifying mental health per se, but instead saying something like “I’m working on some health issues and I’ll be able to get better support in [other location].”

  7. Taco Cat*

    Have that discussion but be aware working from home is not the same as working from anywhere. If a company doesn’t have a presence in a state, it may cost them money to allow you to work from there.

    Also, understand how benefits may change if you move out of state. My company has amazing insurance for people who live in the state where the headquarters are but the field employees across the US are not in the same boat.

    As others have said, will your salary change as well to align with the lower cost of living?

    1. Liz*

      This! My company has its main office, where I work, in a state that has one of the highest costs of living in the US, and therefore my salary is higher than someone in my position in one of our offices in a state which has a much lower COL.

      Also, I contemplated moving to a different state at one point, not with my job, but just moving and finding a new one. And realized that while rent may be lower; let’s say $500 a month less, that’s only 6K a year, but I might have ended up with a 10-15K pay cut, and it wouldn’t have been worth it.

      If i were the OP; i might look at staying within the same state, but moving elsewhere where it might be cheaper. Even in my state, you go just an hour or two away, and housing is a lot cheaper.

      1. MK*

        If rent was lower, most likely lots of other things were lower too, restaurants, events and museums included.

    2. Anonym*

      Wow, yeah, the benefits piece is really important to consider and ask about. I’m not OP, but have considered asking for fully remote and had not thought about this. I know my company offers different health insurance options in that states where it does operate.

    3. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      That’s a good point on benefits. My org uses Kaiser as one of our medical options, and while there is a Kaiser presence in 8 states, they are operationally different entities I believe; Kaiser California insurance is not usable in Oregon for instance.

      Another thing to consider is if you are required to travel to and work at the home office, who will be responsible for those costs and will you need to file taxes for both states? I wouldn’t assume the company will take on the travel expenses if this is something you opted to do.

      1. Smithy*

        I think part of the genuine discussion and negotiation of full-time remote work is to be mindful of those points and not to make assumptions.

        While I certainly could see some companies taking that approach, where I used to work – a team could only approve fully remote work if the team had the budget to pay for someone to travel to HQ when needed. I don’t think the OP needs to lead with offering to pay for their travel to/from HQ when needed – but it might be mindful to be aware upfront.

      2. TardyTardis*

        I’ve played the double barrel ‘paid from California’ and ‘lives in Oregon’ tax rumba every once in a while, and It Is Not Fun, especially if someone thinks not to have state taxes deducted from their pay (that was Really Not Fun). You will need to talk to the payroll office and see if you can have taxes deducted for the state you’ll be living in. It is a little complicated explaining to the paying state about where you live, but payroll people are able to cope with that.

  8. Bookworm*

    Good luck to you, OP! I hope you get it. I’m currently in a position where the employer has never liked WFH (ie, we did it when necessary and on a case by case basis but we had no company-wide policy for it other than clear it with your supervisor) and is looking to (safely) re-open sometime later this year/early next year. I like the work but have been disappointed by this (and other problems that COVID has shoved to the surface) and am considering my options.

    I hope you have better luck and it works out for you!

  9. Hiring Mgr*

    Companies really lower your salary if you move to a lower cost of living area? Do they conversely give you a big raise if you decide you want to move from Pine Bluff Arkansas to Manhattan NYC?

    1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

      Exactly! They absolutely don’t do this, so they shouldn’t do it in the reverse.

      1. Anonym*

        My large company does do this – they have set COL adjustments based on location. I imagine that could factor into a decision from a budget point of view, though, if an employee was proposing a move from low COL to high. I can see them saying no if they can’t adjust their comp budget to account for it, especially if it meant they couldn’t give the rest of the team standard yearly COL increases or something. Depends on the comp budgeting structure.

        1. MsClaw*

          Yes, that was my experience when I moved from a lower cost area to a higher cost area with my company. Most companies do that, at least the ones I’ve dealt with. Their salary matrices/formulas take location into consideration. If you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t do that, you might want to start looking elsewhere.

          1. Fran Fine (formerly Diahann Carroll)*

            Yeah, I’ve never seen that at any of my previous employers – they set the salary based on your locale initially, but if you moved to a HCOL on your own and kept the same position, you’d keep the same pay. And if you moved from a HCOL to a LCOL area with the same job, the companies just ate the difference (and I imagine you would just miss out on salary increases until your next promotion if you were at the top of the range for your position/area. But that’s interesting that other employers do make that switch.

            1. not that kind of Doctor*

              I think it depends also on whether you’re moving because you want to or because they need you in the new locale. If they need you to live in a higher COL area then they need to compensate you. If you’re just moving because you want to, that’s on you.

              I don’t know about the other way round.

    2. Midwest Manager*

      I once worked for a company in a rural-ish area that after 2 years allowed me to transfer to a location in a big city. I did get a COL adjustment, but found out 3 months after the move that the raised pay I ended up with was still lower than the entry rate for brand new employees (zero experience) at the new location. When I asked new manager about it, I was told “company policy, nothing I can do”. I went to a competitor and got a 60% raise for the same work.

      So, on the surface – yes you can get a “big raise” when moving to a bigger city, but it’s still worth doing the homework for what’s an appropriate adjustment.

    3. e*

      Sometimes, yes! My husband and I are planning to move to a higher COL area, and he got a remote job offer that was initially calibrated to our current location. They offered to recalculate it for the higher cost of living.

    4. Anonymous for this*

      (Original poster on this topic) My company does increase salary for moving a higher cost of living locale, so there is some justification for decreasing salary for moving to a lower cost of living locale. The assumption that this is automatically an instance of unfair treatment isn’t accurate.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        Another consideration, and something you may be need to address, is being there for butt-in-seat meetings.

        This has been a discussion as my big organization is moving to more remote working. There has been a federal requirement to be on site two days a week. As this changes there’s been a discussion about people living farther away from their office. For some there will be periodic you must be there to see the product, touch the product, test the product meetings. Some tried to float the idea that the organization would pay their travel expenses (flight, hotel, etc.). That was quickly shot down. If they chose to move beyond reasonable commuting distance it was going to be their responsibility to eat those costs.

        We also had the opposite idea come up. If you’re in a high cost area there is a COLA to make-up for it. My current area is much lower than HQ. Someone wanted to know if they moved to HQ if they would get the COLA, even though their job is based in my area. Uh, no.

        1. Cedrus Libani*

          In the Before Times, my team had several remote employees (for a mix of family and explicit cost of living reasons), and they were required to show up on-site at least two days per month to maintain connections. The company did not pay for this, but people did the math, and decided a monthly trip to Silicon Valley from [West Coast city of choice] was more than worth it once you considered the cost of living benefits.

    5. RussianInTexas*

      Some do! Partner’s company has rotations for some of the positions (voluntarily, but it helps with your career if you do).
      He has a coworker that moved US-Seoul-Stavanger-Aberdeen-back to the US and the company re-evaluated the COL and the salary each time.
      Somehow, with his last move and the cost of dollar, he ended up with the same salary as when he left the US, so they had to re-do this, since he had raises and such meanwhile.

    6. MK*

      In my experience it matters who is initiating the relocation. If a company wants to transfer you because of business needs, they will adjust the salary upwards to sell you on the move to the high col area, but they won’t lower your salary for the move to the lower col area. If it’s the employee who is asking to move, asking for a raise o top of it likely won’t fly.

    7. TSP*

      A great example of this are the pay scales for federal employees. I make almost 20k more a year because I have to live in the DC area for my job. The same person at my GS level in a rural area makes less.
      If they were to move here because their role requires it, they would automatically see an increase.

      1. Black Horse Dancing*

        This! The feds do this all the time. And hotel costs/per diem are higher in say, San Francisco than in Des Moines.

      2. My Brain Is Exploding*

        I came here to say this! And it makes more sense to look at it like this: everyone of a particular rank/time in service gets the same pay. In addition to that, they may or may not get an extra payment based on the cost of living in the area where they are stationed.

      3. doreen*

        State governments do it too- I earn more in NYC than my counterpart in Rochester. And it’s done by a location differential , on a separate line from the salary so that it is very clear I will no longer receive this payment if I transfer to Rochester.

          1. saf*

            But then there is the winter…

            (AKA the reason I left Rochester, despite how much I miss Wegs.)

    8. Sparrow*

      Sometimes they do. This happened to my brother-in-law a few years ago when he was transferred to a city with high housing costs. The position was a lateral move – they just wanted him to get experience in a different area of the company – but they increased his compensation to balance out the difference in housing costs. He explained it as a location-specific COL add-on, not a change to the base salary.

    9. Black Horse Dancing*

      Actually, yes, many companies will raise salaries if moving from low COL to high COL because it’s he only way to keep workers.

    10. Lucious*

      That’s how it works for the military, which admittedly isn’t a company. A member living in Japan takes home more money than his contemporary doing the same job in Texas due to COL. If the Texas member moves to Japan their pay is adjusted upward accordingly. Likewise if the Japanese member moves to Texas their pay is reduced.

      In a previous life, one of my jobs was auditing military pay when people would move from high to low cost bases. This was to prevent them from “conveniently forgetting” to tell finance they’d moved to a lower cost base and should have the COL pay removed. My first day I processed a $60k debt on a member who defrauded taxpayers out of $2k every month over two years because that’s how long it’d been since he moved from Rome to Kentucky.

      1. joss*

        “My first day I processed a $60k debt on a member who defrauded taxpayers out of $2k every month over two years because that’s how long it’d been since he moved from Rome to Kentucky”

        Completely off topic, but considering that members of the military do not just move whenever they want to , I would say this also is a big indicator that the administrative department in the military has an atrocious record keeping system. This adjustment should happen automatically when a service member moves and it should not be the responsibility of the individual member to report this (though he should absolutely have questioned this)

        1. Drago Cucina*

          Yes, rule of thumb is to immediately question any over payment and save that money. I twice didn’t have 30 days of leave properly deducted. I sent a formal memo and visited the personnel office. When it was finally “caught” in one case a 2nd LT was going to try and make it a thing for me and my boss. I pulled out my paperwork and notes from my visit. Don’t mess with the NCO.

  10. Person from the Resume*

    I am frustrated that people with partners wanting to move because of a partners job might be favored more over a single person doing it for personal reasons. That’s not fair, but the world is unfortunately not fair. If you are just as able and capable of working from home full time as those two people, you should be offered the same opportunity.

    On the equableness front, it does seem likely your colleagues told the company that they were moving (because their spouse) and then asked to go remote so they too were willing to leave their job if it wasn’t agreed to. So that’s an option for you.

    But I would start by broaching it as a hypothetical. I am considering moving to a new place and wonder if full time remote with the company is possible. If they say “yes” you know and can decide your next steps. If they say “no” or “maybe” you can decide if you are willing to stay in HCOL city to keep your job or if you are willing to quit your job in order to move to a LCOL area.

    1. DKMA*

      I don’t think it’s about fairness, it’s about negotiating leverage. A scenario where a partner is taking a job out of state is a highly credible “I need to go fully remote or quit” scenario. Any scenario with similar dynamics would work out similarly, so as you say if she is going to leave if she doesn’t get this change, she should make that clear. It raises the stakes for both sides, which is what she wants if she’s actually going to leave anyways, but not if it’s intended as an empty threat.

      Whether she gets approved will still depend on individual factors like how valued she is and how easy it is (for her bosses to envision) her doing role remotely.

      1. TWW*

        Exactly. If you can (honestly) tell your employer that you are 100% definitely moving out of the area but would like to keep your job, it shouldn’t matter if it’s because of a spouse’s job or because you need cheaper housing. Just be prepared to accept “no” for an answer.

    2. MK*

      I don’t think it’s people with partners, it’s people who have little choice over the move. If the army is transferring your spouse or your parent has a terminal illness or your special needs child has been accepted to a particular school, it might be your decision to move, but most employers will understand you made it under pressure and be more open to accommodating you. Wanting to live alone or have a garden is perfectly valid, but it comes across as a personal preference.

      That being said, I doubt it makes a huge difference; in most cases the deciding factors is how much the company needs the employee and how easy it is to accommodate remote work.

  11. Tuckerman*

    Does this advice just apply if you’re asking to be fully remote? I live just over the state line, have been working remotely for the past year, and would like to continue to. If I work in the office 1 day per week, does that change the requirement for the employer?

    1. goducks*

      Technically when it comes to things like taxes and labor laws the state where the work is performed is the state whose law applies. In instances where you work in two states, both states get a bite of the taxes. And the law that applies is the one where you’re working at the time (which is why companies often create policies that are compliant in multiple states for things like family leave, much easier to administer if everyone’s on the same system that’s compliant in even the most restrictive state).

      If you’re working in two states, you’ll likely owe income taxes to both. Most people don’t realize this, but professional sports people pay income tax to every state they play in based on the % of their salary spent playing in that state.

      1. Amira*

        Unless the state they live in and the state they work in have a reciprocal agreement.

        At which point just set it all on fire, as an employer, because your next several hours are going to be a bit mess figuring out exactly what is what.

  12. EngineerMom*

    Definitely a conversation worth having!

    I have a coworker who wanted to move to another state. She negotiated a work-from-home situation before the move. This was 3 years ago, long before Covid made remote work so common. Our jobs occasionally require having material delivered to us, checking on manufacturing areas, etc. She already had great relationships built up with other coworkers, and so when there is something that requires “onsite” work, she schedules that time with other people who are present physically (other engineers, technicians, etc.). The majority of her job is project management, which doesn’t require in-person work very often and is 90% computer-based (other than the meetings!). I met her during my interview process, about 2 months before she left to move.

    It was a huge plus to see that team supporting her in that way. And they were able to retain all of the background knowledge she has, her expertise and experience working with a lot of different vendors and people, etc.

  13. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

    As someone who made the switch from high-cost-of-living to much-lower-cost-of-living place, where the high city was where 90% of my industry is based (I moved pre-COVID), a few things to think through:
    – if you want to leave this job in the future, are you ok with the state of your industry/the instability of smaller companies in the city you’re moving to? What if you leave involuntarily (layoff/let go)?
    – how is your industry about remote work in general? This helped me a TON when I was making the case to my boss — naming that most companies in my field offer a full-time remote option (the implication being I could find a way to move if my current job doesn’t let me). Also could give you peace of mind or sound the alarm about your prospects of finding another remote job down the line.
    – if you ever had to get a local job, how much of a pay cut would that involve? (For me it would be about 50%, which is the one thought that absolutely terrifies me about living where I do.)
    – it’s worth considering the impacts of being one of the few full-time remote folks once your office reopens. It’s a LOT harder than during the pandemic when everyone is in the same boat. Less face time with senior management, people going around me because they couldn’t drop by my desk for a question, and me missing crucial context have all been challenges that have significantly impacted my work life. And my office is about 30% full time remote! I’m not saying this to discourage you, just to give you a realistic assessment that it may get harder.

    But overall, I could not be happier with my move — the mental health benefits FAR outweigh the work annoyances. And I say this knowing it would probably be at least a year-long job search if I ever decide to leave due to the horrible, horrible economy in my new city (one of the reasons it’s so cheap to live here!).

    1. Liz*

      You make some good points; my BFF found herself in a similar situation; she worked remotely for a very large company, then got laid off. She was pretty high up, and making decent money, becuase of who she worked for, and when she began to look for other jobs; she found that in her area, salaries for her level were significantly lower than what she’d been making.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah this would be my concern, OP might be able to make it work for this job, but what about the next job? It’s important to have a Plan B if you are laid off or no longer happy.

        My husband and I recently moved from DC to a more rural state, but stuck closer to the largest city in the area than we otherwise would have for this reason. It’s a little more expensive (but still not HCOL) and worth it to be able to stay employed!

    2. Camelid coordinator*

      Can you describe the mental health benefits? I see folks saying there are mental health benefits to working at home, and I don’t really get what they are. The home environment? Not as many interruptions (presumably)? No one in your space/having eyes on you?

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Lots of things:

        • A nine-second commute instead of 90 minutes
        • I can eat, go to the bathroom, and get something to drink when it’s convenient
        • Don’t have to spend as much on clothes
        • Able to create a working environment that works for me (i.e., no harsh fluorescent lighting)
        • Not constantly interrupted by coworkers coming up to my desk for stuff
        • Pet therapy available (i.e., dog, cat, hamster, etc.)
        • Don’t have to cross a cootie-infested wasteland to get to work

        I’m sure there are more; these are just off the top of my head.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        I don’t mind being in the office, but getting longer sleep on the regular basis, and not driving in traffic are the biggest for me.
        Otherwise being in the office does not bother me at all.

      3. Smithy*

        For me, being fully remote allowed me to be in a city of my choice that contributed to a number of small factors that all lowered my stress levels.

        Not having roommates, having more space, being in a less densely populated city, having to think/worry less about money, being closer to a larger support network – all of that helped decrease stress, which has improved my overall mental health. I actually really do enjoy working in an office and miss a lot of those features, but for my professional realities – not being so tied to one specific HQ city opened up far more options.

      4. Spotted Kitty*

        Things I’ve found during the last year:
        I can take a lunch nap if I’m feeling stressed out with work.
        My cat is here and I can take a five-minute break to pet him.
        Unless I’m going to be on camera, I don’t have to expend the energy doing makeup/hair/putting on “professional” clothes.

      5. not an accountant.*

        I know lots of younger employees who might be living in cities they don’t love far from family just because of where the jobs are. If you don’t have roots in a place, and don’t love it, the current nebulousness could feel like a real opportunity. I don’t know about you, but I’d love to work from a beach house instead of a tiny apartment and commute from my bed as opposed to an hour on public transit.

      6. Cat Lady in the Mountains*

        For me, the mental health benefits are less about working from home and more about living where I want to live.

        My life in BigExpensiveCity:
        – centered around work
        – was a constant struggle to make friends because I could afford to do nothing outside of work
        – involved a social network heavily reliant around work, which was extremely non-diverse and in which I actually dreaded spending time with my “friends” because we only talked about work and had nothing else in common.
        – The weather sucked and I couldn’t afford an apartment with outdoors space anyway.

        My life in SmallerCheaperCity:
        – I stop working at 5 each day because there are things I want to do outside of work.
        – I spend almost all my non-working time outside – partly because I was able to buy a 3 bedroom house on half an acre of land. My mortgage is $200 less than my rent was in ExpensiveCity.
        – I have a diverse social network that I hang out with because we like the same music, we like hiking and kayaking and paddleboarding, or we have the same favorite restaurants and coffee shops. I love my friends.
        – I got a dog! Yay not living in a 300-square foot apartment anymore!
        – I spend every day absolutely thrilled and in total disbelieve that I am lucky enough to live somewhere I love this much.
        – I have not once stressed about money since I moved. Not a single time. I sleep better, I eat better, I laugh more, all because I’m not constantly thinking about my credit card bill.

        I actually dislike working from home itself, but the tradeoffs are a no brainer for me.

        1. TSP*

          Your bullet points under BigExpensiveCity resonated with me. You absolutely captured what I feel about living in a similar BigExpensiveCity city for work and having grown up in a small city.

          My parents and relatives always ask if I like it here and I honestly reply, “not really, it’s just the place I work.” I’ve been here for six years and I still just feel like a visitor. My only connections to this place are work and my dentist.

        2. AllieMiles*

          Hiking, kayaking and paddleboarding (with a dog!) sounds like my version of heaven! It sounds like a perfect location and life balance.

        3. GS*

          I’ve made similar choices. Being able to garden or hang out with the goslings on my lunchbreak is a game changer for my mental health.

  14. Sharon*

    Position it as “I’m thinking of moving, and I’d like to better understand my options as far as work location going forward so I can factor that into my decision.”

  15. Lauren*

    What kind of relationship do you have with the other people who are permanently remote? I know you mentioned they both moved due to partners’ jobs, but could you speak with them about how they made their request to find out how it was received? Maybe management doesn’t have any concerns!

    Furthermore, do you know where you might want to move to? If they already have an employee working remotely in that state it might be even easier for them because they’re already familiar with the labor/employment/payroll laws and regulations there.

  16. So sleepy*

    LW, if it’s at a point where you’re planning to look for another job if they say no, I would frame it as “I am going to be moving to X location for family reasons in the next (3 months, 6 months, year) and I was wondering if it might be possible to work remotely on a long-term basis when that happens or if I would need to find a job there as well”. They don’t need to know that the family reasons are quality of life and financial considerations.

    There’s a good chance they won’t have an issue with it either way, but when it becomes more “can I work remotely so I am able to live elsewhere” as opposed to “I will be moving elsewhere and I’d like to stay if you’d be willing to let me work remotely,” it becomes less palatable to the employer. In the former situation, the better option will often be having someone in physical proximity of the office. In the latter, they are likely to prefer retaining an experienced employee unless it is impossible to work-from-home.

    This is only an option if you plan to follow through with a move either way, though (or at least changing jobs). It would not end well if you had this discussion and then decided to stay with your employer. And there’s the usual risk of an employer pushing you out earlier than you’d like, although the fact that you have two colleagues that have set a precedent and that you wouldn’t be giving a firm time frame for leaving make that a bit less likely in this situation.

  17. staceyizme*

    LW- I wonder if you could present it as something of a “fait accompli”? Like, “I’m moving to within the next , but I really want to continue in my role by working remotely. What would that look like ? This strikes me as genius! Good for you for finding the pathway that feels most workable for you!

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Either back up and admit that they were bluffing, damaging their credibility with their employer, or quit and find a new job. Or, have to find a new job because their employer responds “That’s not possible, so let’s start transitioning for your end date next month”.

        It’s like the difference between asking for a raise and making a case for it, and faking a job offer to leverage a counter offer. You have to be willing to walk away if you don’t get what you want.

  18. Aerie*

    WOW, this letter TOTALLY could have been me not too long ago! I’m in the process of moving to a new state to be near family, as I have a young kid and out here there’s cousins near his age plus lots of family to help with childcare. Here’s how I laid it out to my boss:
    1. I’ve not just met, but exceeded all goals during the pandemic. My boss noted that multiple times, and was especially impressed because of the aforementioned kid.
    2. Childcare becomes a non-issue (I know this doesn’t apply to you, but putting it out there!)
    3. I can afford a bigger space, so I have complete privacy. No interruptions.
    4. While I’m too far away to commute in weekly, I offered to come into the office once a month as needed for key meetings/events.

    I should note that ultimately, while my immediate boss was on board, and even grandboss, they couldn’t actually approve it yet because the ultimate decision would come from corporate. I’m lucky that I have a very specific set of skills/experience and coincidentally an opportunity opened up at another company looking for those skills and they were HAPPY to pay me my current salary (so HCL area salary in cheaper location equals out to essentially getting a raise) and guarantee full-time remote work. My boss at Old Job completely understood why I made the move, but was PISSED at upper management for not working harder to make it work to keep me.

  19. RussianInTexas*

    I know that for tax reasons, partner’s employer (they have most employees in the offices, they are actually bringing most of their 40k US employees back this summer), for the few remote workers they do have, you are not allowed to work from state other than what you specified.
    For example, you are working from your house, at the address you provided, in Florida, you are not allowed to pack up and go visit your parents in Connecticut and work from there for a month.

    1. not an accountant.*

      On the flipside, I know lots of people in New England with vacation homes in other states (its a small state thing, I guess) – I imagine many will be working from those homes increasingly even if they’re just increasingly remote.

      As long as certain thresholds aren’t hit, I think it’s okay, but the tax law there is VERY sticky. For example, lots of people travel constantly for work and it, well, works with proper documentation. But on the flip side, I know it’s been an issue for lots of pro sports players.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I imagine if you don’t tell, and you are going to be away for a week, without massive shift of time zones, no one would notice.
        But if you do this a lot, or for prolonged periods of time, you may ran in to issues.

      2. pancakes*

        Come on, now. I grew up in Connecticut. Owning a vacation home in another state isn’t a small state thing, it’s a prosperous person thing.

        There’s an interesting New Yorker article about this issue, called “Tax Me if You Can.” It’s from 2012 so I wouldn’t count on it to be up to date about particulars, but I remember reading it in print and enjoying it.

        1. Not an accountant*

          Oh I just meant it was easier to wind up across state lines up here than in some other larger states (like folks with mountain homes and lake homes in NC within a 5 hour drive – 5 hours here puts you across 5 states)

          1. pancakes*

            Ah, I see what you mean. Yes. In other parts of the country, you can drive 4 hours to your beach house and still be in the same state when you get there.

            There was litigation between VT and NH years ago but it was about bar membership for lawyers, not taxes. I forget which one, but one of them was trying to discourage an “out of state” lawyer who lived just over the line from practicing there.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I suspect that in the past this has flown under the radar for a lot of companies because people (including employers) weren’t generally aware of the rules. So I wouldn’t count on being allowed to do it because you’ve done it in the past. Smaller companies, who don’t have their own legal/HR/accounting departments, are probably more likely to lay a blanket ban, rather than figuring out just how far it can be pushed before the requirements kick in.

  20. StripesAndPolkaDots*

    My husband did this a few years ago. We were tired of the tiny apartment and the expensive of the city. His company is a huge multinational company that already has people working in every state. He just… asked, and they said yes. (Sadly when he got a new job with the same company that new position did not allow full time remote, in part I think bc so many people have been asking for it due to the pandemic, no real, logical reason).

      1. Mouse*

        I read StripesAndPolkaDots’s comment to mean that there was no real, logical reason for them to deny it, if the reason was “too many people have been asking”.

  21. DKMA*

    I think the most important thing here is for LW to get clearer with herself about what she wants and what trade-offs she is willing to make. I’ll lay out a few scenarios:

    1) She develops a clear plan to move to a specific location and is willing to leave her job for it:
    -This is actually a straightforward scenario, she can be very specific about what she needs, she can professionally explain the scenario, she can think through specific concerns and help her employer get over the hurdles
    2) She has a clear plan of where she wants to move, but isn’t willing to leave her job: This is the scenario answered in the letter I think.
    3) She just wants to move, but potentially shorter or intra-state distances are in her possibility set, or she has a longer time horizon, etc.
    -I’d start here with just trying to get permission to do the job remotely permanently, not necessarily “out-of-state”. In many cities, this would enable very normal things like moving to affordable suburbs. I’d frame it as “want to get my own place in an area I can afford”, but need to know if I can plan on not having a commute. You are more likely to get a yes and can do a follow-up if your specific plan evolves. Note: Don’t do this if you know you want to move out-of-state / to a location where you CAN’T come in, rather than where you don’t come in.

  22. cactus lady*

    Alison, can you start sharing tips/strategies from folks who have successfully managed to negotiate to work from home or work a hybrid schedule after working from home during the pandemic? It would be super helpful to have some ideas!

  23. Krabby*

    A guy I work with just made this same request quite well.
    He emailed me (HR) and his manager and pointed out how well he’d been doing working from home over the last year. Then he mentioned he was thinking of moving to a different province to be closer to family and save on rent, but that he really enjoyed working at our company and hoped to be with us for a long time.
    He closed it off by going over the benefits his team would get from having someone working in a different time zone.

  24. Just Another Masshole*

    I’m in the same boat, OP! I currently live in a high COL area in MA and am looking to relocate to NH. I’ve been working from home since March 2020 and my company has been handling it very well. They probably issued all of us company laptops and my group especially hasn’t missed a beat. I’m lucky that my role can be done effectively 100% remotely. My coworkers and I discussed it and we all agree that we feel much more productive working from home, so we all asked our boss as a group during one of our weekly check-in meetings and he agreed with us and said he will see what he can do. Obviously something of this nature would need to be approved by higher levels in the company and of course HR. Right now my employer is aiming for September as the target date for bringing people back into the offices. But I have been advocating all along for permanent remote work options for those of us who can prove that we are hitting our productivity goals. I save so much money by not spending money on gas, tolls, wear and tear on my vehicle, and eating fast food and hitting the Starbucks drive-thru constantly. I have also learned how to actually cook, since I’ve been home bound all this time, I’m actually cooking whole healthy meals for myself, I am age 33 and this is the first time in my life I’ve had that luxury. I’ll be blunt, now that I’ve had this taste of working from home for well over a year, I do not want to give it up. I suspect many people feel the same way I do. We don’t necessarily have to have a clear-cut reason, it’s just an improved quality of life for many of us! I am childless and am looking to move to a lower-cost area. I certainly hope my employer recognizes this and in an effort to retain and attract quality employees, they will give the option for permanent remote work as long as those employees hold up their end of the bargain and perform accordingly and meet their productivity metrics.

  25. Alexis Rosay*

    The most successful permanent WFH strategy I’ve seen, annoyingly, was the one that went, “I AM MOVING [not: might move] for personal reasons; I would love to keep working here if I can work from home, but if not I’ve had a great experience here and would be happy to work out a transition plan.”

    My boss approved that one while telling the rest of us he will not approve full-time WFH for people live in the general area of our office.

    Not everyone will react well to being strong-armed like this, but I’m just saying this is what I’ve seen actually work.

    1. SnapCrackleStop*

      I laid the groundwork for this one for years. I knew we’d need to move when my partner finished a graduate degree and was very up front about it. This meant that it wasn’t much of a surprise to my boss when the time came. I’ve now been working from another city for about two years.

    2. goducks*

      This could work, but it would depend on the LW being willing to have the boss say, “Ok, thanks. Let’s discuss that transition plan”. I don’t get the sense that the LW is open to being out of a job, given that there’s not a ton of opportunity in her field outside the HCOL cities.
      One can get away with an ultimatum when one knows that they have sufficient leverage to do so. If one doesn’t, it can backfire spectacularly.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        It would 100% not work in my case because my company will just fire me instead and hire someone else. WFH during the pandemic? Possible, but no allowance or even laptops for you, figure it out. Not pandemic? Why?
        They do not particularly care about cogs in the machine.

  26. Sushi Cat*

    I mentioned to my supervisor that I was interested in working from home more long term, and she asked me a few questions to assess what exactly I meant, and ultimately told me that she’d probably let me do whatever I wanted. She also wants to work from home more permanently. All that to say, simply expressing a preference for WFH is a good start and going from there. She probably wants to get a feel for what the teams wants so she can advocate on everyone’s behalf.

    On another note, My office moved some people from a high COL area to a low COL area, and cut their salaries accordingly, so I want to second the others who brought that up. And to second Allison about the hurdles your company may have to jump through for you to work in another state. I had a colleague work from home in another state we don’t do business in, and our CFO had to get heavily involved in the legal and financial hurdles to get her set up there.

  27. foolofgrace*

    When deciding where to move to, if it comes to that, keep in mind that the day may come when you are no longer working at your firm. Will you be able to find another job in your new locale? Perhaps you can find a medium-sized city that will allow you to live better on your salary but that would offer possibilities if you get laid off or something.

  28. Self Employed*

    For people who are wondering why the issue of companies lowering pay for people in HCOL areas who move to LCOL and WFH, that was all over the news here in Silicon Valley a while back. The big tech companies had been paying huge salaries to get the best employees in an area with some of the highest housing costs in the country. They were not paying them huge salaries so they could build McMansions in Ashland, OR while WFH on a Bay Area salary. I don’t know if this went into effect or not. It could’ve just been corporate sabre-rattling.

    If LW is one of the lower-paid employees (not everyone at Google/Facebook/Apple writes code, for example–they also have non-technical staff) then this might or might not apply to them. If they are making minimum wage + 50% for Mountain View or Cupertino and they move to Ashland, OR where the minimum wage is lower, I don’t know if the employer is petty enough to cut the salary to local minimum wage + 50%.

    Fun fact: There is a (very nice and non-stereotypical) mobile home park within walking distance of the Googleplex. Pretty much any units on the market used to be snapped up by Google employees/contractors because it’s so much more affordable than other housing.

    1. Filosofickle*

      I’m curious if that went into / will go into effect as well.

      One tech client based in SF is looking hard at ways to reduce their salary obligations and will be massively expanding remote work so they can hire talent in cheaper locales. (Still mostly US, just not SF.) People are still welcome to work in an office if they choose. Don’t know if they’ll actually cut salaries, or just freeze them or change the rules for new hires. For sure they are putting a hard limit on Bay Area hiring, they want fewer people attached to the SF office earning SF salaries. As they grow, most new hires will be elsewhere.

  29. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    One of the companies I do some freelance work for is going through this discussion with staff at the moment. The city (in the UK) is one of the most expensive places in the UK to buy and rent a home, and the industry (book publishing) is pretty low paid, especially for entry level. This means lots of staff are keen to see if working from home (and thus being able to buy or rent further away, where housing is cheaper) can work full time.

    TBH there is also the environmental / carbon footprint aspect of it too. Reduced commuting over the last year means the air quality in the city has improved markedly, and the overall carbon footprint of the company has reduced. There are significant environmental benefits to be had from working more flexibly, especially in the light of Boris Johnson’s recent commitments to reducing carbon emissions in the UK.

  30. Anonymousaurus Rex*

    One thing to note is that your company might want to update your salary to be commensurate with your new remote location. This happened to me. I moved and became fully remote (due to my partner going to grad school in a different state). While my company didn’t cut my pay initially, when I was next reviewed for merit increases I was told I was over the cap for my salary band in my new area. This was a bit of a shock as I was not told that moving would have an impact on my salary or ability to get raises.
    The reality is that while the area is technically classified as “lower cost of living” my actual living expenses actually went up because of the move! In my old location we had been in the same apartment for 6+ years with only modest rent increases. In my new city my rent is more than $800/month more expensive for an equivalent apartment (slightly nicer, but smaller), with significant yearly rent increases. We probably would have chosen an area in a suburb rather than in the new city if I had known that I would no longer be eligible for salary increases.

  31. MidwestMaven*

    Keep in mind that you working in a completely different location may bring up issues for your employer like registering to do business in a new state and city if there are no employees there currently. State withholding, unemployment, workers’ compensation all would need to be considered if they would need to enter a new state. Also, depending on the state and what type of business you’re in, there could be implications for state income tax and sales tax for the company too. They pay all those things now, but getting set up in a new state and filing additional returns across the board could add some administrative burden.

  32. hroseup*

    I literally just asked this yesterday (asked it as “can we explore this possibility”). Things that weighed heavily in favor of me asking included the fact that we will be trying to move to New City regardless – i’m also job hunting, but I like my current job and it pays more than I’m likely to make in New City because of cost of living differences. If I can keep my job, I would love to. I feel like I had nothing to lose because, well, we’re trying to move either way. I’ll update what I hear in a future open thread or (hopefully!) Friday Good News.

    Have been using all that good askamanager advice on my cover letters, too. Super appreciative of this resource!

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