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Ask HN: Is this a crazy idea?
51 points by megaman22 on Mar 20, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments
I am originally from a very small, out-of-the-way rural town. To find a job in software engineering after school, I had to relocate to a much more urban area a couple hundred miles from home. I've done very well in my job thus far, several quick promotions and raises. But, I really hate having to live in this area - not really my kind of place, and all my friends and support network are elsewhere.

At this point the only thing keeping me here is the fact that there are decent jobs here, and back home you're lucky to get in at Walmart.

My lease is running out in a couple months, so I've been thinking about what I want to do for the next year. The safe thing to do would be to find another cheaper apartment near work (I'm currently renting a place that's way more space and expense than I need, after a break up), suck it up, and deal with being stuck in the city.

On the other hand, if I could swing it such that I could do 90% of my work remotely, I could move back home, slash my expenses, be nearer to the things I love doing, and avoid the psychological toll of working in the office. Huge win for my mental and physical health.

The only sticky part here is how to convince my employer to buy in to the idea... I'd be willing to take a 25% pay cut. Is that crazy?

Big tip: Ask to start remotely BEFORE you move so you can verify it works out for both you and them (assuming they are agreeable). That way, if it's not going to work out, you can reconsider your options before paying a new rent etc.

Excellent suggestion! As appealing as remote working might be, it doesn't work for everybody. As a minimum you need to be more disciplined. Too many temptations in the home, fridge, snacks, TV, etc. Biggest danger are friends and family who think that you are available for chats, errands, game of golf, whatever.

This is great advice. If you can work remotely then, work remotely now. Make sure it works for you and your employer.

Yep, and you won't be stuck in a remote unworkable location whilst looking for more remote work.

I had a similar situation. I told my boss "I'm moving to X in the a few months, do I need to find a new job or can I work remotely?" Luckily I was able to keep my current job even though there isn't a large culture of remote working at my company.

Your odds of success, both in getting your request approved and in succeeding remotely highly depend on if there are other remote workers in your company and on your team. I'm the only one working remotely on my team and sometimes things are unnecessarily painful or inefficient because I'm the "special snowflake" that's not present at the office.

Don't mention the pay cut unless they negotiate that with you. You shouldn't be 25% less efficient working remotely, and you'll save them money by not having to allocate office space, electricity, etc, to you.

I did the same. It worked well. Do not ask for a pay cut, one thing you must consider is that you might need to become contractor. My company made me a contractor because I was working out of state and it was easier for them to keep me as contractor.

A contractor is self employed, and you actually pay a lot more taxes (and the company pays less).

Agreed that it's not crazy at all. And I certainly wouldn't propose taking a pay cut. Assuming you can actually stay on task and produce quality work remotely, you will actually cost the company less than if you were in the office. (They don't need to supply you a permanent desk, etc.) What you should prepare to do though, is make it easy for them. Have solutions in mind for all the standard issues. Are you willing to commute in for all meetings? If not (and it would be a waste IMO), set up and demonstrate a working videoconferencing solution before you leave. Perhaps suggest quick daily check-in emails, to keep your team up to speed with what you're doing. Etc. Basically the only challenge isn't to get your employer to accept the idea; you also want them not to regret it afterward.

(Everyone at my (very small) company works remotely. I love it, but it does come with its own unique challenges. As nl mentioned, they are likely magnified if you're the only remote worker.)

I agree. As a remote worked that has often entertained thoughts of working on-site, and seeing how ridiculous/unproductive/child-factory-style working on-site is; do not take a pay-cut. You can sling your added value by increased productivity, money saved on office furniture/space/food/etc. Enjoy your life, and work off-site.

Just a warning: if you are the only remote worker it is hard. You miss out on a lot of conversation that you really should know about. Source: me, only remote worker in company.

Also, I doubt the money will be the thing that decides them.

Yeah, any business worth working with will be willing to pay you normal wage regardless of where you're working from.

No, it's not crazy at all, but don't sell yourself short, and take your time. Are you in the doldrums right now because of your breakup? If so, it would probably be best to make this decision when your are neither very happy nor very sad. If this process cuts into the next lease, try to find a place that will go month-to-month for you. You really should try to make this decision when you're feeling fine.

If you still want to move back when you're feeling good, you should pitch this to your employer with it being a negotiation in mind. Tell your employer that you've done your best to stick it out in the city, but that you just have too many close friends and family that live far away and you want to be near them. Then tell your employer that you are looking at alternatives to make it work, like doing contract work, but tell them that you would love it if you could work remotely for them.

Make it clear that you've made your decision to move back and that it's happening soon. If your employer senses that this is a gambit to get out of the office they'll probably call your bluff. Good luck!

Nothing "crazy" about taking control of your life to make it healthier and happier.

I've never regretted taking less money to live in places I love and work on things that interested me.

Good on you.

No. That is not crazy. I work for a company that has several (50% or so) remote workers - we are a tech company.

I suggest looking for a new job. Companies that do not already have a remote working policy are not going to be a conducive environment for you to start your remote career at (if you are even able to convince them).

If you're interested in startups I suggest angel.co. For other opportunities you should checkout weworkremotely.com and authenticjobs.com. Other than that a quick google search for "companies that allow remote work" should suffice.

This is great advice. Companies have tried to sell me on working on-site, and I have likewise tried to sell on-site only companies on remote work - but they have their mindset. From my experience; they ever get it and understand the enhanced nature of remote work, or they have that old-school (I'm old but hey) mentality: "If you aren't here, you aren't working" and cannot be swayed.

Not crazy. Suggest it now before your lease is up so you can do it for a few weeks or so before you would have to move. This way you can kind of have a trial period. This might make your employer more willing to give it a try if they are concerned about how it will work out. If your work doesn't suffer and everyone can deal with you being remote then it shouldn't matter that you are 10 miles away or 200 miles away. This is 2014... remote work should be assumed and being in office should be the exception.

It's a good idea, but don't be willing to take a pay cut.

Yeah. To a manager, offering to take a 25% pay cut signals that you think you'll be delivering 25% less value. Find reasons it'll be better for them, or at least no worse.

I've been in a similar situation. You're tackling the right problem: you should take your mental health very, very seriously, especially when you're away from friends aand family as you are.

That said, be careful that you're not burning bridges. If you can stick it out another year, I would advise you to. You have access to:meetups, conferences, people at barbecues---all of these useful for career development.

Best of luck.

That's an excellent question and it's one that drives every meeting I have with potential new clients. I work from home 100% of the time because that allows me to take care of my dogs and give them the attention they deserve and need, and because it means that I can help my wife running the house and taking care of stuff. That said, I've turned down clients who thought that my work could only be performed "on sight."

My argument against that is that surgeries can be performed across the internet, so I'm pretty sure a marketing campaign can be designed and deployed remotely or that a business process can be speced and developed remotely. Sometimes a business will be a hard ass and we will part ways, but normally they will (at least hesitantly) agree to my position. The downside of that is that I'm always an independent contractor, and thus I have to handle my own taxes and insurance etc. So there are some drawbacks.

Still, the main thing is to do what makes you happy and to fight so that you can do it in a place that makes you happy also.

Did you feel this way when you and the person you broke up with first moved in together? If not, have you considered the possibility that you aren't actually as unhappy with your new city as you think you are, and your current perceptions are being influenced by the breakup?

It's almost always a bad idea to make big plans soon after a breakup, especially when young.

Nah, that was months ago. I only mentioned it because part of the driver for having to do something different is that I've got to make some kind of move, since paying the rent and other expenses on my salary alone, when we had budgeted for two, has bled me white.

I'm really just not a city person. I'm somewhat misanthropic, can't stand being without the mountains and real forests, and would rather hike ten miles to go fishing than go down-town 99 times out of 100.

Really depends upon your employer, culture and of course your direct report manager. I don't even think that a pay cut should be necessary. You could even go in to work once a month for the monthly all-hands, etc and maybe stay in a motel for a couple of days.

I was in a similar situation many years ago, working for a small firm where I had excellent rapport with the boss. I went from salary to getting paid by the hour as well. I didn't want to work 60+ hours a week. As it happened they got a client close to where I lived and I was able to service them very well, by being a "local". And after a year, I was making 50% more, before expenses, and working less hours and minimal commute time. It was a win-win-win. Happy me, happy client and happy boss.

Every situation is different, but my experience shows that it is possible to re-negotiate stuff as long as you are good at your work and can demonstrate a win-win.

It's not crazy. Living somewhere you don't love if you don't absolutely have to and commuting if you don't absolutely have to are definitely crazier :)

We're always looking for great fits and have more than one remote team member. If you think we might be a fit for each-other drop me a line. Company and contact info in my profile.

I'd present this to the employer as switching from a full-time employee to an almost-full-time consultant. They give you a project, you get it done, regardless of where and how you do it.

If the employer needs more convincing, propose you start with a test by trying one day per week remote from now.

Agreeing to take a pay cut would be the icing on the cake.

I'm of two minds on this one. On one hand, remote work is perfectly awesome. I do it. I work for a company that does it. It's a great way to run a company, although it is almost impossible if everyone else is at headquarters are you are not.

The risk you are taking is that you may end up working on projects that do not require interaction with many other people, which may not actually exist in enough frequency to keep you on the payroll.

On the other hand, there is a psychological concept of transference. If you're unhappy in one part of your life, you transfer the unhappiness to another part of your life that is going well and then destroy the good part.

It would be much, much better to focus on the part of your life that is wanting and build that up rather than to break down the part of your life that is successful.

I appreciate asking the question bc that means that you are at least willing to hear answers.

It depends on your employer. Here are two EXTREMELY broad types (so broad that they probably lose applicability to you):

Business employer: Even if you are able to convince your employer that working remotely would be better for your well-being, then once you leave, you will be treated like an outsourced employee. It will gradually grow on you, but you will be bc in their mind you won't have as good of a grasp on the business and you will be expendable.

Person who employ's you and it just happens to involve business: You're good.

25% pay cut indeed is a crazy idea.

There's a chapter in Tim Ferriss' book "The 4 Hour Work Week" about just that (employee wanting to work remotely, how to pitch it, etc).

Good luck and glad you're going where you belong.

I found a very employer who was willing to take me on as a remote employee. At first they were apprehensive because they preferred face to face interaction. I started out coming to the office at least once a week then they realized that wasn't necessary. I was getting things done without coming to the office so they let me stay home full time. It really comes down to your work ethic and whether or not you'll remain as productive at home. If they're open ask if you can do a trial run by working at home 3-4 days a week.

Don't forget that while you're working from home, other people will be at work, so you might not see any other person 8 hours a day. This could be harder than you think.

It depends.

I am living in a tiny Texas town, and I do pretty well freelancing PHP stuff. It wasn't super hard, but it took me maybe two years or so before it was really comfortable.

I don't know many employers who would go for remote work after hiring you-- I don't think that you could convince a business that is used to having you as an onsite employee to change that, but it isn't that hard to find other employers if you have skills.

No crazy, but I'd add that you should come up with a plausible plan for coming into the office every once in a while - keeping in mind that no plan survives first contact with reality, the details can be adjusted, but it might go down easier with your boss if you're still going to be in the office say three days every month. Maybe there's a recurring team meeting that you could commit to attending?

Nothing crazy about this at all. I work for a company where we only go into the office on mondays. The rest of the time we choose where we work. I would definitely not ask for a pay cut. You shouldn't need to do that. Just drop this book in there lap. https://37signals.com/remote/

No need to pay cut. Just tell them you want to test this option and they will see the same results. Remote work isn't a new thing. Lots of companies do it, why they won't do it?

I arranged with an old job to do this: work from home, 1 day per week i go to the office. It worked well till the point i didn't have to go too much to office.

No. In my experience, when I've talked to people older than 60 who worked since they were of age to work, almost all of them have recommended something similar. The ratio might be different, some say take a 50% cut, some say 20%, but they are all very much into the idea of taking a pay cut for the overall happiness.

I moved to a bigger area (from small town Nebraska) for a job, after a few years I was working remote and decided to move back. I've been nervous about losing my job and not finding anything but the best thing you can do is build as many online connections as you can so you can always get work.

IMHO, yes you should ask to work remotely and no, you shouldn't take a paycut.

If anything there should be more allowances because you will be saving Employer's expenses that he usually does per employee in a physical office. You will instead be paying for Electricity etc.

Good luck, I hope that you achieve what you want. Probably you are a talented guy, so you will find a job in a company with a remote work culture quickly, if your current company doesn't want to give you that benefit.

buy a double robot to maintain your presence in the office. i am not joking.


I've known quite a few remote workers (and I work remote myself about 1/3rd the time), but I don't know anyone who has used this.

It seems like it hasn't broken the creep-factor yet from people I've talked to.

This looks nice.

Have you considered starting your own company? I see lots of opportunities for someone from a "rural town".

You should just move Oakland

Your situation sounds almost exactly like mine.

I got lucky when I decided to come back home to Imperial County, a place here in Southern California with over 25% unemployment most of the time. Right after I finished my degree, and about a year after I started my initial job searching, I ended up landing a great position in 2008 as the webmaster for the local community college.

I had been really happy with my job, and then a few buddies of mine in the Joomla community liked me enough to offer me an opportunity at eBay in 2011 which I ended up taking for a short while. It was tough being away from my family/support network though. Work-wise, I didn't have as much responsibility as I already did at the college, but there was definitely the promise that there would be a lot more down the road. However, I got the sense that my buddies were already thinking of moving on to another company, which scared me a bit as I had gotten used to the job security of working for a public institution. In the end, I ended up getting lucky once again with my old position getting upgraded so I had to decide whether to come back or stay at eBay. I ended up coming back home and starting in the new role in early 2012.

Coming back felt right...but now two years into the new position my heart sort of yearns again for something new and to be a part of something bigger so I can learn more and be more.

My current job is still awesome for my area (if I were to lose this particular position, there would be no equivalent locally that I'm aware of), but what annoys me is that I keep track of all of the Who's Hiring? Threads here on HN each month and I feel like the folks in these companies (at least the ones I've been interested enough in contacting) don't appear to value what I've done so far. Maybe I don't use the latest languages (due to our infrastructure, I've kept things mainly to PHP/MySQL and more recently, PowerShell, for server integration work) or have a lot of experience scaling to millions of users, and I don't use every buzzword I know about, but I definitely know I'm capable of contributing a lot to a team and my people skills are probably one of my greatest assets.

Like you, I sometimes wish I could just work remotely...as an example, last week I wasn't feeling well on Tuesday so I took a sick day and napped for part of the morning and then connected remotely to a WebEx training we were having at 11 AM with a new company we're working with and then caught up on the previous day's work in the afternoon, since I had been out on Monday as well, all from the comfort of my pajamas. It was nice and relaxing, so it might be something I could talk about more with my supervisor. The problem is when you're supposed to be managing other people in addition to your own work, having your presence in the office most of the time is more or less expected so that can be a downer in my case, but perhaps you wouldn't have that same issue.

Going back to my comments above though about the Who's Hiring Threads, while I'm not sure what exactly it is that may not make me attractive to the companies, I think one of them could definitely be that I'm not located in their general vicinity.

There's a lot to be said for being in the right place where those opportunities are more readily available. I wish I could just up and move myself, but in order to maintain the same lifestyle I'd have to be making considerably more than I am currently, simply because rent is so expensive in the Bay Area (and I'd need a decent sized place since I'd be living with my wife and little one). And with all of my family down here in Southern California, it would definitely make spending time with the family more difficult (no quick weekend drives to San Diego, or being able to ask a sister or parent to watch over the little one as inexpensive daycare on certain days or evenings).

If I were in your position, I would go ahead and downsize to a smaller/closer apartment, but I think moving back home would probably put you in a risky position because the remote work opportunities can IMO be a bit more precarious, particularly if everyone else is in the office (even if your still doing about the same amount of work, I think there'd just be that perception that less work is being done, which is a bummer).

I would favor staying put even more if back home you had a low probability of getting a local position that pays close to what you're making now.

All I can say is good luck and I hope you make the right decision for yourself (and I wish some more people would see the value of us small city folk :-).

%25 pay cut for not showing up to pointless meetings? sheeeeit.

Remote employees still go to meetings.

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