An outstanding career opportunity has come your way. Everything about it is perfect with the exception of one major detail. The job is located in another state or time zone, and moving your family is out of the question. Accepting the job means you'll be living away from home several days each week. So, what do you do? First, you need to complete some homework.
Crunch the numbers. Before you accept the position, determine if it's a smart move financially. If the costs associated with living away from home are not covered, then there needs to be another exceptional reason for you to consider this. Maybe it's an opportunity for rapid advancement or it fills a major void in your career or life.
Talk to your employer. Learn what your employer expects and what the employer is offering. Get it in writing. There has to be flexibility in order for this to work. Does the new boss expect you to be in the office Monday through Friday? When can you work from home? Ask about travel and housing assistance. Will you be allowed to shut down on weekends? What type of administrative support will you have? This is a major life change. You need to know what to expect and you will need support. Eliminate surprises.
Have a game plan. Think about your short-, medium- and long-term goals. Do you intend to work 300 miles from home for the rest of your career or will you return at some point? Will your spouse join you when the kids get out of school in a couple of years? Create a plan.
Seek advice. You probably know someone who works far away from home. Talk to them. What works? What doesn't? What advice do they have?
Discuss with your family. The most important discussion when considering such a move is the one you need to have with your family. Will your spouse or significant other embrace or support the changes? Is your relationship strong enough to handle the distance and absence? How does your partner feel about raising the children while you're gone? How do the children feel? There is no crystal ball, but talking things over is a step in the right direction. You need buy-in and support for this to work.
If you decide to make the move, you'll need a plan for success. There are important elements that can help you succeed at home and at work:
Communication. Regular, consistent, daily communication with those at home is critically important. On the plus side, there are countless tools at your disposal. Telephone, cellphones, Skype, Face Time, texting and many other media allow you to stay close to loved ones, regardless of where you happen to be. Make time for communication with those at home at least once each day. Have fun with it. You may find that each person back home prefers to communicate differently. Phone for one and texting for another.
Give and take. It's not unusual, at times, for the individual away from home to feel as though he or she is making all the sacrifices. After all, you're the one who is away from home. But this type of arrangement requires sacrifice from everyone involved. So, be willing to pitch in when you return home. Just because you're gone during the week doesn't mean you can't do a load of laundry or run to the grocery store. And, don't expect a major celebration each time you come home. Your loved ones have been hustling all week, too. They're happy to see you. They just might not have the energy to throw a party on your behalf every weekend.
Home away from home. Whether you rent or buy, find a nice place to live away from home. You'll be working hard and you deserve to be comfortable at the end of the day. Also, instead of you traveling back home each time, maybe your significant other or your family can come to you occasionally. You'll be happy to have a quality apartment or home when they visit.
Exercise. Working away from home is stressful. Exercise daily. Those who work away from home often say the arrangement improves several aspects of their lives, including career, family and health. During the week, their focus is primarily on work. On weekends, it's solely on family, significant others, home and fun.
This type of arrangement requires effort. But with solid planning up front, along with communication, trust and commitment, it can be accomplished successfully.
Ken White, Ph.D., is associate dean of MBA and MS programs at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. He teaches communication and public relations to MBA students and executives. A former long distance commuter, he spent two years working 225 miles from home.