Just a couple of months ago, many businesses were excitedly announcing the reopening of their offices, and encouraging — or even requiring — workers to come back in. But now, as Bloomberg put it, surging Delta cases have reversed “the world’s march back to the office.”
The increase in Covid cases, serious illnesses and deaths, driven overwhelmingly by unvaccinated people, has led businesses to put off those plans. Some, including Google, are extending their work from home policies into 2022. While that’s technically only four months away, Covid cases are generally expected to increase in the winter. So a broad national return to the office very early next year does not seem likely.
For people who live alone, this can be a difficult time. More Americans than ever, about 36 million, have solo living arrangements. For many of them, as FastCompany reported, “daily interaction in the office was an important form of connection that was suddenly disrupted.” Loneliness is on the rise, and being stuck in the same place every day can become depressing — especially for people who face cold months ahead.
As a single mom of a grown son, I made the choice to use this time we’re living through in a positive way: to fulfill a dream of living and working remotely from abroad. For me, it was Italy. That might sound like an unlikely possibility. But with a growing list of companies making remote work permanent, millions of people are facing the chance to spend time living in another city (perhaps near family) or even another country — all while saving money.
Consider your ideal locations and how long you’d like to spend there. Then, look carefully at the seasonal weather patterns. Set yourself up for your ideal climate.
With your favorite options in mind, look into the state of healthcare there. You’ll benefit from being in a region with a high population of vaccinated people (it should go without saying that you should be vaccinated) and access to high quality medical care. Outside of the pandemic, anyone, including you, can get sick at any time, so you’ll want to be in a place in which hospitals are not overrun with Covid patients.
If you’re considering another country, be sure to check the rules frequently about whether they’re allowing Americans in. These can change often, so you’ll need to remain flexible. I’ve changed some plans as various countries have announced new policies.
Next, within the city you select, look for guaranteed high speed wi-fi. You’ll need this in order to work, so talk to people who live in or have recently traveled to the area. I also recommend that you limit your travel to somewhere with relatively easy access to an airport, so that if you’re needed in person back at your offices you can be there within 24 hours without too much hassle.
Consider moving somewhere with a lower cost of living. In addition, some places will actually pay you to work from there. (Italian towns are among them.) You also may be able to give up your current home, saving on mortgage or rent. Or you might rent out or sublet your space.
In your new location, do what I did and seek out rental apartments that are just right for you. There are some great deals available.
You also may be able to lower your taxes, depending on where you’re living and for how long.
Seek out daily enjoyment in work and life
By working from a new, exciting place, I found each work day to be more enjoyable and beautiful — and certainly no less productive. (The company I work for, Degreed, has long had a remote work culture.) It’s no surprise that researchers have found the Work From Anywhere (WFA) model can increase productivity. Be sure you know exactly what your employer expects from you, and offer up innovative contributions.
Outside of your work hours, build exploration into each day. During my months in Italy (I’m now in Denver) I picked up fresh food each day at local markets, went for walks and bike rides in beautiful areas, and met people for mostly outdoor experiences, respecting Covid protocols.
It’s also important to schedule video calls with friends and family back home as well. Keep those connections strong and growing.
Nothing makes living through a pandemic easy. But you may be able to look at this time as a potential opportunity. By situating yourself in a better location, you can empower yourself to thrive.