If you’re a working military spouse, you’re all too familiar with the “break-up” conversation. “It’s not you, it’s me,” and, “It’s just time to move on.”

No, I’m not talking about breaking up with your spouse… I’m talking about breaking up with your employer.

Depending on your current role, and the type and size of your employer, moving on to the next duty station may indeed mean the end of your work relationship. However, you may be doing yourself – and your company – an injustice if you automatically assume that you must go your separate ways.

With the right planning and messaging, you may be able to position yourself for a smooth transition into working from home as a military spouse.

Work from Home When You PCS

Now the following advice is based on the assumption that you actually LIKE your company, and would like to continue with that organization after you move.

If this assumption is wrong, then by all means, break-up and hit the road!

Your upcoming PCS might be the perfect guilt-free escape route from a role you can’t stand. However, if you do like your job and would rather avoid job hunting again, then read on!

1. Plant the seed and Prove your worth

Working with your employer to transition from the office to working from home requires foresight and thoughtful action on your part. Throughout your time with the organization — long before your move — ensure your manager and HR partners know how much you love their culture, and casually share that you’d like to work for them even after you move. This plants the seed in advance that you’d like to make this relationship work for the long haul.

Additionally, ensure you’re performing to your manager’s expectations and consistently showing initiative. Employers must be able to trust remote workers even more than those in the office. Thus it’s important that you demonstrate characteristics like self-motivation, trustworthiness and reliability. Strong, proactive communication is also key to success in remote working, so ensure that your manager considers you a strong communicator.

2. Have the discussion – and SHOW-UP PREPARED!

Both you and your employer knew the day would come for you to move. You’ve planted the seed that you’d like to stay-on with the company, you’ve proven to be an invaluable resource, and now it’s time to broach the conversation. If you’ve been through the assignment process before, you know that it can be lengthy, and that different potential duty stations might be discussed before you receive final orders.

It’s best that you refrain from having the “conversation” until your true orders are in hand.

(Case in point: I once told my manager that I was moving to Hawaii, and she started exploring jobs I could do in that time zone, and then our final orders had us moving to New Jersey!)

Schedule the discussion

Once you know for sure where and when you’ll be moving, prepare to meet with some key decision makers– usually your manager and HR partner. Depending on your company’s culture it may be appropriate to prepare a Power Point presentation or formal business plan. For other corporate cultures, just having an agenda to guide the discussion should suffice.

Frame the Discussion

Regardless of your presentation method, come prepared to discuss the following topics. It may help to actually provide your meeting attendees with the agenda so that they allow you to talk through all your points before jumping in.

  • Your value to the organization: Start by highlighting the value and contributions you’ve made during your tenure. Bring attention to your key achievements and performance results. It can feel awkward to brag about yourself, but if there’s ever a time or place to toot your own horn – this is it!    

(For some other reasons why you are an awesome asset as a military spouse, read this)

  • Your proposal: Inform them that your spouse has received orders to move to _______, but that you would like to work together to identify a way to continue with the organization. It might sound something like this: 

I have always been open about being a military spouse, and we all knew the day would come when my spouse would receive orders to relocate. We have recently received orders to move to ____ in a few months, but I truly love the culture/mission of this organization and would rather not part ways. I would like to discuss the possibility of continuing to work with the company in a remote capacity. Before we openly discuss, however, I would like the opportunity to share some points I have prepared…” 

The benefits of remote working: Before diving into potential roles you could transition into, take the opportunity to highlight the benefits of remote working. This is especially valuable if your organization doesn’t currently employ remote workers. Some of the benefits include:

Increased employee productivity
Increased employee satisfaction and engagement
Reduced overhead costs to the company
Reduced turn-over and unscheduled absences
Saves company the cost of recruiting, hiring and on-boarding your replacement
Decreased carbon footprint from not commuting 

  • Why you have the “right” characteristics to work remotely: Remember those behaviors that you made sure to exhibit during your tenure? Like self-motivation, trustworthiness, reliability and strong communication skills? Take a moment to highlight your track-record in these areas and explain why you have the right discipline and work-ethic to work remotely. 
  • What roles would best lend themselves to remote working: It may not be feasible to perform the duties of your current role remotely. If it’s not, offer some options of different roles within the organization that could work, while also maximizing your contribution, leveraging your skill-set, and developing your career. Don’t just show up, tell them you want to work remotely, and expect them to figure it out for you. Show initiative and that you’ve thought about this in advance! 

(Practical example: In CA, I was a Customer Service Manager, and the team I managed required a leader in-office for oversight. So I considered some of the adjacent positions within my organization to which I’d been exposed, and suggested to my manager that Project Management or Marketing were functions that would work well remotely. I ending up staying on as a Project Manager!) 

How you would stay engaged from afar: Proactively assure them that you will be taking very thoughtful action as a remote worker to ensure that you’re still “present” and part of the team. You know what they say – “out of sight, out of mind” – and that can be a pitfall for remote workers. Thus, some proactive actions to avoid this include:

Regular “one-on-one” conference calls with your manager and peers
Deliberate ownership of organizational networking, setting up periodic networking discussions with adjacent functions and leaders
Providing regular emailed status/progress reports to your manager
Traveling to the office on a monthly/quarterly basis as budget permits to get “face-time” 

  • Open up for questions and dialogue: Hopefully your manager and HR partner have respected your wishes to let you discuss your agenda points before taking over the conversation. Thus, they probably have a lot to say. So open the discussion, and let the meeting take its course. 
  • Thank you: Don’t expect your manager or your HR partner to provide you an answer on the spot. There are undoubtedly other leaders they must engage in the decision making process. Be sure to thank them for their time and consideration, reiterate your desire to continue with the organization, and ask them to keep an open mind about your proposal.

3. What do you have to lose?

So you might be thinking – “This conversation sounds scary! I don’t know if I can facilitate this discussion!” This exercise might push you outside of your comfort zone, but the outcome can only be positive.

Either you end up working remotely (yay!), or you do “break-up” upon PCS — which is what would have happened if you hadn’t had the conversation in the first place! If so, you will probably get an even stronger recommendation because of it, and leave the door open should you return to that duty station again someday.

So what do you have to lose?

Notes & Additional Tips:

  • Just because your company doesn’t have many (or any!) employees that currently work remotely, don’t be discouraged. You could be their guinea pig.
  • If your next duty station is overseas and your company isn’t multi-national, it may be harder for them to continue to employ you remotely from a tax and legal perspective, but it’s still worth the discussion.
  • Working remotely isn’t for everyone. It does require some “adjustment” for more social personalities, but still very doable.
  • If you have kids, you may want to highlight during your discussion that you will ensure proper child-care while working remotely. Working from home isn’t a replacement for daycare!
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