Are you a “trailing spouse”? We hate that term at LVL-UP, and if you feel offended, then your answer is probably “yes.”
A “trailing spouse” relocates because of their partner’s job, and often refers to families in the Foreign Service or military. So if we relocate for family, how do we maintain a continuous, fulfilling career?
I have worked remotely and (almost always) asynchronously for more than five years. I have logged hours and managed projects from four different countries and there are definitely advantages and disadvantages to this type of career. So here are my top advantages and disadvantages to working remotely. You being the expert on yourself, these tidbits may just help you decide if this type of work is right for you.
Overall, working remotely and asynchronously is ideal for those who want more freedom of time, need more freedom in location, and would like fewer gaps in their career as they move around the world.
I’m the mom of a toddler, we love to travel, and we move every few years, which is why flexibility is the top item in my “pro” column. Many folks also value the ability to set their own hours and the freedom to work in various locations.
My workload requires that I meet synchronously with my team and clients via Zoom or by phone, but the bulk of my work can be done within the blocks of time I have designated asynchronously.
Companies want to retain top talent, and recruiting and hiring new folks is expensive and time-consuming. To mitigate this, some fully-remote teams like ours at LVL-Up Strategies have built-in processes to handle a PCS (permanent change of station) and relocation, meaning you do not need to relaunch your career every few years. It does require advanced planning and teamwork, but this coverage during moves is critical for maintaining consistency for everyone. With the benefit of co-workers who understand all you are going through.
Connectivity & Work From Anywhere
Thanks to technology, I can stay connected and productive while working remotely and asynchronously, even when I’m in different time zones. Internet-based texting and calling applications such as WhatsApp and project management tools such as Trello allow me to keep my teammates and clients updated while moving a project forward.
The pandemic has pushed many companies to make remote work possible despite fighting against it for years, and this has only helped EFMs (Eligible Family Members, aka spouses of a Foreign Service or military officer) and accompanying partners keep careers or build remote ones when they move. Granted, not every post in the world has strong internet connectivity, but it is much easier now than it was even a decade ago.
However, the asynchronous component is key. Sometimes for a spouse to work they need to keep regular 9-5 east or west coast hours and that can be very draining on the employee - much less the entire family. Technology is there to help us, and a mindset shift to asynchronous productivity can develop with practice.
Fewer Career Gaps
Because I do not rely on a local job that ends when I leave, I can maintain work through each move. I am the architect of my career. When I need more work I share my availability with current clients, or I feed my work pipeline by applying for new projects that fit into my current schedule. On the flip side, if I need to reduce my hours, I can choose to maintain only one client for a while. My resume and LinkedIn profile can reflect my continuous work without any significant gaps in employment. I can maintain this credibility as a freelancer, or as part of a team that understands the needs of my PCS moves.
For EFMs, career gaps that don’t even relate to maternity/paternity breaks are common, but are not widely understood by the private sector. Their resumes tend to be full of volunteer work, jobs here and there, and lateral moves. They’ve done so much that doesn’t convey on a CV. But with an asynchronous, remote career, they can rejoin the US-based workforce with confidence and the skills to land a management or director position…or even higher!
No Commute & Fewer Expenses
One of the best advantages of remote work is no commute. You save time traveling back and forth plus time getting ready each day. You save money on gas, auto maintenance, and travel expenses like toll roads and Metro fares. Money and time saved means you have cash available for things in life that matter more than work, and additional time throughout the day to devote to your family―both of which can enhance your overall well-being.
Higher Job Satisfaction
Remote work isn't just a personal benefit; recent studies give us a business case for it. Owl Labs reported that 83% of respondents stated they were just as productive or more productive since going remote, and 55% stated they work more hours now than when they did in the office. Beyond being productive and engaged, 76% of respondents reported that working from home is better for their mental health.
Stay tuned for Part II of this blog coming out next month: The DisAdvantages of Remote, Asynchronous Work…