Military spouses: Balancing remote work during a permanent change of station (PCS)
Fort Campbell, Kentucky (September 22, 2022) — Did you know that each year, over 400,000 service members make a permanent change of station? If you’ve experienced one before then you know it can be an exciting chance for new beginnings, but it’s often filled with stress and fear of the unknown. You and your family will likely start new routines and must adjust to a ton of changes. Finding housing, unpacking your household goods, enrolling in new schools, networking with new people, and navigating your new health care system are just a few. But what happens if you also have to add remote work responsibilities to that list?
If you have a remote job and know that a PCS is soon to come, take a breath and don’t allow yourself to become overwhelmed. I know … easier said than done, right? Take a moment to be thankful for your current employment status — plenty of military spouses will have to leave behind jobs, making them unemployed for several months while they journey through the process of updating resumes, hunting for new positions, and going through the interviewing process. As a remote worker, those are tasks you won’t have to worry about! However, you will need to manage your work along with the long list of requirements that a PCS demands. And let’s not forget about your family’s needs. After all, a PCS is a family affair!
Here are my top five tips for a smooth transition while balancing your remote work obligations.
Tip No. 1: Inform your supervisor and teammates
Whether you’ve just received orders or know the time at your current duty station is about to end, have an honest discussion with your supervisor. Let them know where you’ll be relocating, and find out if keeping your position is possible. The more time they have to plan, the better prepared everyone will be. Talk with your teammates and let them know your plans. if you’re moving to a different time zone, odds are they will need to accommodate for that, as well as any time that you’ll be requesting off for the move.
Tip No. 2: Plan for the basic needs of you and your family
There is nothing worse than trying to meet a deadline for work while being cooped up in a tiny hotel room with hungry kids and howling dogs that need to go out. To avoid a situation like this, you’ll need to plan in advance. After all, you know the needs of your family best!
Come up with a few weeks’ worth of meal plans in advance and write them out. Make grocery lists to accompany those meals, and consider utilizing a meal delivery or grocery pickup service. Consider how you’ll be cooking and storing food once at your new location, and plan accordingly. If you’re staying in a hotel room, crockpots and pressure-cooker meals can be lifesaving, and the use of a cooler to keep meats, vegetables, and dairy cold can allow for more food to be stored.
Creating a schedule for laundry and housekeeping duties will also go a long way toward reducing stress. Does the hotel you’ll be staying in have a self-service laundry room? Will your new home have a washer and dryer, or will you be waiting several weeks for yours to arrive along with other household goods? Map out the closest laundromat, and consider traveling with a few cleaning essentials, or plan to purchase them right away.
Having a written daily schedule for meals and chores will ensure that you’re able to focus on your work goals instead of what’s for lunch and whether or not your spouse has clean PTs for tomorrow.
Tip No. 3: Consider your workspace and equipment
I’m sure you’ve heard stories of movers packing anything and everything! Once it’s on the truck, you probably won’t see it for weeks, or maybe even months.
Take inventory of your work equipment and know what you’ll need to perform your job duties weeks before the movers come. Make sure you have a designated area that the movers can’t access, and place all your work necessities there on moving day. This will ensure that nothing accidentally gets packed! If you’re flying to your destination, it’s imperative that your work items get carried onto the plane with you. Pack your computer, work phone, chargers, documents, cords, and anything else you’ll need in a flight-approved carryon, so you won’t have the hardship of lost baggage.
It's also important to consider your new workspace. If you conduct virtual meetings or require a noise-free background, make sure you can accommodate for this before arriving. Often, hotels have a conference room or quiet area that you can utilize. Talk to the hotel in advance to find out what options they offer.
If you’re moving to a house and awaiting your computer desk, chair, and other items, you’ll need to make do before they arrive. Introduce yourself to your neighbors, and don’t be afraid to borrow items until yours arrive. A borrowed chair and dinner tray can suffice in a pinch!
Tip No. 4: Make sure you have a reliable internet connection
Hotel and public Wi-Fi are not reliable or secure sources to work from. Consider what type of an internet source you’ll have and if it’ll be efficient for your work needs. If you have a house lined up before your move, do some research. Find out who the best internet service provider for your area will be, and have your internet installed and set up before you arrive. If that’s not possible, set up an appointment with them in advance to have it installed shortly after you arrive.
If you’re staying in a hotel, consider working from a VPN app or a hotspot from your phone or other device.
Hackers are everywhere, so making sure you have a secure internet connection will keep you and your information safe.
Tip No. 5: Roll with the punches
You’re a military spouse, which means you’re amongst the most resilient, stoic, innovative, adaptive, and inspiring group of people. Don’t forget it! Your move will not be perfect, and you’ll likely encounter some hiccups along the way, but knowing that you’re prepared will have you sailing through your job duties and this PCS!
About the Author: Chantel Cooke is a Proctor at the Digital Works Fort Campbell facility. Her signature strengths are outreach, mentoring, and assessment review. She is responsible for guiding, mentoring, and teaching individuals to become skilled and confident in remote job positions that improve the lives and family dynamics within the military community.