Adapted from Alice's recent contribution to The Business Journals' thought leadership channel, Bizwomen.
As we begin to re-enter the world of in-person life, there's a lot of talk about what the future for office workers will look like.
These conversations center on many important topics—but one not given much attention is the benefit of fully-remote work giving individuals the freedom to prioritize what matters most to them. This includes selecting where to live, and giving folks in relationships the freedom to not sacrifice their own dreams for the sake of their partners'.
Traditionally, it has fallen on women to prioritize their male counterparts' career over their own. If he gets a new job, they pick up and move to wherever the job is. If they have children, she is more likely to leave school or cut back on work. Even as these rigid and heteronormative gender dynamics shift, we continue to see these patterns. Relationships always have give and take and when careers are rooted in a location, and there will always be the question of whose location is prioritized.
His dream job is in NYC, hers is in San Francisco—so what do you do? Not to mention the individual pressure to decide if a career is worth living somewhere that forces you to de-prioritize other aspects of your life. Do you move far away from your family? Live in a city when you would prefer to be in a small town? Life can be a constant game of figuring out what to prioritize.
I joined Sensible Weather during the pandemic. And as an early stage startup, Sensible made the decision to embrace the new world of remote work. Despite being based in Los Angeles, Nick, the company’s founder and CEO, began hiring the best people he could, irrespective of location. The moment I joined a company where I knew I could fulfill my career goals and passion as an engineering manager, and do it remotely, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders.
I met my partner in the Bay Area—I was living in San Francisco, and he in Oakland. About a year into dating, my partner made it clear that he was not a fan of the Bay Area and that he would like to move soon.
This terrified me, as I loved living in SF. I had friends, enjoyed walking to restaurants and going to the local climbing gym. But, even stronger in my mind was the fact that I was in tech; and, whether or not this was true, I believed that my best job prospects were going to be in the Bay.
I suddenly found myself staring down the age-old question of “whose life and career do we prioritize?”
When the pandemic hit, we were still living in the Bay and—while we did not actively talk about it—we both knew that at some point we would move away. This was a relationship I wanted to prioritize, but I was also haunted by the underlying knowledge that one day I would need to prioritize his wellbeing and happiness over my career. I knew that he would take my needs and life into account and that we would find a compromise (I have one of those lovely partners who does more house chores and cooking than I do). But not fully knowing how much I would be giving up in order for us to move gave me a lot of anxiety.
Since joining Sensible, I have seen firsthand the benefits of a remote-first strategy, and a flexible work environment that promotes its employees’ wellbeing.
We've hired amazing folks across the country. People can take care of their personal needs, travel, and exercise when it makes the most sense for them. I've joined my partner as he has taken on several seasonal jobs as a farmworker, first in California and then in Upstate New York. And while I was geographically far from any tech hubs, I was able to live out and expand my dreams of leading an engineering team.
I'm now excited to think about where my partner and I will lay down our roots. And as a leader, I'm committed to fostering this flexibility for my team, making sure no one at Sensible will ever have to face these questions about which dreams to prioritize.
With the advent of remote-first work, we're removing at least one more burden that has traditionally fallen to women—that of prioritizing someone else’s goals over their own. While not all work can be done remotely and not all dreams are focused on career, to the extent that we can reduce any friction, we should. Systemic dynamics of whose career we prioritize should enter into the conversations happening about the future of offices.
Let’s continue to consider the ways in which remote work can help to level the playing field.
Get in touch with our partnerships team to see how we can work together.
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