How to decide what's the right choice for me - staying remote or going back to the office?

I have been working remotely for over 3 years now and recently I decided to take a 2-month break from work. I have an offer from a company working in a hybrid setting in the capital city of my country with a good salary and benefits and another offer from a remote working international agency, where I will start part-time for the first 3 months with 50% of the salary and then get the full remote role after the intro period. One role is a return to stability after almost 2 years of freelancing with different brands and the other feels like a step forward in my digital nomad career. My doubts are caused by the fact, that I've been struggling to find a community while working remotely, often not going outside enough, because of the freelance work and changing location every 1-3 months. But the perspective of coming back to a big city feels like surrender - stepping back into the lifestyle I've run away from. I'll most likely choose remote work, but I'm not sure if this is beneficial for my mental health. How can I cope with the sense of loneliness and anxiety while working remotely for such a long time? I was thinking about complementing my remote work with something social like teaching yoga somewhere to be able to connect with people. Let me know what you think. Is it the moment to surrender and return to the big city lifestyle that does not make me happy?
Asked by Melanie

Hi Melanie,

Firstly, thank you so much for taking the time to ask this question; I can really see how much thought and effort you have already put into this. 

From what you say you are stuck in between the balance of your career and your mental health and wellbeing. What we know is that there are different domains in life that are important to consider, with these two being at the centre of it too. For reference, the four domains I usually work with are leisure, work and education, health and physical wellbeing and relationships. 

It sounds to me that you have noticed the benefits and the drawbacks of working remotely, and potentially are missing some more of the social element that it can bring being in the office. Since being remote you have isolated yourself a little more than before, and whilst this has meant you can easily change your location regularly, there are also some drawbacks that have occurred too. 

When big questions about life choices come, similar to what you have here, I tend to think about what will take me to my longer term goals. I also hold this in mind for things like relationships and connectedness (for example are there other ways to get this other than work; you have also suggested teaching yoga for example). It's bringing the balance that is important to us in the domains that are important too. If we are wanting more connectedness then yes - going to the office is great, however we can also gain this elsewhere if we did wish to continue working remotely. 

It will be a transition to continue with, or away from remote working. We know that adjustments to life opening up following COVID restrictions was challenging for a lot of people and came with anxiety, much like you speak to here. I think it is important to be compassionate towards ourselves during these times, whilst also thinking about what are we avoiding and is that helpful again for the longer term for the life we want to live? 

One of the main parts of what you say here that strikes me is the one of the final lines. 'Is it the moment to surrender and return to the big city lifestyles that does not make me happy?'. If there is a way to gain happiness in other areas of our lives whilst continuing to hold a role that is meaningful and enjoyable this sounds like the best balance! I do hear however that there is also a query around finances and money which needs to be considered too. 

I would honestly say do what will make you the most happy in the long term; and if you are feeling isolated and want to increase your support network then you are able to do this outside of work too. It does not all need to come from one place in our lives!

I do hope that is helpful, if you are finding it hard to think through further please also know that therapy can be helpful even in the short term, to help us work through decisions like the above. 

Best wishes,