Growing up in rural Maine, I would often dream of moving away. Although the state motto says it’s “The Way Life Should Be,” I wished for excitement and opportunity that I thought could only be found elsewhere. I was clearly not alone in feeling this way, considering that Maine is one of many states struggling to keep talented students and professionals from leaving.

Without Work Flexibility, Job Choices are Limited

My husband and I both went to an in-state university, and were also fortunate enough to find great local jobs after college. However, our options were still very limited. There were few choices in the area in our chosen careers, so we were locked in with our current companies. What would we do if one of us was laid off, or needed to find a new challenge? It became clear that building our careers meant we had to leave our home state and our families behind.

Moving Away for Work… and Back for Family?

We found ourselves in the greater Boston area—not terribly far away, but as we got older and started our own family, it might as well have been on the Moon. Planning a day for our son to spend with his grandparents became a tedious process of juggling schedules and predicting highway traffic patterns, and as a result didn’t happen nearly often enough.

The debate went back and forth over whether we should move back to be closer to our loved ones, even if it meant that it would be significantly more difficult to find rewarding, professional employment. As much as we wanted to go back and be with our family and friends, the beaches and mountains, and delicious lobster rolls and whoopie pies, it just didn’t make practical sense.

Work Flexibility Opens Up Possibilities

As our son got closer to school age, we needed to figure out where we planned to settle down. In addition to the usual variables in that equation—house prices, school districts, and so on—we still had the lingering question of how far north we could go to be with our folks and still make a living. By then, I had started working remotely and my husband’s position allowed him the flexibility to telecommute as often as he liked.

We realized that the ability to keep our jobs and do them from anywhere meant we could actually have the best of both worlds. And with the growth of virtual offices and telecommuting options, we knew that should we could still find new opportunities if we needed to.

The Best of Both Worlds, Thanks to Flexible Jobs

We made the most of our situation and split the distance, buying a new home much closer to our relatives and the memories of where we grew up, while still remaining within commutable distance if my husband ever needed to go to the office. We were able to finally spend more time with the family we had left behind, stay close to the new friends we had made over the years, and keep our jobs we had worked so hard for.

No matter what corner of the country we wanted to call home, work flexibility meant we wouldn’t have to sacrifice our ability to provide for our family or put our career aspirations on hold. For me, and for many people, a virtual office means more than just eliminating a rush hour drive. With the ability to work from anywhere, you can go home again, or never have to leave in the first place.

photo credit: thinkstockphotos.com