If you experience a crushing sense of dread when it’s time to head to the office – you’re not alone.
Every month, hundreds of people head to Google and type in these exact words: “I don’t want to work in an office anymore – what can I do?”
In this article, we lay out your options. They’re actually very simple.
Plenty of people earn a good living without having to commute or regularly attend an office.
All you need to do is consider your options, made a plan, and work to complete it.
The Evolving World of Employment
The need to escape the 9-5 office life feels increasingly urgent for many.
Millions of people across the world experienced remote working for the first time during the lockdowns of 2020 and 2021. MANY eyes were opened to the benefits, leaving workers with some perfectly reasonable questions:
- Why do we cram onto busy motorways and packed commuter trains unnecessarily?
- Why do we pay for the “privilege?” – in terms of money, time, and environmental impact?
- Why do we need to work in an office when we’ve proven that we can do our jobs just as well from home?
The good news is that plenty of companies do have a sensible long term approach to remote working. One study revealed that 82% of firms plan to allow at least some degree of remote working in the long term.
But there are plenty of outliers. Even if around 80% of companies are getting on board with new ways of working, that still leaves one in five keen to drag people back to the office – whether it’s necessary or not.
We’ve certainly seen plenty of anecdotal evidence of businesses keen to stubbornly return to the previous status quo – seemingly learning nothing from the unplanned “home working revolution.” There are plenty of people out there who don’t want to work in an office anymore, but are still having to.
If you’d like to hear more on HomeWorkingClub’s stance on this issue, check out this rather opinionated episode of our podcast.
I Don’t Want to Work in an Office Anymore – What Can I Do?
If you no longer want to work in an office, your options are actually pretty straightforward. Sometimes it helps to get right back to basics:
- Ask to work remotely.
- Find a remote job.
- Become the true “master of your own destiny” and switch to freelancing.
- Get a non office-based job.
There’s no point in complicating it any more than that.
If you need to keep working to keep food on the table, you’re going to have to choose one of those options and make it happen. With that in mind, we shall now explore each in detail
Ask to Work Remotely
If you love your job (or like it enough to want to keep doing it!) there’s always a chance that your bosses may agree to let you do it from home. As a fallback position, perhaps you could establish a “hybrid” arrangement, going into the office just once or twice per week.
This is very much a “don’t ask, don’t get” scenario.
It certainly helps if you worked from home during lockdown and still managed to do a great job. If you’ve already proved you can make it work, you should be in a (relatively) strong position to negotiate such an arrangement.
We have a detailed guide to asking to work from home, including tactics we’ve seen work many times.
Of course, you have to prepare yourself for not getting the answer you want. And due to recent events, you may have more of an informed option on the likely answer than you would have had a couple of years ago.
The big “future of work” debate has meant that many companies have already “laid their cards on the table” with regard to remote working. If you work for a company that’s been vocal on its “everybody back to the office” stance, your request could be doomed from the start. That said, you won’t know the answer until you ask.
The key question is what you do next, if your request is turned down. It’s likely it will need to be one of the other options discussed here.
Find a Remote Job
Here’s some good news: more and more companies are now offering remote jobs – including companies that didn’t offer such flexibility a couple of years ago.
That means you have options.
Just because your current employer insists you commute and work in an office, it doesn’t mean there won’t be flexible opportunities with another company in the same sector. You may be able to do exactly the same job for a competitor, but with far more flexibility.
Progressive companies understand that the tide has turned, and that offering remote working arrangements can attract the best talent. If you have skills and experience, you can “vote with your feet” – and plenty of people are doing just that.
There are plenty of different things you can do here:
- Research your current employer’s competitors, and see if they offer more flexible working arrangements.
- Have a good look at FlexJobs, a leading job board listing remote and home-based positions. (Read our review).
- Check out our list of remote first companies.
- Read up on over 100 companies that hire home workers.
Don’t assume that you need to find a company local to you – or even in the same state or country. Plenty of businesses now work on a “remote by default” basis, allowing you to apply for a role regardless of where you live.
It’s easy to become conditioned to the ways of one employer, and fail to realise that you could be working for a much more progressive and flexible company – if only you dared to make the jump.
Switch to Freelancing
If you don’t want to work in an office anymore, how about an option that gives you TOTAL freedom? The freedom to work:
- Where you want.
- When you want.
- Only for the people you want to work with.
The option is to move to freelancing, and to become your own boss.
Of course, it’s not easy, and not without plenty of disadvantages. Some people shudder at the prospect of waving goodbye to the certainty of a fixed monthly pay check. But there are over 1.2 Billion people living the freelance lifestyle. Who’s to say you can’t join their ranks?
If the idea of taking the self-employment route appeals to you, but you don’t know where to start, consider taking a look at our Freelance Kickstarter course. It lays out exactly how to get started, and there’s nothing to stop you starting to work at a long-term freelancing plan while you continue to earn money from your regular job.
HomeWorkingClub is staffed entirely with freelancers, and we’re passionate about the lifestyle. Imagine never having to ask for time off, working when you like, and being free to work from any café, beach or co-working space that takes your fancy.
We’re not saying it’s easy. Nothing worth working for ever is. But it’s extremely rare to encounter a successful freelancer who’d ever willingly return to a “traditional job.” The freedom is priceless.
Get a Non Office-Based Job
Perhaps your problem with working in an office isn’t anything to do with a desire to work from home. Perhaps you just feel stifled and claustrophobic in an office environment, and never want to see the walls of a cubicle again.
If that’s the case, it’s worth thinking about other jobs you could do (or train to do) in a different environment.
Here’s just a handful of examples of jobs that free you from the office:
- Travelling salesperson – lots of time on trains and planes, and in hotel rooms.
- Lorry driver – well paid and HUGE demand.
- Gardener, park ranger, groundskeeper.
- Child minder.
- Transport worker.
- Social worker.
- Travelling hairdresser / beauty therapist.
- Construction worker.
- Tour guide.
- Pilot or cabin crew.
- Marine biologist.
The point here is that there are plenty of people (quite literally) out there making a living that doesn’t involve setting foot in an office. And there’s a training path into every career you could think of.
You don’t have to remain on the path you’re on – you get to change it. You just have to decide to be the driver in your life, instead of the passenger.
What To Do Next?
We’ve deliberately been rather simplistic in this article. If you find yourself saying, “I don’t want to work in an office anymore – what can I do?” the answer IS one of those above.
You have two options:
- Continue the inertia, convincing yourself the answer to your dilemma is more complicated than it is.
- TAKE ACTION, choose a new path, and do what it takes to set off down that path.
Obviously it’s not as simple as deciding that you’re going to become a marine biologist from next Monday! But – using that example – there’s nothing to stop you starting to find out what qualifications you would need to become a marine biologist. And you wouldn’t even need to wait until Monday.
Using a more simple example, there’s no point in waiting until your employer suddenly becomes enlightened and decides to offer you a remote working arrangement without prompting. That may never happen!
So, put together a proposal, be ready to negotiate, and have a “plan B” for where you’ll look for a more flexible job if you can’t get what you want.
If you don’t take any action, you can’t be surprised if – years down the line – your situation hasn’t evolved.
So…what’s your plan?
While You’re Here
- Take a look at Coursera, an online learning platform with thousands of courses that could set your career on a new track. (See our review).
- Listen to our podcast on remote working vs freelancing.
- Find out all about fully remote companies.
Founder of HomeWorkingClub.com – Ben has worked freelance for nearly 20 years. As well as being a freelance writer and blogger, he is also a technical consultant with Microsoft and Apple certifications. He loves supporting new home workers but is prone to outbursts of bluntness and realism.