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Since the pandemic I am working remotely. I am in the process of moving to a different city (same state, 2 hour car commute away). I asked my employer for permission. The general notion was yes but they are still in the process of figuring out the details and said I might need to come into the office every now and then without giving any reason why. A lot of employees have been hired in the past as full-time remote workers.

We have all been working remotely since COVID started and I am working more than when I was in the office. My performance can also be clearly laid out that it has not suffered from working remotely.

It is unclear why they are doing that. Just in case push comes to shove: can they fire me for wanting to be full-time remote? What are my rights during the pandemic or after that?

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  • @JoeStrazzere Certainly, that's what I meant with: I informed my employer of it. I was asking them about this. And I think they agreed to it but are still ridiculing them figuring out how they want to respond to this. I updated the questions.
    – Mahoni
    Feb 22 '21 at 23:32
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    It would certainly help if we knew the location you are in. I am inferring the United States, based on the verbiage. Feb 22 '21 at 23:40
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    There are many cities where a 2h commute is a daily activity for much of the work force. Unless they're out to get you, it should be fine as long as you show up in person when needed.
    – Pete W
    Feb 22 '21 at 23:47
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    @Mahoni Would you be ok doing the commute once or twice per month when they determine business needs require your presence?
    – Myles
    Feb 23 '21 at 14:28
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    Work from home (due to Covid) and remote work are two different things.
    – Jon Custer
    Feb 23 '21 at 18:16
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The current compulsory remote working is temporary, and is done by your employer because they have no choice. Once Covid restrictions are lifted, they can require you to return to the pattern of work you had before. If you used to come to the office every day they can require you to do that. It is irrelevant that they hired other people to work remotely- they hired you to work in the office.

That's not to say you cannot negotiate a shift to remote working on a permanent basis (and they won't fire you for just asking), but you absolutely must get your employers agreement before you make an irrevocable move. Otherwise if you just fail to show up at the office when told to do so they are well within their rights to fire you.

Of course in an at will state they can fire you for any or no reason. But still best not to give them a reason to do it.

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  • Just to slightly tweak the conclusion: based on the question, it's fair to say that they can't fire OP for asking to permanently work remote (which is what OP asked literally), but they can be fired for failing to appear at the office when expected to (which is where this is likely heading given that OP is already in the process of moving)
    – Flater
    Feb 23 '21 at 12:23
  • Some companies will discover that they are able to successfully implement and support remote workers due to this pandemic. However, there will be some companies, that will return to their previous way of doing things. The author should be finding out what their company plans to do, and make decisions, based on those discussions. They certainly should have a discussion, today, about their future remote work possibilities instead of waiting
    – Donald
    Feb 23 '21 at 15:34
  • @Flater if it's an at-will state in the USA (hard to tell for sure from the question), then they can be fired simply for asking or most any other reason, but I agree with DJ that it's so unlikely that I wouldn't worry about it actually happening.
    – Kat
    Feb 25 '21 at 1:11
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    @Kat: If it's an at will state they can be fired for literally anything so the question "could I be fired" itself would be rendered moot in such a case.
    – Flater
    Feb 25 '21 at 1:30
  • You could be fired for posting this question on Stack Exchange. Or for not posting this question on Stack Exchange. Feb 25 '21 at 2:50
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Depending on where you live, you may already be subject to state laws that specify that all work is at-will, which means you have zero legal recourse if an employer terminates you. (with the exception of maybe discriminating against you, but we'll move on.)

Basically it comes down to this. If you move two hours away, can you show up on time and perform to standard EVERY day if the work comes back into the office? Yes? Don't worry about it. No? Rethink your plan then.

Do not assume you're going to strong-arm any employer into letting you be the exception case where everybody else has to come in, but you don't. You might consider securing different, more flexible employment before you move.

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It's hard to determine from your answer if you worked in the office prior to the pandemic but I get that you might have been coming in at a regular basis and now you're working remotely and only coming in rarely.

While a 2 hour commute (4 hours total per day) is harsh, it's not all that uncommon depending on where you live. I known people who travel 6 hours (12 hours both ways) to come to work. Obviously they rent out a local apartment to do that to cut down on commute and expenses.

At my previous job, I known some folks who live in different states and would commute to work each day. They travel 2, 3 hours one way and go back the same amount of time each night. Some folks I known travel this road that is jammed to the point it takes upwards to 1.5 hours just sitting in traffic when it normally takes maybe 30 minutes on a clear day.

So all in all, your commute time is long for you, but it is not uncommon. I'm willing to bet some of your co-workers might be commuting that length of time. Try asking around.

My thought is you probably wouldn't worry about them firing you as much as you quitting after everything returning to normal.

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  • My supervisor has been driving 2 hours 5 days a week, for 13 years, and has not intention of leaving my company. The company will only be interested in one primary thing, are you able to do your job, and participate with the other employees (if that is required).
    – Donald
    Feb 23 '21 at 15:32
  • @Donald True. I think OP would have to determine if the commute is worth it over whether or not the company would like his new commute. They could care less so long as you're coming in, as you said.
    – Dan
    Feb 24 '21 at 0:39
  • I think you raised here an important point about firing vs. quitting. Thank you.
    – Mahoni
    Feb 25 '21 at 3:04
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In the USA, many companies can fire you with or without any good reason, so they could decide to fire you for moving far away. The question is: Would they?

My company mostly wants to know where my company computer is and that it is in a safe place. So moving without telling anyone would be a problem. Getting permission to move within the UK should be no problem, maybe a problem if I move to a very rough neighbourhood where my company computer wouldn't be safe. Outside the UK, a problem depending on the country.

My company has an expectation that I might need to return to work for a day a week, or every two weeks. They would expect me to do that. The company actually has stated that they might be looking for new employees at a distance further away than currently. Three hours journey each way once every two weeks could be quite acceptable to you. And if it isn't, that's your problem, not the company's problem.

There would be a real problem if there can be situations where you are needed at your workplace in a short time. We have one employee who looks after our computers in the office and takes 10 minutes by bicycle to get there. The company might have a problem if he moved two hours away. Most employees wouldn't.

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  • Does anyone in the UK ask their employer for permission to move house?
    – Simon B
    Feb 24 '21 at 12:11

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