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The Workologist: Getting Real About the Fantasy of a Fresh Start

While you’re at it, investigate what work opportunities may be available by adding a dose of low-key professional fact-finding to your exploration. Think through the skills and relationships you’ve built over time, and how they may apply in this setting. Be imaginative but realistic.

Remember that your options may not be tied to your locale: As Mr. Acuff noted, telecommuting is far more common than it was a generation ago, and your background in the tech sector may mean there are opportunities to reposition your current skills for a remote gig (or set of gigs).

Either way, ask around and find people who are actually doing something close to what you have in mind (friends of friends, professional contacts, even people you’ve just heard about). Grill them about the pros and cons of what they did, and how they did it.

Finally — and this may be the biggest challenge of all — take a hard look at why you really want to take this step. Is it possible that simply finding more rewarding jobs where you are would address a lot of your frustrations? Talk through your expectations — about money, vacations, professional goals. Make sure you’re not avoiding disagreements now that will cause problems later.

None of which means you can’t or shouldn’t make this move. As Mr. Acuff points out, remote-work possibilities mean “it’s the greatest time in the history of mankind to do what they’re talking about.” But don’t just think about the situation you want to escape. Think about how you’ll achieve the situation you want.

When the Owner Smokes

I work in the corporate office of a retail boutique. It is part of a family-owned business based in Europe; our store is a small, free-standing building in Manhattan. The boss smokes inside our building. I expressed my concern about this on my first day of work to my immediate superior, and he essentially said: “What can you do? It’s his store.”

The smoke didn’t bother my European colleagues, or maybe nobody wanted to stand up to the boss. After months of complaining and nothing changing, I sent a copy of the New York City law against smoking in the workplace to a very high-up person at our headquarters. Things got better, but the building has never been 100 percent smoke free. I have left work too many times smelling like smoke.

I finally gave up and put all my effort into job-hunting. I appreciate your past advice to not say/do anything you would regret just out of spite/instant gratification. Yet I feel that these actions — breaking the law, putting your employees’ health in danger — deserve repercussions. After I leave the company, I would like to report this man to the health department. What the company is doing seems too wrong and disrespectful for me to not do anything. ANONYMOUS

I checked with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the facts are clear: Smoking in the workplace is illegal in New York City — even in the back office, even if it’s the boss.

It sounds as if you made determined but nonconfrontational efforts to bring the problem to management’s attention. Frankly, you would be within your rights to force a confrontation rather than end up feeling you must look for new work. But perhaps it’s time to move on to an employer who is more attuned to its workers (and the law).

Reporting the situation will make this boss an unlikely reference in the future. So you may think ahead and try to secure the promise of a reference from some other manager you find sympathetic and trustworthy. Or you could consider one last internal effort, explaining that the smoking problem is the reason for your departure. But you seem to have been blunt enough in the past. So it comes down to whether you feel a sense of obligation to take concrete action, and you’ve answered that question yourself.

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