How to Quit a Job When You Work Remotely

Two distinct trends—the rise in people working remotely and the rise in people quitting their jobs—present a challenge when paired.

Published: Feb 12, 2020

One of the defining trends of the last decade or so has been the explosion of remote work. An estimated 23% of the US workforce now works remotely at least part of the week—a number that some expect to hit 50% this year.

At the same time, the strong economy has pushed the number of people voluntarily quitting their jobs to new highs. A report published in February by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the quits rate, or separations initiated by the employee, is at 2.3%. That’s the highest it’s been in 15 years and the third-highest since the government began tracking it in 2000.

Remote workers may be able to conceal their nerves more than workers who are resigning in person, but the lack of visible body language makes words and tone all the more important.

Together, the two trends mean one thing: more people are finding themselves in the strange position of quitting a job they work remotely.

Quitting a job under any circumstance can be nerve-racking. But for a remote worker who may not even be able to have this important conversation in person, doing it with tact is critical. Here’s some advice.

Don’t be casual about it.

Even if 90% of your communication with your manager happens through messaging apps or email, this is a conversation that requires more formality. “Digital platforms aren’t the best for this type of event,” says David Ginchansky, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Instead, schedule a phone call or video chat to break the news, indicating you want to talk to them about something important. Also, be sure to give at least two weeks’ notice wherever possible. For those who spend half the time at work and half the time telecommuting, make sure to let your manager know face-to-face. “It’s a lot more respectful,” Ginchansky says.

Have your first sentence memorized.

Remote workers may be able to conceal their nerves more than workers who are resigning in person, but the lack of visible body language makes words and tone all the more important. Practice what you will say in the mirror, memorizing the first line or two. You want to be direct with your manager, letting them know up front that you will be resigning. If you’re having the conversation over a call, it may pay to have some notes next to you so you can make sure you say what you want to say. Having your thoughts planned out will make it easier to have an objective conversation about why you’re leaving, says Matt Casey, a career coach based in Cambridge, Mass.

Let your manager decide how to share the news.

Every organization works differently after a resignation. Some companies want you to break the news, while others want to control the flow, informing your coworkers once a plan has been developed to cover the tasks you’re leaving behind. When you resign, ask your manager how the organization wants to proceed in telling others. Even if you do have permission to share, you probably don’t want to blast your news out in huge group chat; one-one-one conversations are typically a better route, Ginchansky says.

Help prepare your replacement.

“When you resign, ask your manager what they want a transition plan to look like,” Casey says. Make sure you do all you can to transition your work to the person taking over your tasks. If you’re able to help train your replacement, do so. If the company wants details on ways in which you operate certain parts of your job, share. If they want a memo that outlines all your duties, or provides suggestions on who can manage your tasks best, then oblige the request. The goal is to leave on good terms. You never know if you might end up working with your team members again, virtually or not.

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