The Health Benefits of Working Remotely
The beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic saw millions of workers around the world suddenly forced to adapt to the idea of working from home. That meant having to create a comfortable home office which could enable hours of productive work, gathering equipment and furniture to make working easier, and getting used to the idea of working from the comfort of your own home without commuting, while forgetting the days of toiling away in the office, paying for expensive lunches and morning coffees, and the ever-present threat of constant unproductive meetings and drop-ins.
It certainly took some getting used to, but many suddenly found themselves feeling healthier mentally and physically, despite the ongoing global pandemic getting worse and worse. This was a huge moment for the concept of remote work, the “voila” moment, if you will. Millions of people, who after years of working from an office and commuting to and from work, and were justifiably hesitant about the transition to remote working, suddenly realized the major mental and physical health benefits of working from home.
Employees found that they were happier and healthier due to the significant improvements to their work-life balance, increased autonomy, the lack of stressful (and time consuming) commutes, and the ability to take care of important things as they arose. Employers, too, have noticed the benefits of working from home, with many employees actually improving productivity and overall performance resulting from the increased flexibility they’ve been given. These benefits are exactly why going into a post-pandemic future, the future of remote (or hybrid) work seems as bright as ever.
A new and improved work-life balance
First and foremost, the most obvious benefit of being able to work remotely is the ability to improve your work-life balance. Remote work allows employees to work in an environment where they’ll naturally be able to spend time with those who matter most to them, whether it’s a spouse, children, family members, roommates, or pets.
Rather than spending hours each week commuting, employees can work from the comfort of their home office, using breaks to spend quality time with loved ones and set time aside for hobbies and activities. This can go a long way in improving work-life balance, allowing workers to feel more comfortable in their work environment, less stressed out, and happier in their personal life due to the extra time afforded to them. It also makes it easier to relax and unwind during times of stress - employees can simply walk away from their desk for a few minutes to take a walk, read a few pages of a book, practice yoga, seek comfort from a loved one, or even just take care of a few nagging chores.
Another major work-life balance benefit to remote work is that it’s much easier for employees to say “no” when they’re being overburdened. Since all correspondence is via email, phone or video conference, workers don’t necessarily have the pressure found in face-to-face interactions, allowing them to say no to an added workload, express concerns, or simply delegate work. This lessens the amount of stress which can be easily piled on in the workplace, drastically improving work-life balance by setting limits.
It is necessary to have a dedicated space to set yourself up for success with remote work. Kitchen tables, living room couches, and similar shared spaces are unlikely to be conducive to the kind of concentration you need to get things done long-term. If a dedicated workspace can’t be found in a remote worker’s home, companies should offer the option of paying for co-working spaces; this will still save the company money when compared against the expense of maintaining an office large enough to house all of its workers, and still provide employees flexibility and autonomy.
New opportunities for healthy change
One of the biggest changes when working from home is the sheer amount of flexibility you’re given. This flexibility doesn’t have to be limited to when and where you can work, it also includes things like what you now have time to do during your day and what you can eat throughout your workday.
In the office, employees generally get stuck in a rut and develop poor habits - eating out often, choosing unhealthy snacks, not drinking enough water, and not exercising throughout their day. These habits develop largely due to the convenience they offer, and the limitations of the office space. Many people simply don’t want to use their time in the office to exercise or take a walk, nor do they want to spend the time preparing a healthy lunch or packing healthy snacks after a long day in the workplace.
Thankfully, the transition to remote work has allowed many employees the opportunity to explore healthier habits. Rather than go out for fast food or grab an unhealthy snack, workers can now get up from their desks, walk to their kitchen, and cook a quick, healthy lunch or grab a much healthier snack when they feel peckish. Having access to a full kitchen filled with healthier options as opposed to being restricted to quick take out, vending machines and corner stores can do a great deal to improve health.
So can the ability to get up from your desk and stretch your legs without fear of scrutiny by your employers. When remote workers feel antsy or need some inspiration, they now have the ability to walk out their front door and take a quick stroll around the neighborhood, or even use exercise equipment found in their own home. The flexibility offered by remote work has all the potential in the world to help us explore healthy lifestyle changes, which can result in much happier and healthy employees.
Less stress, more control
Working remotely means that the stresses of the modern workplace can be almost entirely avoided. No more endless commutes, bright fluorescent lights, offices and employees that are always “on,” endless interruptions or office politics. These stresses can be reduced or basically eliminated by working remotely, maintaining a flexible work schedule, customizing your office space to better match your own personal preferences and health goals (ergonomic office furniture for example), and distractions that you can (mostly) manage.
This lack of stress leads to happier employees, increased productivity, improved performance, and better overall health - employees can focus almost entirely on their own performance without being bogged down by office stressors and distractions.
At the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, doomsayers were sounding the alarm about the negative mental health effects of working from home. As time wore on and remote work became the norm, the doomsayers were proven wrong. Reduced stress levels - at least as far as work was concerned - were just one of the mental health benefits that were realized with remote work. Those who were forced to put up with workplace bullying found that almost completely removed from their lives, as did those who faced discrimination from co-workers based on race, religion, and sexual preference & identity. There are also psychosocial benefits to working from a familiar environment, and even benefits associated with seeing out of windows, which are not always available in the office environment.
Flexible schedules that encourage work/life balance
Remote work arrangements often come hand-in-hand with more flexible schedules, allowing employees to work during hours preferable to their own personal schedule. If they’re most productive early in the morning, they can start earlier. If they’re not morning people and tend to thrive later in the day, they can get some extra sleep and work later.
As long as the work is complete and the results are good, flexible work schedules can be very liberating for employees and lead to better results, with workers having more control over optimizing their own schedule in a way that can lead to stronger results and faster output.
It also has the major benefit of allowing workers to step away when something comes up in their personal life. This could be to leave for an appointment, pick up the kids from daycare early, take care of a sick child, or just to tend to an emergency situation that suddenly arose. In an office environment, this usually meant telling 10 people on your way out the door that you were off to a medical appointment, where in today’s world it’s just a simple calendar entry.
Having more control over your own schedule means that your personal life no longer has to take a backseat to your work life - as long as work is done and a full work day put in, remote workers have the freedom to do the things that are most important to them. Not having to worry about these sudden situations goes a long way in reducing stress, especially for employees with children, pre existing medical conditions, or loved ones who may be ill or require assistance.
While it may not be for everybody, it’s clear that working from home has made a significant impact in the lives of workers all around the world. The ability to eliminate common workplace stressors and focus on creating a happier, healthier, more balanced lifestyle can lead to a much improved workforce capable of working more productively, delivering high quality results, and feeling far more satisfied in their role.
For many, remote work can turn a stressful, unenjoyable professional life into one far more satisfying and freeing. The only way to find out for sure is for employers to feel more comfortable with “giving up control” and exploring the many health benefits of remote work. Giving up control means not feeling entitled to all of the hours that an employee is “on the clock,” and this can be a head-scratcher for management. Management processes have to change to be tied to deliverables rather than monitoring what an employee is doing with their time. If deliverables are being met, and employees are ahead of the curve, who cares if they go for a walk? This management style allows employees who work hard to thrive, and quickly winnows out people who are “just putting in time” at work until the 5:00 whistle blows.
Prodoscore is a productivity intelligence platform that encourages employers and managers to feel more comfortable with giving employees more flexibility. Prodoscore allows you to gain deeper insight into how your employees are working, enabling you to understand their habits, gauge their performance, and hold them accountable while allowing them to enjoy more control over their work lives. To find out more about how our innovative productivity intelligence solution can help you explore the health benefits of remote work, get in touch with us today.