Originally published in Coworker
By Colm O’Neill
If any doubts remained as to the future of remote working, the last three months have surely done enough to all but eradicate them. Few elements of our lives and lifestyles have gone untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than any other, it is the role of work that has been dramatically recast for so many people.
Remote work is the new reality for a great number of Americans, with one Gallup poll revealing that 62 percent of workers have worked remotely over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this sudden change of environment may be daunting, it comes with many reasons to celebrate.
Remote work can open the door to many positive lifestyle changes, allowing us to expel the negative habits formed by years of office-culture and replace them with new routines that are healthier for our bodies, minds, and wallets.
A Greater Degree of Flexibility
For many office workers, the rigidity of the traditional office environment proves counterproductive. It can come to feel like we are cogs in a machine, lacking the autonomy to schedule our days and our lives around our own needs, but instead arbitrarily following a schedule set out for us a century ago on the production lines of the Ford Motor Company.
While the reduction from the then-traditional six-day working week to the modern five-day working week may have felt revolutionary in the early decades of the twentieth century, this highly-structured work culture has long since grown outdated. According to research conducted by the Center For Workplace Mental Health, workers with anxiety disorders may benefit from “modified workspaces, flexible schedules and deadlines, or permission to take periodic breaks throughout the workday.”
Remote work offers workers a greater level of flexibility and freedom, improving moral and nurturing productivity. Thankfully, employers are starting to take notice of these developments, as evidenced by Microsoft’s Work Life Choice Challenge — an experiment in the viability of the four-day work-week, carried out in the summer of 2019. The trial resulted in not only a significant reduction in overheads, but also a 40 percent increase in sales, calling to mind the old axiom that a happy worker is a productive worker.
Helping The Body and The Mind
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American worker in 2017 spent over 52 minutes a day commuting to and from work. Over the course of a year. this comes to more than an entire week stuck in traffic or crammed onto public transport just to get to and from work.
It’s not hard to parse the inspiration for the French expression métro, boulot, dodo (subway, work, sleep), which has come to epitomize the lifestyle of so many urban office workers around the world. With a shorter commute and regular exercise, however, your work-life does not need to negatively interfere with either your mental or physical health.
The confluence of mental and physical health has long been established, and both are fundamental to a happy, productive lifestyle. Time spent sitting in traffic not only comes at the cost of physical exercise, but also has been proven to be damaging to mental health. Remote work offers the flexibility to integrate healthier habits into a daily routine.
A shorter commute to a local coworking space, for example, can open up vital hours each week to devote to exercise. The benefits of such lifestyle changes cannot be overstated.
Save Money By Cutting Your Cost Of Living
It is no secret that the major urban areas that host many of the highest paying jobs also come with an equally colossal cost of living. Tech hubs such as London, Hong Kong, and New York City are among the most expensive places in the entire world, meaning that even in a high-paying industry it can be difficult to enjoy a comfortable quality of life.
Writing for Forbes, Jennifer Castenson of real estate media firm Hanley Wood explains that when surveyed, 36 percent of workers would consider moving to a new home if they were given the opportunity to work remotely. This number shoots up to fifty-five percent when looking at respondents who currently live in an expensive real estate market.
Remote work allows workers to continue to earn top industry salaries without the sky-high cost of living that so often accompanies them. A six-figure salary stretches much further in small-town America than it does in a major city, providing workers with the opportunity to enjoy a higher quality of life while simultaneously saving money for the future.
The Way Of The Future
There is a wealth of evidence that remote work culture allows workers to enjoy a happier, healthier lifestyle, without limiting their output. A recent survey found that nearly 57 percent of employers would approve of their employees adopting remote positions indefinitely if it proved beneficial to productivity. In these uncertain times, this is one area in which the future looks bright.