By Shari Chase

There are many options to consider when it comes to finding satisfactory employment. In recent years, flexible work, including working from home, has become the “new normal” with Covid-19 and many people are predicting that remote workers will comprise over half of the workforce in the coming years

The remote worker can wake up, check their calendar and choose their preferred environment for the day. From the comfort of home, a trendy cafe, or outdoors, the flexibility to work where and when, is theirs. Freedom!

Image courtesy Hutomo Abrianto

On the flip side, the commuting worker endures the challenge of getting too and from work. They often have a rigid schedule leaving them dashing back and forth, trying to fit everything into their day.

My Work Decision

Last year, while in the process of repatriating, I spent a lot of time considering my options. Did I want to settle back into the standard 9-5 daily grind, or did I want more? The traditional route seemed like the best option, given it is what most choose. But, while talking to my sister living amid the polar vortex in the “Windy City,” I couldn’t help but think there had to be a better option! 

As she recounted her trek to work, I felt frozen just listening to her, but it didn’t end there! She complained about the schedule, the deadlines, the gossipy nature of the office, the pressure to work during lunch, and the general sense of dissatisfaction she felt with her job. I dreaded having to return to that kind of lifestyle. 

Looking for salvation, I turned to my friend who had moved to Mexico and worked remotely as an ESL teacher for students around the world. She was continually posting travel photos and sharing her enviable work-life balance. Her children were “worldschooling,” and she seemed happier than most of my other FaceBook friends. I wanted that life, and suddenly the prospect of working from home seemed right up my street. Literally.  

Working From The Office

Adults spend almost a third of their lives at work and face a whole host of workplace issues, including interpersonal conflict and low job satisfaction. These contribute to a general feeling of stress. In fact, approximately 83% of American workers experience work-related stress and report it as a top stressor in their life. It’s no wonder that they impact productivity levels.

Truthfully, many workplaces are not designed to optimise production. Many work environments have few windows and harsh fluorescent lighting. Staff are stuck sitting at cramped desks, with few collaborative spaces, and poor ventilation. Send help, they are caged in like animals.

 While there are many ways to improve office design and therefore, employee health and productivity, many companies are unwilling to invest in those changes. As a result, employees slug through their day with minimal effort, watching the clock and waiting to escape. 

Working From Home

On the other hand, working from home can boost productivity and promote overall healthier living. A large part of this comes from the flexibility afforded to remote workers,  enabling them to create an environment that suits them and their needs. A recent survey found that remote employees work approximately 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts. They have more time to get things done. Additionally, personal flexibility allows remote workers to plan breaks at optimal times, leading to increased focus. The absence of a long commute empowers employees to invest their time and money into activities that contribute to better health.

Although remote workers work “more days per month”, they are known to take longer breaks compared to that of in-office workers. They get to savour that cup of coffee or get laundry done so they can see the bottom of the basket for once! 

At first glance, that seems counterintuitive. However, Tony Schwartz, the founder of The Energy Project, highlights the benefits of working from home by referring to the Pulse and Pause theory. He says humans are “designed to ‘pulse’ between expending energy and renewing energy.” In practice, this means that people should take short breaks every 90 minutes throughout the day to regain focus and recover from fatigue. Remote workers take more breaks, making them more in tune with their bodies and as a result more productive. 

A word of caution, though, working from home is not for everyone. In fact, it has been hypothesised that the best option is a hybrid work environment. This allows in-office and out of office days, curating an optimal balance—giving employees the best of both worlds. Work environments are too complex to ever be perfect, but with certain jobs, working from home can benefit both employees and companies. That simple fact is enough to give working from home a shot. I’m glad I did!