Working from home is having a major moment right now (for obvious and tedious reasons!). From reduced overheads to increased productivity, better employee satisfaction and retention rates, WFH has some definite benefits for some workplaces. In fact, it’s so enticing that market-leading global tech companies, like Spotify and Slack have even transitioned to entirely remote workforces and said goodbye permanently to expensive office space infrastructure.
My experience? WFH has given me massive personal benefits. Yes, it’s been a little lonely at times, and I rarely get out of leggings and t-shirts, but put simply, the end result is I’m happier and healthier (and love my job even more). Here’s why:
1. I don’t have a regular commute
Without commuting to/from the office each day I’ve gained a whole extra TWO HOURS. Yep. Two. Whole. Hours. Every single day. This has gifted me with more free time and reduced my stress levels, not to mention I’m less tired and more productive. I’ve even been doing online courses to grow my skills (I’m currently doing four different self-paced-learning courses, I may have overcommitted…). When I was commuting on a daily basis, I didn’t have the extra energy or mental capacity for further study after a full-on day at work – and when I tried, it just left me feeling exhausted, frustrated, and burnt out. My WFH tip: Use this extra time to do more of whatever it is that you love.
2. I have more time for exercise
When I was commuting, I was always too tired to work out. I had to leave so early in the morning that I didn’t have time to exercise before work, and in the evenings, I’d arrive home exhausted after a long day and hour-long commute door-to-door. It was all I could do to rustle up something for dinner (often takeaway) and fall into bed. Now, I can squeeze in a lunch-time workout – my neighbourhood is beautiful and green with lots of big parks nearby for a power walk in the fresh air and sunshine. My WFH tip: Commit to moving your body for at least 30 mins each day, preferably
3. I eat healthier
Working from home means I can create something nutritious and home-cooked for lunch or dinner, rather than grabbing a quick takeaway to eat at my desk. I also save hours of my precious weekend downtime by not having to meal prep lunches and snacks in advance for the office that week. This time saved allows me to really relax and enjoy my weekends doing stuff I prefer, like napping, reading, and seeing friends and family (albeit with my mask!). WFH has reminded me how much I enjoy cooking just for pleasure, rather than necessity. I find cooking from scratch so relaxing, almost meditative. I get into a flow, forget about everything and just focus on sensory smells, feels and tastes. I’d forgotten about simple joys like this, the small things, in my usual go-go-go busy schedule. My WFH tip:Your wallet and your health will love this extra home-cooking time.
4. I sleep better
My days now are calmer working from home, which means I’m sleeping better at night overall (a 2011 study even found that employees who worked from home experienced 25% less stress). As a long-term insomniac, my sleep issues are complex and varied – but having workaholic tendencies and always being busy figure heavily. Now, there’s no mad rush to get ready and race out the door without breakfast in the morning – it’s more of a gentle waking up and easing into and out of my at-home workday. I’m finding that I can catch up on sleep with that extra hour in my day gained from no morning commute. This means my moods and energy are more stable. I’m not woken abruptly by a screeching alarm and then thrown straight into the get-ready-for-work panic. My body is loving me! In the evenings, I now simply switch off my computer and put dinner on the stove while I slip into a relaxing bubble bath to ease into my night-time routine (so lush!). The rhythm of life feels gentler, simpler, slower and my sleep has never been better. My WFH tip: Have a regular ritual to signify the end your workday and the start of unwind-time
5. I have more mental clarity
Creativity is a huge part of who I am, my work and my hobbies. Working from home has freed up time, which in turn has allowed me more mental breathing space for the ideas to flow. Like many others, I’m easily distracted and over-stimulated in an open-plan office environment. I’m also an introvert who is highly sensitive to all external visual and audio stimuli. I sometimes have trouble staying focussed in the office and my attention can be all over the place – and those who know me, know that I also love a chat and as a result often end up distracting others (lol). Working alone at home, my ideas have time and space to marinate uninterrupted, my thoughts are clearer, and I feel my work is even better. My WFH tip: Take advantage of this room to breathe and think. Get creative or start a hobby.
What the experts say:
However, WFH can also have its moments: it can feel isolating, you can feel like you’re missing out, and sometimes you do actually miss out. Clinical Psychologist at Equilibrium Psychology, Gemma Cribb, says the key is to make an effort to stay connected.
“It’s harder to feel connected [when you work from home] without the ‘corridor conversations’ you get from an office environment,” she explains. “To combat feelings of isolation, try to make the time to have regular check ins with your team and also organise non-structured lunchtimes or after-work drink breaks together online. Similarly many people find it comforting to set up virtual co-working (where you turn your camera streaming on and work with a team mate side by side as if you were in the office.)”
And if those co-workers start to get on your nerves, or they seem like they are frustrated? Cribb says to have reasonable expectations and greater empathy and patience: “When conflict occurs, taking the time to understand your colleague’s point of view and learn what their intentions and stressors have been can help settle any resentment and lead to effective problem solving.”
Lastly, she says to try and keep any feelings of FOMO at bay by being aware of what makes you anxious in the first place. “Notice which thoughts or worries lead to anxious feelings,” she suggests. “Think about whether there is any real evidence for those thoughts or if there might be an alternative, more likely explanation for how you feel. If in doubt, ask yourself what you would say to a friend who shared this worry with you.”
It’s clear that hybrid workspaces are looking like the future of modern work (thanks pandemic). But they could just be the best of both worlds, a combination of working from home and in-office days, with all of the added physical and mental health benefits. I’m ready – sign me up!