Do you still work from home post lockdowns? Not sure if it’s just you or everyone else too?
Low and behold me commuting into the office on a regular Friday morning. The sun is shining and the roads are surprisingly… Peaceful? It’s a smooth, uninterrupted run and I’m thrilled to catch 9 out of 10 green lights – am I missing something here? Please tell me I haven’t accidentally missed a public holiday?
It turns out less and less people are headed towards their fluorescently lit, airtight offices on a daily basis and I for one am neither mad nor surprised. Okay perhaps I was a little surprised at the lack of peak hour traffic but never mind that.
Though it might feel like a new phenomenon, working from home has been ‘a thing’ since almost the birth of the Internet itself.
It’s delightful that both new and existing studies show that hybrid work and mental health are mutually beneficial.
Not only does the data reveal that working from home makes you more productive than working from the office, but also that it equates to a happier, more fulfilling life.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but this sounds like a win-win situation for employers and employees alike.
There are a number of causational factors at play here but perhaps the biggest seller – in my opinion at least – as an employee, is a greater work-life balance.
I’d happily sacrifice cliché office banter if it means I can improve my overall happiness. With less social distraction, is it any wonder we are also getting more done in a home office setting?
What are the actual benefits and how does it affect our mental health?
Perhaps the most beneficial for our employers: when you work from home you get more done. It’s as simple as that.
Brigham Young University’s 2010 survey revealed that employees with flexible schedules able to “telecommute can work 19 more hours per week before experiencing conflict between work and personal life.”
That is an absolutely whopping increase to overall productivity and work-life balance.
With a lack of social distraction from in-house colleagues, we are more likely to give undivided attention to the task at hand and not be interrupted in the process.
Efficiency is another two-way stream between employer and employee.
With less travel workers are able to save both time and money. This time, for instance, can go towards an increase in work itself or conversely, can be spent doing unpaid domestic laborious necessities such as cooking and cleaning. This is one instance that supports an increase in free time.
It would be foolish not to mention that this can also lead to the biggest downfall of working from home. An increase in efficiency is also recognised by employers and can sometimes be used for evil instead of good.
Studies show that remote workers are more likely to work unpaid overtime than their commuting colleagues. The less physical divide between home and office can sometimes blur boundaries between commitments.
The best way to conquer this is to set rigid physical boundaries when working from home. Set an alarm for routine breaks and meal times. Time your work hours down to seconds as if you were being timed in the office. Set up a workspace that is comfortable, visually stimulating and separated from other parts of the house used for sleeping and eating, for instance.
Time back to prioritise health
New research reveals that home-based workers have improved physical health than their office-based counterparts. This, of course, has a flow-on and intertwined effect on their mental health and overall happiness.
The International Workplace Group recently found that home-based employers were gaining:
· An extra 90 minutes of exercise per week on average
· Improved and increased sleep – 71 hours of extra sleep per year on average
Increased free time can allow employees to take mental and physical breaks whenever they see fit. They might perform some yoga stretching or engage in meditation, both of which are examples that can also improve mental and physical health.
Increased trust, autonomy and initiative
Working unsupervised for the majority of the time requires a much higher degree of trust than working in a direct line of vision to your superior.
You are trusted to get your tasks done and meet deadlines. The ‘how’ is much more in your control as you are much less likely to be micromanaged. This means you are generally more autonomous as it is not feasible to spoon-feed employees or hold their hand through day-to-day tasks.
Employees with greater trust and autonomy are more likely to take initiative in their roles.
Again, these are mutually beneficial traits for employees and employers alike.
Employees – would you like to be trusted to complete your work autonomously with full responsibility and not have to be spoon-fed in the process?
Employers – would you like to be able to trust your employees to work unsupervised, assigning them increased responsibilities and allowing them to take initiative in completing their work?
We often look at shifts in employment exclusively through the lens of improving productivity, and whilst this certainly makes sense with our own vision of business, there is certainly more to consider than mere work-per-hour. Hybrid work has its issues, but it has also created opportunities for people to live their lives in their own spaces, and that is a net good in its own right. It will be interesting to see how this hybrid arrangement leads us into the next few years of work, but even in the here and now, it’s important to take stock of the importance of happiness, and the role work plays in our lives.