Career 24 August 2017
If you’ve considered or researched working remotely in any capacity, I’m sure you’ve seen the myriad of studies that discuss the positive outcomes: increased revenue and decreased expenditure for companies, environmental impact, faster company growth, etc. And all of those things are truly awesome. But something that’s not fully transparent from these studies is the full depth of how much it can improve an individual’s quality of life.
I’ve been working from home for the past 4 years, and during this time I’ve seen the conversation around remote work slowly growing. The remote work revolution that’s taking place is in it’s new “sexy” phase - and if you’re following it, you know what I’m talking about. You’ve seen the stunning images of people working from mountaintops, articles titled “how I made $9,000 a month working from Bali” or the companies popping up for remote worker adventures - again, all truly awesome. But what does the remote work revolution mean for someone like me? A mom in her 30’s with no ability to just disappear for a year to work in the jungle? Well, it’s not quite as sexy, but it is just as awesome!
Despite being able to have ‘complete’ freedom to work from anywhere as is often touted, remote work has still had a real impact in making me a healthier, happier, more productive human being. Here’s how
Why it’s made me happier
Bye bye commute! I would consider myself to be a pretty kind person. (You know, I’m polite to waiters, I hold the door open for elderly folk, I make cookies for the new neighbors and all that jazz) - but the second someone cuts me off on the highway, I immediately resort to using some very unsavory language and gestures. And I know I’m not alone here people. One recent study showed over a 7 year study period, there were more than 12,000 preventable injuries and over 200 murders associated directly to road rage!
And while of course most of population would consider this outrageous, it just goes to show the level of stress that’s associated with commuting during peak times. You don’t understand how much that stress truly contributes to your overall well being until you are able to stop being a part of that madness and you watch other people go through it from the sidelines in silent relief. Not to mention, it really gives you back like 2 hours of your day that you can spend doing other things. Which leads me into the next point…
Work life balance isn’t a unicorn. It actually does exist, and it can be almost easy to achieve when you take out a constricting schedule and a long commute. If you weren’t spending 30 minutes in the morning picking out an outfit, 30 minutes packing your lunch or doing makeup/getting gas etc. and then another 30-45 minutes heading to the office and back, that’s almost 3 hours of your day, more than 1,000 hours a year you can spend doing other things that actually make you truly happy like hanging out with your family or pursuing a hobby. You know, living your life.
And another big thing that has made me happier working remotely? The trust I feel from my company and the pride in my work that comes from that. As moral adults, why shouldn’t we be able to work where and when it best suits us? I’m a firm believer that the people who would slack off and take advantage of working remote are the same people who are going to eventually fail in a corporate environment anyway. My company knows it, and everyone else should too. Contrary to what some bigger corporations might think, having a boss literally breathing down your neck doesn’t make you want to achieve more in your position. Why is that just now becoming a revelation?
Why I’m Healthier
It all kind of goes back to the point above - more time! More time to cook healthy food (and eat a breakfast that includes more than just black coffee and a bag of jellybeans I found in my car), more time to exercise when it suits me. 1pm Yoga class? Sign me up! I’ll work around it. Plus it will help me focus during my late afternoon meetings. Quick walk around the block with my dog at 10:30am? Yes I think I will, and during that I can brainstorm work ideas while my blood is actually flowing. Need to make a doctor appointment? Oh, I actually can do that now without having to know 3 weeks in advance, before I even know I’m going to get sick, to get it approved - nice! I can’t stress this enough, when you’re in charge of planning your own day, you will feel more balanced and you will have more time to make yourself a priority which benefits everyone involved - you, your family, AND your employer / business.
Why I’m More Productive:
Some people might argue that remote workers miss out on much needed collaboration with co-workers. I could debate this point all day considering the advances in face-to-face meeting software, but let’s even put that point aside for now and look at a couple others.
1. Just watch this TedTalk from Stanford Professor Nicholas Bloom. It will tell you everything you need to know about why being outside the office has been proven to increase worker productivity.
2. I am most productive in the mornings for two reasons: silence, and coffee. I like knocking out part of my day while everyone is still asleep, and with the flexibility of remote work, I can do that. I also like being done with my workday by the time my after-lunch induced coma hits and I become a breathing robot. Again, working while you are the sharpest helps you get more done.
3. I loved my old cubicle-mate at my last job, we’ll call her Susan, and her kids were truly adorable. But I probably spent 5 hours a week just listening to stories about their sports, friends and school work. I enjoyed it, it was fun, but it also took time away from projects I could have been doing at the time that then kept me at work later and took time away from my own family. Talks with coworkers are nice, but they can become a huge distraction in today’s open office environments, one of the biggest I’d argue. And if you remove that distraction, you’re going to see the amount you can get done really skyrocket. No offense to all the Susan’s out there - you keep cubicle life interesting so keep doing you, girl!
What we’ve discussed here is honestly just the tip of the iceberg. So, even if it’s not in the cards for you to quit your job and take your laptop to Tahiti, I’d still encourage you to pursue working remotely. If you can’t find a new remote job, take steps to make your current job more flexible (Find tips for doing this with this blog from 1 million for work flexibility). The remote work conversation is going to continue growing. Become a part of it, and realize for yourself the difference it makes!
3 Min Read
With a lack of certainty surrounding the future, being and feeling healthy may help bring the security that you need during these unpredictable times.
When it comes to your health, there is a direct relationship between nutrition and physical activity that play an enormous part in physical, mental, and social well-being. As COVID-19 continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, the uncertainty of the future may seem looming. Sometimes improvisation is necessary, and understanding how to stay healthy and fit can significantly help you manage your well-being during these times.
Tip 1: Communicate with your current wellness providers and set a plan
Gyms, group fitness studios, trainers, and professionals can help you to lay out a plan that will either keep you on track through all of the changes and restrictions or help you to get back on the ball so that all of your health objectives are met.
Most facilities and providers are setting plans to provide for their clients and customers to accommodate the unpredictable future. The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C. An enormous amount is on the table for this coming fall and winter; if your gym closes again, what is your plan? If outdoor exercising is not an option due to the weather, what is your plan? Leaving things to chance will significantly increase your chances of falling off of your regimen and will make consistency a big problem.
The key to remaining consistent is to have solid plans in place. This means setting a plan A, plan B, and perhaps even a plan C.
Tip 2: Stay active for both mental and physical health benefits
The rise of stress and anxiety as a result of the uncertainty around COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way. Staying active by exercising helps alleviate stress by releasing chemicals like serotonin and endorphins in your brain. In turn, these released chemicals can help improve your mood and even reduce risk of depression and cognitive decline. Additionally, physical activity can help boost your immune system and provide long term health benefits.
With the new work-from-home norm, it can be easy to bypass how much time you are spending sedentary. Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity. Struggling to find ways to stay active? Start simple with activities like going for a walk outside, doing a few reps in exchange for extra Netflix time, or even setting an alarm to move during your workday.
Tip 3: Start slow and strong
If you, like many others during the pandemic shift, have taken some time off of your normal fitness routine, don't push yourself to dive in head first, as this may lead to burnout, injury, and soreness. Plan to start at 50 percent of the volume and intensity of prior workouts when you return to the gym. Inactivity eats away at muscle mass, so rather than focusing on cardio, head to the weights or resistance bands and work on rebuilding your strength.
Be aware of your sitting time and balance it with activity.
Tip 4: If your gym is open, prepare to sanitize
In a study published earlier this year, researchers found drug-resistant bacteria, the flu virus, and other pathogens on about 25 percent of the surfaces they tested in multiple athletic training facilities. Even with heightened gym cleaning procedures in place for many facilities, if you are returning to the gym, ensuring that you disinfect any surfaces before and after using them is key.
When spraying disinfectant, wait a few minutes to kill the germs before wiping down the equipment. Also, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. In an enclosed space where many people are breathing heavier than usual, this can allow for a possible increase in virus droplets, so make sure to wear a mask and practice social distancing. Staying in the know and preparing for new gym policies will make it easy to return to these types of facilities as protocols and mutual respect can be agreed upon.
Tip 5: Have a good routine that extends outside of just your fitness
From work to working out, many routines have faltered during the COVID pandemic. If getting back into the routine seems daunting, investing in a new exercise machine, trainer, or small gadget can help to motivate you. Whether it's a larger investment such as a Peloton, a smaller device such as a Fitbit, or simply a great trainer, something new and fresh is always a great stimulus and motivator.
Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine.
Just because you are working from home with a computer available 24/7 doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your entire day to work. Setting work hours, just as you would in the office, can help you to stay focused and productive.
A good night's sleep is also integral to obtaining and maintaining a healthy and effective routine. Adults need seven or more hours of sleep per night for their best health and wellbeing, so prioritizing your sleep schedule can drastically improve your day and is an important factor to staying healthy. Make sure that when you do wake up well-rested, you are getting out of your pajamas and starting your day with a morning routine. This can help the rest of your day feel normal while the uncertainty of working from home continues.
Tip 6: Focus on food and nutrition
In addition to having a well-rounded daily routine, eating at scheduled times throughout the day can help decrease poor food choices and unhealthy cravings. Understanding the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy can help you stay more alert, but they do vary from person to person. If you are unsure of your suggested nutritional intake, check out a nutrition calculator.
If you are someone that prefers smaller meals and more snacks throughout the day, make sure you have plenty of healthy options, like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins available (an apple a day keeps the hospital away). While you may spend most of your time from home, meal prepping and planning can make your day flow easier without having to take a break to make an entire meal in the middle of your work day. Most importantly, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Tip 7: Don't forget about your mental health
While focusing on daily habits and routines to improve your physical health is important, it is also a great time to turn inward and check in with yourself. Perhaps your anxiety has increased and it's impacting your work or day-to-day life. Determining the cause and taking proactive steps toward mitigating these occurrences are important.
For example, with the increase in handwashing, this can also be a great time to practice mini meditation sessions by focusing on taking deep breaths. This can reduce anxiety and even lower your blood pressure. Keeping a journal and writing out your daily thoughts or worries can also help manage stress during unpredictable times, too.
While the future of COVI9-19 and our lives may be unpredictable, you can manage your personal uncertainties by focusing on improving the lifestyle factors you can control—from staying active to having a routine and focusing on your mental health—to make sure that you emerge from this pandemic as your same old self or maybe even better.