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!
4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.