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!
Marriage can be a tightrope act: when everything is in balance, it is bliss and you feel safe, but once things get shaky, you are unsure about next steps. Add outside forces into the equation like kids, work, finances or a personal crisis and now there's a strong chance that you'll need extra support to keep you from falling.
My husband and I are no strangers to misunderstandings, which are expected in any relationship, but after 7 years of marriage, we were really being tested on how strong our bond was and it had nothing to do with the "7-year itch"--it was when I was diagnosed with PTSD. As a survivor of child sexual abuse who is a perfectionist, I felt guilty about not being the "perfect partner" in our relationship; frustrated that I might be triggered while being intimate; and worried about being seen as broken or weak because of panic attacks. My defense mechanism is to not need anyone, yet my biggest fear is often abandonment.
I am not a trained therapist or relationship expert, but since 2016, I have learned a lot about managing survivorship and PTSD triggers while being in a heterosexual marriage, so I am now sharing some of my practical relationship advice to the partners of survivors to support my fellow female survivors who may be struggling to have a stronger voice in their relationship. Partners of survivors have needs too during this process, but before those needs can be met, they need to understand how to support their survivor partner, and it isn't always an easy path to navigate.
To my fellow survivor sisters in romantic relationships, I write these tips from the perspective of giving advice to your partner, so schedule some quality time to talk with your boo and read these tips together.
I challenge you both to discuss if my advice resonates with you or not! Ultimately, it will help both of you develop an open line of communication about needs, boundaries, triggers and loving one another long-term.
1. To Be or Not to Be Sexy: Your survivor partner probably wants to feel sexy, but is ambivalent about sex. She was a sexual object to someone else and that can wreak havoc on her self-esteem and intimate relationships. She may want you to find her sexy and yet not want to actually be intimate with you. Talk to her about her needs in the bedroom, what will make her feel safe, what will make her feel sexy but not objectified, and remind her that you are attracted to her for a multitude or reasons--not just because of her physical appearance.
2. Safe Words = Safer Sex: Believe it or not, your partner's mind is probably wondering while you are intimate (yep, she isn't just thinking about how amazing you are, ha!). Negative thoughts can flash through her mind depending on her body position, things you say, how she feels, etc. Have a word that you agree on that she can say if she needs a break. It could be as simple as "pause," but it needs to be respected and not questioned so that she knows when it is used, you won't assume that you can sweet talk her into continuing. This doesn't have to be a bedroom only rule. Daytime physical touch or actions could warrant the safe word, as well.
3. Let Her Reconnect: Both partners need attention in a relationship, but sometimes a survivor is distracted. Maybe she was triggered that day, feels sad or her defense mechanisms are up because you did something to upset her and you didn't even know it (and she doesn't know how to explain what happened). If she is distant, ask her if she needs some time alone. Maybe she does, maybe she doesn't, but acknowledging that you can sense some internal conflict will go a long way. Sometimes giving her the space to reconnect with herself before expecting her to be able to focus on you/your needs is just what she needs to be reminded that she is safe and loved in this relationship.
4. Take the 5 Love Languages(r) Test: If you haven't read this book yet or taken the test, please at the very least take the free quiz to learn your individual love language. My top love language was Touch and Words of Affirmation before remembering my abuse and thereafter it became Acts of Service and Words of Affirmation. Knowing how your survivor partner prefers to be shown love goes a long way and it will in turn help your needs be met, as they might be different.
5. Be Patient: I know it might be frustrating at times and you can't possibly totally understand what your survivor partner is going through, but patience goes a long way. If your survivor partner is going through the early stages of PTSD, she feels like a lot of her emotional well-being is out of her control. Panic attacks are scary and there are triggers everywhere in society. For example, studies have shown that sexual references are made anywhere from 8 to 10 times during one hour of prime time television (source: Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media). My husband is now on high alert when we watch TV and film. He quickly paused a Game of Thrones episode when we started season 2 because he realized a potentially violent sexual scene was coming up, and ultimately we turned it off and never watched the series again. He didn't make a big deal about it and I was relieved.
6. Courage to Heal, Together: The Courage to Heal book has been around for many years and it supported me well during the onset of my first flashbacks of my abuse. At the back of the book is a partners section for couples to read together. I highly recommend it so that you can try to understand from a psychological, physical and emotional stand point what your survivor partner is grappling with and how the two of you can support one another on the path of healing and enjoying life together.