Between tech developments and the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work was forced upon the workforce and gradually embraced. While there are some quirks to it, the world has reached a point where it’s crucial to discuss what is better for employees: working from home or commuting to work.

Regardless of the circumstances, there are benefits and drawbacks to both options. But the payoffs from working from home shouldn’t be ignored, especially for those who think working from an office is the only ideal option. Equally, the cost reduction for employers and the overall well being and good health of the workforce are important determinants for bottom-line success. Organizations should encourage remote working if only to identify what may improve efficiency and thereby save money.


Happier All-Around

Part of the reason working from home was quickly embraced is that a lot of people were feeling happier. Despite the circumstances, the workforce now considers the ability to work from home a serious perk. One report found that 83% of respondents to a survey said having the option to work from home made them happier.

That was on top of the fact that remote workers are 22% happier with their jobs than those who have to commute to work every day. That happiness plays a crucial role in several different ways, such influencing the social comment of ESG ratings, to an extent, especially in cases when companies lack a robust wellness programme.


Healthy Behaviors

Burnout from work is bound to happen at various points in our careers, but there are ways to deal with these issues. But depending on where you work, there could be ramifications for particular forms of self-care or work on your mental health.

You can’t just take a nap in the middle of the work day or leave the office to work out for an hour or two, for example. And yet, when working remotely, these options are available, as employees are generally given flexible hours and work on their own time.

Employees are allowed to listen to music without the risk of being interrupted by their boss or a co-worker, and that can make a big difference and provide relief, as well as the feeling that you are able to take control of your personal environment to tweak it as best suits your particular needs.

All in all, employees feel better about their ability to take care of themselves when they’re not in office settings. The surveys bear this out, notably as McKinesey found that the option to work from home at least three days a week seems to be a minimum requirement.


Higher Levels Of Productivity

The argument for working at the office does make sense from this perspective. Surely, it’s difficult to imagine being more productive in your own home compared to an office. But productivity is gained in many different ways, even in places where you’d least expect it, and it needn’t be predicated on long hours in the workplace.

For one, working from home ultimately gives employees a healthier work-life balance. This translates into lower stress, working longer hours, and, in general, better productivity.

One study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found workdays on average were about 48.5 minutes longer than at the office. For full-time employees, this means those working from home provide an additional 193 hours per year of extra work.

Overall, the healthy habits that remote work facilitates translate into more productivity. If employees are able to get to the gym to destress, boost their energy, and feel good, they’re more likely to work more when they get back to their home office. And that’s just one example.


Less Likely To Get Sick

Offices are typically packed with people who work closely with one another. Even if a business has a robust sanitation and cleanliness regimen, people are bound to get sick. The problem in those tight-packed office settings is that germs and illnesses are far more likely to spread. Similar to school, if one person gets sick, it won’t be long before other people get it too.

Remote work removes all of that, due in part to being self-isolated. As we learned from COVID-19, diseases are more likely to be contained if people just stay at home. There are other upsides too, since less sickness plus a home-based working environment may gradually erode the very need for contractual sick days. Yes, that’s an upside for employers.


Remote Work Is A Health Investment

For sure, there are some drawbacks to working remotely. Racial equity becomes trickier to manage in certain situations,for example. This is on top of a lack of connections which can mitigate a lot of these benefits mentioned above.

But it’s because of those particular drawbacks why it’s all the more reason to provide a solid remote work option. Ensuring strong safety measures and that remote workers feel part of the team can make a big difference and businesses can reap massive benefits from it.


As a final note, it’s important to point out that the majority of the remote working debate has fallen around how companies have experienced it from the onset of the pandemic until the present. Perhaps the argument should be drawn back prior to COVID-19 and the fact that we were experiencing a period of waning productivity anyway. While the pandemic did ‘shift things up a gear’, this has been an ongoing, long-term trend in tandem with digitisation, the automation of certain work tasks, and the growth slowdown since the earlier financial crisis, whereby productivity would be 20% higher now in the UK and 13% higher in the US if we had returned to pre-recession levels of growth.

The ‘healthiest’ approach, therefore, would surely be to be human-centric, to place value on less stress and to pay attention to the aspects of remote work that affect and influence focus. The trends point towards greater remote working, so how do we develop our technologies, working processes, and budget realignments around exploring how to make the most out of a more decentralised approach to work. One that values, first and foremost, our health, so we may learn to work empowered by our health. After all, there is no scenario in which unhealthy, unmotivated people are a boon for employers.

No matter how it plays out, this is positive progress.

by Eric Burdon

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