‘With freedom, books, flowers and the moon, who could not be happy?’ said Oscar Wilde.
And as a modern city worker, these things may feel far from your grasp. You want some more time back for yourself. Time to read, time to be in nature, time to just stand still, take a deep breath, and fully appreciate where you are.
You might have visions of travelling around the world. Or spending more time at home with your dog. Or fitting more training sessions in for your upcoming marathon. Or simply just having the satisfaction of hitting that snooze button in the morning a few more times.
Whatever your motivation is for remote working, there may be some other added benefits you haven’t considered.
So if you’re considering making the leap towards remote work, here’s 15 thoughts to ponder.
1. Improved mental health
Are remote workers really happier? The research is mixed, often looking at either ends of the spectrum — those remote workers who are employed, and work at coworking spaces, or those self-employed freelancers who work on their own, travelling between Airbnbs or work spaces. As with all things, it appears to be a balance — between having the time to do your own things (more time to exercise, cook/eat better etc) and connecting with others socially. Human connection is vitally important for happiness; it’s important we don’t lose sight of that when we’re finally free of the 9–5. But remote work offers us the opportunity to be more in control of our wellbeing.
2. Less traffic congestion
How much time do you spend sitting in your car in a given week? A month, or a year? By working remotely, not only will you benefit from not having to sit in a traffic jam for hours on end, the environment benefits too. America’s remote workforce currently saves carbon emissions offset to the equivalent of 91 million trees.
Of course, if those same workers are catching lots of planes and travelling around the world it’s not beneficial, so if you’d still like to protect the planet you can search for ways to offset your emissions from air travel.
3. Increased creativity
This all depends on how you make the most of the opportunities remote work brings. Harvard’s E. Glenn Dutcher says: ‘There are times when the home — or the coffee shop or the library — is a much better place to work than the office. For certain types of creative work, you have to be in your favorite room, or listening to your favorite music, or sitting in your favorite chair with your cat on your lap. No other environment will do.’
Personally, I don’t do much creative work at home. My best work came after a 2 month stint in Las Palmas, where I met some innovative and inspiring people. Just being around other likeminded digital nomads seemed to evoke my creative potential. You have to find what works for you.
3. Better physical health
Want to take a 2 hour break to go running in your local park? Well you can, if you’re a remote worker. . A CoSo survey found that 35% of remote workers were getting more exercise than before. Of course, if you’re sitting working in bed all day in your pyjamas, your physical health may decline! With more time on your hands, you can spend that wisely by focusing more on exercise if you so choose.
4. More time to learn/read/research
Even though you always look busy at your office job, there are times when you’re planning your weekend/reading the news/watching the odd cat video and more, isn’t there?
When you’re working remotely, you naturally have time to do more research and learning in a designated area.
Want to research coworking spots? Now you have the extra hour free, that one that you used to spend commuting. Want to learn a new language? Go ahead, because you can choose your hours if you’re a remote freelancer.
5. Productivity hacks
In this section, I was going to mention that remote work could make you more productive, but that’s not always the case. What it most definitely can do is make you lucidly aware of your own motivation and productivity. If you aren’t motivated in the office, chances are you won’t be when you’re working on your own either. Unless there’s certain things you need in order to be productive.
For me, the right productive environment equation looks something like this:
room full of creative entrepreneurs + nice office with comfortable chairs + unlimited tea and biscuits + some good techno to listen to on my headphones (or Mozart if I need to really concentrate) = productive Kerry. For you it might be peace and quiet and an ocean view. For someone else it might be late night on the sofa, when the kids are asleep. Find out when and how you are most productive, and then structure your remote work options around that.
6. Fewer business overheads
Years ago, remote work was called ‘hot desking’. You usually ‘hot desked’ at random offices, and basically had the same experience as an office worker, except for maybe increasing your monthly step counts as you hopped from from desk to desk. American Express noted savings of $10–15 million once it explored its remote work options. If saving money is a priority, location independence could be an option for you.
7. Less sick days
Got the sniffles and fancy a duvet day? Well, hauling yourself out of bed and into an office where you’re likely to spread your germs around has always been the road more travelled when it comes to work. One of the greatest pleasures about remote work in my opinion is that you can take it easy when you have a cold. There’s so much subtle pressure to come into the office when you’re under the weather (‘it’s only a cold’), but now you’re location independent you can snuggle up, make yourself a vitamin c drink, and stay indoors until it has passed. Research by Stanford University shows you’re less likely to have sick days though as a remote worker, so even better!
8. Less reliance on ‘the system’
The way we do things is changing. We no longer have to do things in the way society dictates. Globalisation and technology have freed us from being fixed to our location, and even our loyalties to employers or to brands. We are in control of our working lives now more than ever — of how we work, of when we work, and that means we can start to become self sufficient in more areas than just work, too.
9. More time to travel
You know the feeling. You’ve finally wound down after a week (maybe even two weeks) lounging on the sunbeds in some foreign sunny location, and now it’s time to head back to work. With remote work, you can travel more — not just to grab some more sunshine, but to meet new people, explore new cultures, and get inspiration. Every time I travel, I always get inspired. You don’t even have to go far from home (I’m writing this from a fantastic little cafe in my spiritual home of Chorlton, Manchester, and am staying in an Airbnb whilst visiting friends).
10. Time with loved ones
This reason alone is worth it to me. I haven’t got any fancy statistics here, but needless to say the value of spending more of your life with people that matter to you is inherently soul gratifying. Last week my sister had a baby, and we got the message at the drop of a hat that we could go and see her in hospital. I could rearrange my workload to meet my new niece Rosie along with my two nephews, a truly special moment in my life that I will always remember. You can’t put a price on that.
11. Cost savings for our healthcare system
Professor Cary Cooper notes that a lot of stress-related illnesses are caused by long working hours, and calls for shorter or more flexible working hours as a way to improve wellbeing. It’s difficult to quantify, but imagine the cost savings for the NHS if we all felt a bit happier and less stressed with our lives, as we had a good work-life balance.
12. More time to innovate and problem solve
This is a HUGE one for me, and a real driver as to why I’m so passionate about promoting balance in our work life by working remotely. When we are overloaded or busy, our brains are predominantly in a detrimental state of consciousness. It’s well documented that we get our best ideas when we are in the bath or shower, as Headspace notes. The reason for this is because we are in an alpha state of consciousness, a slower brain wave state which allows for increased creativity. If your brain is always on ‘go’ (i.e. a stressful mode), you’re actually in a state of self-sabotage, because you won’t be able to take in any other information or reflect mindfully on what you are doing.
13. More opportunity to be mindful
Remote work allows you to be with yourself more. It allows you to be more mindful, if you let it. You get to choose. It’s all about your work boundaries and how you choose to look after yourself.
If you’re a remote worker, do you fill yourself with guilt if you’re away for more than 5 minutes on Slack?
In my first remote employed job, I had a manager who would jump on me if I didn’t respond to our client’s email within 5 minutes. He was stressed (despite sometimes working from his villa in Spain), and it made me stressed. I was like an eager tennis player, always ready to pounce on an email or an action, and it was then I decided I had to wave goodbye to the project management life. It just didn’t suit me. Companies such as Intel and Google are into mindfulness as a leadership practice, and for good reason.
14. Time for errands and ‘life admin’
What’s a girl to do if she wants her hair done, nails painted, has a dental appointment and wants to post her friend’s birthday card? Remote work, that’s what. After visiting Bali and unfortunately contracting what doctors thought may be Guillean Barre Syndrome, I was in a bad way, having just got out of a wheelchair. I had a shit ton of appointments. Doctors. Tropical Disease Clinic. Neurologists. Physiotherapy. And because I wanted to help myself as much as I could, I did Acupuncture. Yoga. Flotation Therapy.
Plus of course, when you’ve been through the ringer, you just want to pamper yourself; to look and feel good. Remote work allowed me to do all of these things — work could take a back seat whilst I focused on my wellbeing. Yes, I was just keeping myself afloat financially, but I wasn’t additionally stressed about focusing on work when I needed to look after myself. I’m so incredibly grateful for that.
15. A greater sense of personal autonomy
Most of all, remote work can give you your life back. I can spend my lunch going to the local fruit and veg market, rather than a hurried supermarket run after work. I have more energy, because I work less (about 25–30 hours a week). I can focus on personal goals and creative pursuits. I have time to go in the garden and water the plants and vegetables. I can drive to see a friend on a Tuesday afternoon when the roads are quiet. I don’t get an anxious dread on a Sunday or exhilaration on a Friday afternoon. I have made friends in different countries.
Most of all, I am happier. Of course, there are downsides that crop up — loneliness, lack of motivation and financial instability being the main three as a remote freelancer- but all of these are wholly under my control. I can decide to meet a friend for coffee, go somewhere to invigorate my energy, and work that bit harder to overcome these obstacles.
I am free to make mistakes, but I am also free to create the life I want.
Convinced you yet?