In the last week, an increasing portion of the population has been advised to swap packed out offices for lounges and bedrooms in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19. While obviously having its downsides, working from home can have its fair share of positives too. Picture the scene. You wake up naturally, having slept an hour longer than usual. You walk to work – approximately 30 seconds from bed to desk – and settle down for a peaceful, productive day with your favourite colleagues: a house plant, the fridge, the sofa and Netflix. By 6pm you’ve finished everything on your list, made a healthful lunch, done a mindfulness yoga session and cleaned the bath.
You probably have pictured that scene before, right? When Refinery29 surveyed 1,000 millennial women across the UK, a massive 80% said they would like to work from home if they had the opportunity. And it’s not that surprising. For our generation, work has become synonymous with stress. We overperform, undervalue ourselves, rarely unplug, and as a result we feel wrung out by professional life; 64% of under-34s report being overwhelmed by work on a daily basis.
So it makes sense that millennials are also the ones redefining what it means to go to work – which might include not going at all. Remote working, whether part-time, full-time, as a staffer or self-employed, is touted by many as the next frontier of professional life. As as freelance writer who has worked from home for the past three-and-a-half years, I am here to confirm that it’s – okay, not all serenity, productivity and lunchtime yoga – but still pretty great. Here’s why.
1. You get so much more done
No more meetings about meetings, no more ‘Can we borrow you quickly?’, no more lengthy chats by the kettle with Pete from payroll about his bathroom renovations. Not until you work from home do you truly realise how much of the average work day is filled with non-work. Without the extraneous distractions of office life you can plough through more, or – even better – get everything done in a shorter window of time. There’s plenty of support for this theory too; one study from 2015 found that workers at a Chinese travel agency were 13% more productive at home. And when the option to work from home was offered to the whole company, almost half of employees took it, and profits rose by 22%. That’s a handy stat to dazzle HR with.
2. No more commuting
Ahh, rush hour. The traffic jams, the sharp elbows, the fog of morning breath and free-flying germs. It doesn’t take a scientist to realise that starting each day with your head crushed into a stranger’s armpit does not a serene work mindset maketh. So skipping the commute altogether not only saves time, but the benefits for your mental health could be huge. Earlier this year, a study of 34,000 UK workers found that a daily commute of an hour or more can leave you 33% more likely to suffer from depression, 46% more likely to get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night, and 12% more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress than people with short journeys.
3. Every day is casual Friday
Tell people you work from home and, nine times out of 10, the first thing they’ll say is a crack about working in your pyjamas. If we followed the old adage about dressing for the job you want, not the job you have, the vast majority of us would be turning up to the office every day in jammies and slipper socks, with our hair in an octopus bun. Which is not to say that working in your pyjamas is necessarily all it’s cracked up to be – take it from me, there are psychological ramifications. After two days of schlubbing around in trackie bums with no bra on, I actually start to believe I have flu.
No, when you work from home you learn quickly that PJ days have to be kept in reserve, as a special treat for when they’re really needed (ditto wanking, or as Caitlin Moran terms it, ‘the freelancer’s lie-down’). But whatever you feel most productive in – dungarees, jumpers, a Hillary Clinton pantsuit – there’s a lot to be said for a work life where you don’t feel pressure to be ‘on show’ every day. For those of us prone to full-scale wardrobe meltdowns in the morning, opting out of the office catwalk can be a great thing for both your bank balance and your mind.
4. Food for thought
The nutritious meals! The healthy snacks! All the money you’d save not popping to Pret every two hours! Of course, the reality is what I like to call 'procrastineating' – making huge, elaborate lunches just to kill time – but I can’t deny there’s a luxury in being able to have an omelette whenever you want one, in a kitchen that doesn’t smell of somebody else’s tuna.
Sure, proximity to your own fridge might mean more snacking – but at least your home doesn’t have a bucket of mini flapjacks in every room. When you consider that so-called ‘office cake culture’ is being blamed in part for the obesity epidemic, having the freedom to feed yourself whatever you fancy seems far healthier than those trice-weekly slabs of Colin the Caterpillar. Not to mention escaping the influence of those colleagues who can’t eat a HobNob without lamenting how 'naughty' they’ve been.
5. Conditions are perfect
For me, leaving my office job to work from home meant one crucial thing: no more air con wars. A life without passive-aggressive all-company emails about the thermostat, the blinds or the Spotify playlist is a sweeter life indeed. And while working remotely can mean footing your own bills (I feel compelled to tell you I’m writing this with a hot water bottle in my lap), at least you’re in control of all environmental conditions. Plus, you might be entitled to claim some tax back, too.
6. You can stay politically neutral
Speaking of passive-aggressive emails, another upside of home-working is liberating yourself from all the petty bureaucracy that fills the average office. When we say we want to work from home, don’t we really mean we want to work without Jenny from Policy piping up in your inbox to complain that somebody has stolen her Müller Crunch Corner again? Or at least, being able to enjoy the drama from afar. Because your only tense interactions are with the postman, and there’s no risk of him giving you a bad appraisal.
7. That coffice life
It’s easy to take the piss out of the laptop army that populates your local coffee shop, but let’s be real – it’s only because we all secretly want to work in a coffee shop. BT futurologist Dr Nicole Millard predicts that the ‘coffice’ will soon replace open-plan offices as a more productive, nomadic way of working: “We will become shoulder bag workers,” she says. What’s more, a bit of ambient background noise can actually boost creative thinking. Finding the right coffice (or library, or hotel lobby) for you can take a bit of field research, but the perfect blend of cosy atmosphere, good strong flat whites and even stronger Wi-Fi can be a lifeline for those times when home just feels too lonely.
8. Working your way
Maybe you work best when you take short breaks every half an hour. Maybe you do your strongest work between 8am and 10am, and 4pm and 6pm. Maybe you’re a better employee when you have a mid-afternoon nap, or a walk around the block, or a five-minute dance party after every task completed. When it comes to productivity, one size never fits all – especially not in the kind of office where all emphasis is on appearing busy at all times (whether you actually are or not). Remote working gives you the trust and freedom to experiment and find the style that’s best for you. And the focus shifts to the work you produce, not how dedicated you look while you’re producing it.
9. Adulting: achieved
Anyone who’s ever wasted a lunch break in a queue at the post office has probably yearned for the flexibility to do their life admin at quieter times. Doctor’s appointments, going for a morning swim, even just being in to receive that ASOS package rather than spending your life in a feedback loop of missed delivery cards – working from home often means more time to tick off those adulting errands, without them eating into your precious free time.
10. Me, myself and I
“But you won’t have anyone to talk to all day!” people said when I started working from home, to which I replied, “Yes, exactly.” I don’t talk to anyone all day, which means I get genuinely excited about catching up with friends and family rather than flaking out in a heap on the sofa. Introverts tend to prefer home-working for obvious reasons and be best at it, too – they’re more likely to be self-motivated and disciplined enough to work without someone there to crack the whip. But even extroverts can benefit from a bit of quiet time and contemplation. In our typically noisy, overstimulated lives, a day of solo working can give you more energy for the people and things that really matter to you. And in the pursuit of work-life balance, that might be the best benefit of all.
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