24 May, 2021
Working from home, even when enforced by something as challenging as a global pandemic, can yield huge benefits for remote workers across countless industries. It can also be great for employers, with a strong chance of increased productivity among home-working staff. But is it actually any better for our health?
Research suggests that yes, it can be - provided it’s done right. There are a number of important caveats to most claims about both the physical and mental impact of more flexible working, notably that it won’t always suit everyone equally. Overall, though, it’s broadly agreed that there’s a solid case to be made for the health benefits of working from home.
Let’s talk about some of the four key benefits - if you’ve been working from home (or in any other virtual office capacity) during lockdown, you’ll more than likely already have experienced most of them first-hand...
Among the most direct health benefits of working from home is that we have more time for physical exercise and activity. This is largely due to the fact that we spend, on average, almost an hour less per day on commuting.
That’s five hours every week, 20 hours every month - a significant amount of extra time on our hands, not to mention the fact that we’re generally a lot less tired and stressed by the need to travel at rush hour. Combine those time savings with a reduced drain on our energy and mood, and it should translate into employees feeling more inclined to partake in physical activity and exercise outside of work hours.
Of course, the major caveat here is that - if you’re more the couch potato type - working from home might simply enable an even more sedentary lifestyle than ever. Responsibility here most definitely lies with the individual, but staff having more time and energy to partake in active hobbies or sports gives them the best possible chance of staying physically fit.
In offices up and down the land, mealtimes and snacking schedules have long been an incredibly varied and interesting phenomenon.
For some, the packed lunch is a no-brainer: you can eat what you like, when you like, and only pay the same for it as you would if eating at home. For others, the vending machine, takeaway truck or bakery counter provides an all-too-irresistible draw, not to mention the steady trickle of sweets, biscuits and other unhealthy snacks that tend to be passed around most offices on a near-constant cycle.
Again, responsibility for eating well lies entirely with the individual. But, as with physical exercise, the experience of working from home gives employees more direct independent control - in this case, over both their daily diet and their food budget.
For many of us, removing the slew of unhealthy temptations and invitations that office life normally presents is enough to make a significant difference. It also helps us to spend less on restocking those mid-afternoon energy snacks at premium convenience prices, and leaves us with more money and time available for making better, healthier choices in our main meals.
Obviously, the whole point of so many people working from home during the grip of the COVID pandemic was to minimise our chances of coming into contact with the virus.
As one of the key advantages of remote working during the past year, it’s also a model that applies in a more general sense at any other time: most of us encounter far fewer people face to face when we work remotely, and as such we’re far less likely to be exposed to anything contagious. Fewer incidents of infection mean fewer days off, which - over the course of a year and a whole workforce - can really add up to a considerable number of work hours gained or lost.
Moreover, studies show that people working from home are far less likely to call in sick when they do experience a minor bout of illness than people who would otherwise have to commute. As we noted in our previous article, 35 Working From Home Productivity Statistics, rates of absenteeism due to sickness claims were significantly lower among home-based staff (0.9%, or 2 days per year) than those who always travelled to work (2.2%, or 4.3 days per year on average).
It’s not just about viral or bacterial health, either - working from home gives most employees the opportunity to set up more comfortable and more highly customised workspaces that suit their physical needs much better than any generic office setup ever could. Again, though, individuals who’ll struggle to achieve this in their own homes will need supporting with all the appropriate guidance and resources to ensure they’re not actually making the situation worse.
A lot has been written about the mental health benefits of working from home, so we won’t attempt to recap it all here. Suffice to say that there are a whole slew of positive wellbeing impacts that can be attributed to flexible working locations, and among the most important of these are:
All of the above contribute directly to a healthier, happier workforce, both in terms of overall wellbeing and the resulting boost to general physical health this can often bring.
On the verge of lockdown measures finally easing, lots of small-to-medium businesses now find themselves in an interesting position going forward. For many, the enforced ‘experiment’ in the feasibility of remote working for staff has been a resounding success, which poses some obvious questions about whether it’s worth switching to a virtual office on a more permanent basis.
After all, with virtual office solutions starting from just £15 per month at the Hoxton Mix, it’s certainly a potential source of huge cost savings - and you might just end up with fitter, more relaxed and more productive staff as a result!
If you’d like to chat with a member of our team about the sorts of packages and services that might work for you and your employees, you can drop us a line any time.