From reducing stress levels to freeing up time for family, friends and self-care, the shift to remote working is having a significant impact on workers’ mental, emotional and even physical health
Article originally appeared on Regus.
As the world begins to assess the long-term effects of Covid-19, its impact on the way people work is starting to become clearer. Periods of lockdown have driven home the benefits of remote working for employees and employers alike, and it’s evident that – in many cases – neither workers nor businesses are keen to give them up.
Research from the UK’s Office for National Statistics shows that 85% of adults who worked from home during the pandemic now wish to split their time between working remotely and at the company HQ. Meanwhile, a survey by IWG reveals the high premium many people now place on having autonomy over where they work: 72% of participants said they’d forgo a 10% pay rise in favour of retaining hybrid working.
This approach – which allows employees to split their time between home, the corporate office and a third location such as a nearby flexible workspace – has already been adopted by global enterprises including NTT and Standard Chartered bank. Both have signed deals with IWG in 2021, providing their combined workforce of around 400,000 people with access to its worldwide network of flexible workspaces.
With advantages including reduced real estate costs, improved recruitment and retention, enhanced flexibility and a decreased carbon footprint, it’s no surprise that the hybrid model appeals to firms as diverse as KPMG, Microsoft and Amazon.
However, it also has key benefits for individuals, and the potential to boost their health, wellbeing and productivity.
Removal from the rat race
IWG’s founder and CEO Mark Dixon surely speaks for millions of workers when he decries commuting as their “key enemy”.
For those whose commutes are long and arduous, the pain of the rat race is often compounded by its apparent pointlessness. This has been thrown into sharp relief by the pandemic, which has shown remote work to be just as productive as time spent at the office – in some cases, more so.
Costly, unreliable, unpredictable and often uncomfortable travel is a daily grind that many of us could happily live without. And that’s before you consider the potentially damaging effects of commuting on our health.
According to clinical psychologist Carla Manly, “external stressors” such as traffic, noise and the behaviour of other commuters are problematic in themselves, but their effects can be compounded if your train is late, you’re delayed getting to a meeting or you’re concerned you’ll be late to collect your child from nursery.
In the long term, Dr Manly says, dealing with a stressful commute can trigger depression, anxiety and deep feelings of dread. “From a negative impact on sleep, eating behaviours and heart health to decreased enjoyment of interpersonal relationships, a chronically stressful commute can certainly have a wide variety of negative effects in the long term,” she explains.
Altogether, it seems clear that commuting to the company office when needed – as opposed to ‘as standard’ – can make a significant, positive difference to workers’ health and wellbeing.
Another key benefit of hybrid working, particularly for ‘knowledge workers’, is enhanced independence.
Giving staff the freedom to schedule periods of remote, focused work and on-site meetings empowers them to take control of their time, using it in ways that are genuinely productive. In turn, this generates job satisfaction.
For businesses, the key is making the most of workers’ motivation and avoiding the temptation to micromanage. Building strong feelings of trust within teams is vital in a hybrid world of work – and this can pay dividends in terms of what’s achieved and how happy employees feel.
The hybrid approach also allows for more asynchronous working than a standard Monday to Friday routine.
Put simply, asynchronous working means that colleagues may not be available during exactly the same hours. While this can present occasional challenges, it also has considerable benefits.
Asynchronous working enables individuals to approach tasks at times that feel right for them and it allows for slower, more considered responses to questions from colleagues.
With asynchronous communication largely achieved via platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams or Google Chat, it also tends to involve the creation of a communications ‘trail’. This can be useful for ensuring that key information doesn’t get lost, in a way that it might during a face-to-face conversation.
Quality time with family and friends
The reduction in time spent on commuting during the Covid-19 crisis has, for many of us, meant more quality time with family and friends.
From bedtime stories with the children to shared dinners and communal Netflix binges, these increased opportunities for connection are good for us. CIPD highlights this reclaimed time, and the closer relationships it helps to support, as key advantages of the hybrid model.
Space for self-care
As with our relationships with the people most important to us, the relationship we have with ourselves can benefit from hybrid working. More opportunities for regular exercise, healthier meal planning and simple relaxation are open to us when we spend less time on trains or in our cars.
Connection when – and where – you need it
Finally, it’s worth noting that the real beauty of hybrid working is its flexibility. It offers the best of both worlds, with the many benefits of remote working augmented by regular face-to-face contact with teammates.
For many of us, this is vital from a health and wellbeing perspective, as well as in terms of our creativity and productivity. Getting together at the corporate HQ can make all the difference when you’re short of inspiration or feeling isolated.
Opting to work from your local Regus can also boost your working mojo, whether you need to concentrate alone or prefer the stimulation and social opportunities afforded by coworking.
Combining a well-equipped, professional set-up with the convenience of staying close to home, flexspace can be a way to help prevent your personal life and work life blurring into one – a risk we all run when we work from our bedroom or kitchen table.