It’s 10 AM on a cloudy Wednesday morning in January. The curtains are open, letting hazy blue-grey light illuminate my bedroom. My essential oil diffuser is running at full speed, filling the room with the gentle aroma of white tea.
I look to my left and see my laptop. I look to my right and see my handwritten notes. I look within myself and feel a sense of calm that is unusual for this hour on a workday.
Gone is the frantic, noisy, uncomfortable atmosphere that blankets the office which is miles away. In its place is the peace and serenity of soft furnishings and the quiet purring of a housecat.
Working from home has suited me well.
Prior to 10 AM, I was awakened at a reasonable hour, cooked a full breakfast consisting of eggs, sausage, and toast. I was able to sit at the kitchen table and enjoy my meal unhurried and uninterrupted. After breakfast, I had time for a hot, invigorating shower.
Rested, well-fed, and relaxed, I donned today’s work attire: Ancient sweatpants from my high school days, softened and worn from years of use, and a comfortable tank top. Working from home has afforded me the opportunity to simultaneously relax and also earn a living. I am able to unburden myself from the shackles of corporate servitude, and instead take the time to simply exist.
The point of employment should be to earn a living in order to enjoy living. Suffering, misery, and frustration should never enter the equation, though unfortunately, this is often the case in the career world here in the United States.
It may be an overused expression, but my personal philosophy is that people should work to live, not live to work.
Working from home has finally allowed me to live according to my core belief.
According to Maria Cramer and Mihir Zaveri in an article for The New York Times, working from home has the following benefits:
• Less time on the road. Commuting by car has been linked to increased stress, more pollution and respiratory problems. The average American who drives to work spends 54 hours per year stuck in traffic, according to an analysis by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
• Greater productivity. One well-known study from 2014 led by the Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom examined remote workers at a Chinese travel agency and found that they were 13 percent more efficient than their office-based peers.
• A cleaner environment (maybe). According to estimates from Global Workplace Analytics, a research and consulting firm, if everyone in the United States worked remotely half of the time, it could reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicle travel by more than 51 million metric tons a year. Graphics showing the reduction in air pollution and pictures of clearer skies over cities like Los Angeles have been among the silver linings of the pandemic. Of course, when people return to work, the roads may fill up again, especially if people fear getting the virus on public transit. And even if more people start working remotely, they might use their cars more for errands closer to home, said Bill Eisele, a senior research engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Office commuters make up only about 18 percent of all traffic, he said.
• Money saved. Global Workplace Analytics estimated that people could save, on average, $2,000 to $6,500 every year by not spending on things like gasoline and day care. Companies could spend less on real estate. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office estimated it saved more than $38 million in 2015 by not using as much office space, according to a Harvard Business School working paper from November.
• More job satisfaction. A 2005 study found that job satisfaction increased with each additional hour people spent working remotely. But it stopped increasing beyond 15 hours worked remotely.
• Less sickness. Even as companies consider reconfiguring workplaces with plexiglass barriers on desks and special air filters, letting employees work from home can help keep them safe from communicable diseases (and not just Covid-19).
• More time for fitness. You may be able to squeeze in more workouts. “Having a little more time, if you’re using it wisely, can be very beneficial,” said Marilyn Skarbek, an assistant professor of exercise science at North Central College in Naperville, Ill. “There are a lot of other things you can do around the house to keep you moving: laundry, cleaning — all of that keeps you active. My house is definitely cleaner than normal.” But there is a risk you could be more sedentary, she warned.
For me and many others, working from home has been a Godsend, and I hope this way of life is here to stay.