It’s amazing how a simple change can transform your life. By taking your work home, you can find more time to spend with your family, more flexibility to pursue your interests outside of work, and more satisfaction with your life at work. To put it simply, working from home is a win-win solution.
Do more (and better) work in less time
As we all know, it’s not always easy to get work done at the office. There’s rarely quiet time during regular business hours to sit and concentrate. Office workers are regularly interrupted by ringing phones, impromptu meetings, and coworkers popping by to chitchat. This can be as frustrating for an employee as it is for the employer who is paying for
this nonproductive work time.
Extreme commuting, anyone?
Because of the sky-high cost of real estate in many communities, some commuters are willing to travel more than 90 minutes each way just so they can afford a decent home. In Baltimore, for example, over 5% of workers endure “extreme” commutes of more than three hours a day.
Working at home can free you from these distractions, giving you long blocks of time to focus on your work. (Of course, your home may present its own distractions, but we’ll talk later about ways to deal with those.) Ideally, your productivity will increase, as will the quality of your work product. At the same time, you’ll get to enjoy the personal satisfaction of focusing on your work and getting it done.
No more commuting your life away
It’s depressing but true: U.S. workers actually spend more time commuting than vacationing each year. The average employed American commutes more than 24 minutes each way, losing the better part of an hour in transit every work day. Workers in major U.S. cities often spend even more time getting to and from work. Topping the list are New York City residents, who waste an average of 76.6 minutes on their daily commutes.
Let’s suppose your commute to work is half an hour door to door. Over the course of a year, that would add up to 240 hours on the road— the equivalent of six 40-hour work weeks! Those are six weeks you could have spent enjoying your backyard or training for a marathon.
Commuting is bad for your social life. For every ten minutes we spend commuting, our social connections are cut by 10%. Find out more in Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, a book by Harvard University Professor Robert Putnam.
Save money. Everyone is feeling the effects of high gas prices, but few are hit as hard as commuters. For some, keeping their tank filled now costs as much as a mortgage payment. Some employers have responded with programs that promote mass transit, shuttle buses, carpools, and, in some cases, teleworking. For example, The National Recreation and Park Association, a Virginia-based nonprofit, came up with a oncea- week telework option for all of its 70 workers. Employees are also taking action. In a recent survey of 2,000 at-home call center agents, 36% said gas prices drove their decision to work at home.
Another major commuterrelated cost is housing. Housing costs have gone through the roof. Nearly half of all renters,
according to the 2005 Census, are spending 30% or more of their gross income on housing. And over a third of homeowners with mortgages are spending a similar amount on their house and related expenses. This means that a family earning $60,000 would be spending $18,000 or more just on rent or mortgage and tax payments.
The best jobs tend to be in or near metropolitan centers—which is also where real estate prices are highest. All too often, we’re left to choose between a staggeringly high mortgage and an unbearably long commute.
Calculate the cost of your commute. To find out how much you could save by not driving to work each day, Commuter Challenge has a terrific calculator at www.commuterchallenge.org. Click the “Commuters” tab, then “Commute Cost Calculator.”
Reduce stress. Work is stressful enough. Add the challenge of a tough commute, and it’s no wonder so many people feel like they’re hanging off the edge of a cliff. Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can walk or bicycle to work, your daily commute is probably one of the most unpleasant parts of your day. If you drive, you may have to contend with rush hour traffic, the daily aggressions of other drivers, and the challenges of driving in rain, sleet, and snow. If you take
mass transit, you may have the constant worry of missing your departure, the discomfort of sitting (or standing)
in cramped quarters next to perfect strangers, or the hassle of switching trains or buses.
Studies show that this daily strain can pack a serious wallop to your physical and emotional health. In fact, commuters may be under more stress than riot police and combat pilots. Hewlett Packard researcher Dr. David Lewis explains that riot policemen and combat pilots “have things they can do to combat the stress that is being triggered by the
event. But the commuter, particularly on a train, cannot do anything about it at all.” Sound familiar? The result can be high blood pressure and other physiological and psychological effects.
If the stress of commuting were to end when you reached your destination, then perhaps it wouldn’t be so worrisome. But commuting stress spills out and affects other areas of life, too. Workers with long commutes are likely to develop
problems with their health, sleep patterns, and family and social relationships. These side effects are particularly hard on women, many of whom are already stressed to the max by the competing demands of work and family.
Reclaim lost time. Gaining time to do the things you love is one of the biggest advantages to working at home. Those formerly lost hours might be spent volunteering at your local soup kitchen, kicking around a football with your son, or catching up on some reading. And you also gain those little pockets of time during the day—your former coffee breaks,
lunch hour, and bored moments staring at a computer screen trying to look busy. Instead of standing around the water cooler or comparing notes on the latest TV series, you can use those free moments at home to plan your next vacation or throw in a load of laundry. Suddenly, your chores and errands can fit seamlessly into your day.
Work on your own schedule
Depending on the nature of your job, working from home might give you the flexibility to work during the hours that make the most sense for your life. If you’d like your afternoons free to spend with your children after school, you could choose to start your workday at 7 a.m. and end it by 3 p.m. Or if you’d like to get in an early morning swim or a round of golf, you might make up the missed time by working into the early evening. Whatever your lifestyle, working at home can free you to accomplish more in your day without compromising the time you put into your work.
Commuting more stressful than in-laws?
Close to half of British commuters studied said that rush hour traffic was the single most stressful part of their lives—worse than work issues, money problems, and family conflicts.
Find work-life balance
Balancing work with the rest of our lives can be just plain hard. Many of us feel like there simply aren’t enough hours in the day. Going in to work—and being away from home for long stretches—has a great deal to do with these feelings. We spend hours on the road, have little flexibility in how and when we work, and often don’t see the ones we love before dinnertime.
Look How Hard We’re Working
For too many, the 40-hour workweek is a distant memory. On average, men now work 49 hours a week and women 43.5 hours. What’s more:
- 67% of employees say they don’t have enough time with their children
- 55% of employees say they don’t have enough time for themselves
- 45% of employees feel pulled and stretched thin between their responsibilities at home and at work, and
- 37% of employees say it’s hard to take time off during the workday when personal or families issues arise.
Given the many benefits of working from home, it’s no wonder that teleworkers are much happier with their jobs and their lives than their counterparts at the office. An AT&T study found that almost two out of three teleworkers
(63%) were more satisfied with their jobs after they started working from home, and an even higher percentage
were happier with their lives outside of work. A study by IBM uncovered similar results: Teleworkers were the group who anticipated staying with the company the longest and had the highest job satisfaction.