5 Universal Benefits of the new “Telecommute”
A share with the world from our home office at 7,986 feet.
Let’s just say we Coloradans are people who are generally on the front lines of what’s trending in health wellness and wellbeing. Despite our desire to seek trending wisdom we still look to the tried and true when it comes to maintaining a healthy body and mind. Due to our unique altitude and our rugged individualistic nature as a people, we generally tend toward three things.
- Daily doses of sun
- Outdoor physical adventures
- Fexibility and diversity in work and schedule (so that we can get more of the first two items)
On the latter let’s just say we modern mountain folk like it flexible enough to take advantage of a weekday opportunity to carve it up on the slopes or paddle it out on the river. Our children have grown up witnessing this “here and now” mindset and many have entered the workforce and are now helping to lead the charge.
Slowly, steadily and behind our ” front doors ” we have been calmly creating a new work landscape that is leading the lifestyle revolution. And now the rest of the world is about to taste of this most glorious little secret.
Today, in an unfamiliar landscape of global pandemic this revolution may be moving from a slow roll into a full blown race as we seek economic solutions that address our new prescribed directive to “camp out” at home.
The Innovate “State.”
In an analysis of the 2017 US Census, Haven Life Insurance Agency reported Colorado as the absolute number one state for “work-at-home-employees”. The report goes on to show that just over eight percent of adults in Colorado work from home. The average in the rest of America is only 5.2 percent.
This measure was taken three years ago and does not even include entrepreneurs. Recently Amazon ranked Colorado as 4th in the Nation for startups based on their online sellers. Many of these startup companies are founded by full or part time telecommuters who don’t show on the survey data.
In a changing climate where employees may find themselves suddenly working from home we would like to highlight some of surprising perks that we (and others) have discovered about the new “telecommute.”
1. Better Health
We all know that energy follows attention. If your attention is on the road in an extended commute well so is your “energy.” And that is time and energy that is irreplaceable in a busy day.
In a study Conducted by Christine Hoehner, Carolyn E. Barlow, Peg Allen, and Mario Schootman, results showed that long commutes are associated with ”higher blood pressure and bigger waistlines”.
This is the first study to show that people who commute long distances to work were less fit, weighed more, were less physically active and had higher blood pressure,” said Hoehner. “All those are strong predictors of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
The “Justified” Reward.
In addition to being sedentary in the car, we are usually on the way to being just as sedentary in the office. We could add in convenience or fast food as another bummer component to such a commute. Stopping by a cafe or gas station on the way to work to grab our “morning treat” can temporarily placate us in that insatiable need to reward ourselves for our “daily grind.”
Theres also no doubt that its easier to make healthy choices for lunch and snacks when you are eating from your own pantry. Let’s face it, who hasn’t been lured by the call of the Krispy Kreme box at a morning office meeting?
It’s hard to stay true to your intentions when someone “lovingly” plants a tray of home made cookies at the water cooler. Trust me its not that home workers don’t have chocolate stashes, It’s just that we get to choose how and when we want to indulge.
The “Stand -Up” Workday.
In the hours that it takes to write a blog you could witness both Danny and I changing position numerous times. (you might even witness a few air squats ).
We may stand for a meeting and a phone call and have standing locations for our typing tasks as well. Like our ancestors who spent their days moving from one activity to the other we try to mimic that active flow and take full advantage of our ability to use the whole of our space and the whole of our bodies.
This kind of opportunistic approach to computer work really helps in our daily burning of calories and in supporting our continued flexibility and mobility. Granted we aren’t out plowing the fields but we have been known to stack firewood and do outdoor chores on a break.
We know movement also increases blood flow to our brains and vital organs which has become an increasingly important personal goal to us as we watch our three remaining parents age both physically and mentally.
In our telecommuting household we have set up an exercise room on site. (zero commute to the gym) Somewhere in the 3:00 to 4:00 PM hour we pack up our computers and head to exercise. (Remember we start working between 6 and 7AM.)
Our stripped down gym requires us to be creative and try new ways to get after it. We have incorporated weights, bands, balls and a TRX system to mimic some of the exercises we used to do on machines.
Working out as a couple or team also provides a little bit of healthy pressure when one or the other of it wants to opt out. Although truly it is a relief to move our bodies after staring at a screen for 8 hours. Most of the equipment in our gym is second hand and has already been paid for in the savings of monthly membership fees.
Now that the weather is getting warmer we’ve added walks back into the routine which is a wonderful way to decompress and share notes from the day. This also provides a natural dose of Vitamin D, so necessary for optimal body and mood functioning.
Right now we can’t get away from mentioning disease transmission and spread in office and gym situations. Less density = less transferrable illness equals less sick days. And that is equally applicable to the common cold or flu as well as the Coronavirus.
2. Autonomy and Self Satisfaction.
While telecommuting has been the norm for many entrepreneurs it can also offer amazing emotional benefits to those who work for others. For people who can work remotely, even some of the time, the emotional and spiritual perks are noticeable.
There is no doubt that we humans need to feel that we are trusted and perform better when we do.
The “Un-driven” Worker
The mythologies around low productivity amongst “un monitored” workers is just not true and there are plenty of studies to prove it. It seems in fact that those who work at home actually work more hours and are happy to do it in order to continue their remote worker status.
In our at home office there are days when we find ourselves typing away at 6PM hardly aware that we might need to stop and eat..
There are other days we start at 6AM and and push till 3PM so we can close up the computers and fire up the motorcycle. After an hours ride we may come back and answer emails for another hour or two but theres a smile on our faces that would warm any employer’s heart.
We are fully in the game and we are filled up by feeling of self governance that is uniquely satisfying to humans.
For new telecommuters it can take a while to enter this “flow” when one is used to dictated outside parameters such as set work hours. “Break Guilt” subsides once workers get in touch with their own internal rhythyms and find a working style that supports them in a healthy human way. Our experience is that you begin to trust yourself in this new expanded time frame as you see and experience your own up-leveled productivity.
The Intentional “Connection”
There is something refreshing about leaving office politics behind. Telecommuter get plenty of opportunity to connect to each other for meetings and work projects but those interactions seem to have a more focused flavor than informal gatherings around the copy machine.
There also seems to be a great leveling force and a shared desire to make this remote thing work. Of course like anything related to technology there can be glitches but creativity and emerging options for communication can provide options.
Recently in just one work day we met with people via Facebook, Zoom, and Maestro Conferencing. Amazing!
The virtual “connections” made during the day fill our social emotional need for relationship and provide laughter, compassion and occasional moments of frustration. The full range. The one noticeable element missing is “touch” so we do make sure there are opportunities for that as well.
In this moment of prescribed “social distancing” there must still be the ability to gather in small family or friend groups in order to keep this vital human need of physical touch alive especially for the solitary remote worker.
For parents basing from home can also solve critical issues around schedules, sick children and school activities. It can still be a juggling act but there is no doubt that knowing you can operate from home when a child is sick can reduce stress significantly. At the time of this writing most schools are cancelled so families may be navigating different waters with their children and finding novel ways to keep them busy and occupied in the new structure of a “work day”.
3. Serious Savings.
In a recent report Flexjobs came up with significant figures on telecommuter savings. Check out their figures on where you might find more cash left in your pocket.
- Gas – Hallelujah! – Estimated Savings $686 per year
- Car Maintenance – Yes, we do have to walk out and give our “Bessies’ ” some reassuring pats from time to time. They are “docked” most days of the week. Estimated Savings $786 per year.
- Dry Cleaning and Laundering. – Zoom meetings only require a decent shirt. Pajamas are quite acceptable on the bottom. It’s time to ditch dry cleaning anyway for the sake of the planet. There are pro eco alternatives such as “wet cleaning” Estimated Savings $500 to 1,500 per year.
- Lunches and Coffee. Granted a lunch out can be fun and believe me we do engage from time to time. Most days we just take a break and make a great lunch. We do spend more on higher quality meats and veggies that aren’t processed or packaged for convenience. We customize our lunches with our dietary preferences. My preferenece would be Keto-ish and his, well Texan-ish, might be the descriptive I would use. Coffee. We grind it and we press it, a few times a day! Estimated Savings $1040 per year.
- Workplace Wardrobe. – Say no more, this is where comfortable tops the list. Your savings could be even higher in this category if your fashionista tendencies rule your normal office attire. Estimated Savings $925 per year.
Another place of significant savings that was not included in the study is that of location by design. Getting to chose where you live is a real blessing of remote work. In our case we choose a less expensive and less dense rural area that is only a half hour from a well appointed town. The takeaway? We feel like we are on retreat every time we look out the window.
The “Way Back.”
Many small communities who have lost workers and young people to urban centers are finding ways to bring people back with all sorts of incentives for both employers who can create remote jobs and for employees or entrepreunuers who might be attracted by tax breaks or startup grants. Check with your state to see what’s being offered.
In Colorado there is a new program that serves up cash incentives to those companies that create jobs for telecommuters who live in less affluent and less populated counties. This may prove to be a wonderful way to interject some life back into small towns and provide affordable housing for workers.
The “Driven” Consumer.
I would like to add that less driving has also impacted our “casual spending” We humans are of the visual sort and there is no doubt that driving by a large chain box store can revive a vague longing for something we thought we needed (?). We have to admit we get a little urge to grab a coffee every time we drive by our favorite cafe.
Now when we get into town we are still prey to these influences (and yes, we do want to support our favorite local businesses) but now planned trips might be once weekly as opposed to every day. This one trip is so full of “must do’s” that “want to do’s” fly out the window. Overall less driving seems to equal less unnecessary acquisitions which keeps more money in our pockets (and less plastic floating around in the environment.)
4. Real Planetary Impact
According to an article by Kelly Strain for PGI, a part-time telework policy could make a sizeable impact on our shared planet.
In citing this 2019 research by Global Workplace Analytics Strain notes that ” if everyone with the ability and desire to work remotely did so just 50% of the time, the greenhouse gas reduction would be the equivalent of taking the entire New York State workforce permanently off the road.”
The article substantiates this by saying that 29% of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector. Strain also says that reversely, “if existing telecommuters started driving to work right now, we’d have to plant 91 million trees to offset the resulting emissions.
Consequently less people on the road should positively affect the amount of convenience food packaging. that ends up on the roadside and in the landfills.
5. Shared Experiences
Granted not all people who telecommute live with others. For those of us who do, whether it be with a partner or a child, aging parent, friend or relative there is an opportunity at hand for deepening the relationship through more shared experiences.
As a young girl I remember little about my father except that he was absent the majority of the time.
Dad’s work was a mystery to me and even occasional visits to his fancy high rise office downtown provided little in the way of clues as to what he actually did in his time away from our family.
In contrast my husband has weekly online meetings with a fellow worker who has multiple children. As I am typing away at my station I can hear wafts of piano music and tiny voices in the background. There is an occasional question that must be answered and then the activity commences. That home is thousands of miles away from ours but I can feel a sense of family unity and harmony that is visceral to my being.
The Great “Equalizer”
I have been in online meetings where a mom will be nursing and taking notes, a father will be proudly bouncing a toddler on his knee or a beloved dog will tear across the meeting backdrop. A scream, some tears and an occasional meltdown could also be expected as part of the agenda.
These small intimate moments give us insights into the shared and collective humanity of our teams and employers. This real life stuff can bind us together. Co-workers, employees and clients suddenly become more rounded and multi dimensional.
The “Work” that Binds
Through this new interconnected paradigm my husband has been able to initiate a work project with his daughter who lives in Idaho. This tele-family collaboration is rich and so fulfilling for both of them as they stretch their relationship into an entirely new context.
As for Danny and I we get to share our work life highs and lows in real time. ( I have been known to break into a techno fueled happy dance over a particular win or problem solved ). As a couple we know each other’s worlds, clients’ and collaborators’ and this adds texture and depth to our shared conversations and understandings of one another.
It isn’t all smooth sailing but when we do lock horns we tend to address it and find solutions quickly as we are aware of the mood of our combined shared space. We are also aware of how this kind of “togetherness” has grown us in our ability to communicate and navigate in an expanded and satisfying model of marriage.
The “Touch” Factor
This daily shared experience is a richness my parents never experienced. And ultimately my father’s work initiated extramarital affair ended his 25 year marriage with my mom. Who is to say this separation of their individual worlds was the cause, but who is to say that it wasn’t?
Today on March 20th, 2020 we are swimming about in the uncertain longterm impacts of “holing up” at home. In Colorado, the Nation and the World we are experiencing mandates that require full or part time telecommuting as part of the new “normal.” It’s our sincere intention to point out that a perceived loss could be an actual gain across so many areas of our lives.
We are not ignoring the pitfalls or concerns that accompany this kind of lifestyle overhaul. Rather we are staying in the possibilities of a potential societal reform that could have major impacts on the wellbeing of workers, their family structures and the Planet Earth.
Recent events are fostering amazing creativity on the parts of many of our friends and members of the community at large. Just today we talked to one friend who has taken her piano lessons completely online and most retail businesses near us are offering online ordering and “curbside” delivery rather than shutting down their brick and mortar locations. This is changing day to day as the definition of “necessary worker” becomes the boundary line by which we may gather in certain states. Even so, we see human ingenuity finding ways to navigate these ever changing roadblocks.
We are poised on the precipice of untamed possibility when it come to helping life and work co-exist in a seamless and more satisfying way.
For those of you who have experience or thoughts on telecommuting or remote working we would love to hear what you have discovered. !
Our combined voices may be truly inspiring to those who are experiencing upheaval and change in their work life at this time. The perks we have experienced as telecommuters have enhanced our life so much that we would be hard pressed to give them up under any circumstances.
If you would like more info on living, loving and yes, working in Colorado, you can learn more at Western Life Real Estate. We would love to introduce you to our special part of the world ! Who knows, you may find a new home base here for your telecommuting endeavors.
If you like what you’ve found on these pages, let us know. We’ll be sharing more soon.