Over the holidays this year I came down with a cold that lead me to lose my voice and some beauty sleep. Whilst for my fiancé the loss of my voice was a blessed relief, my enforced period of silence had me reflecting on how I got ill. We happen to live a couple of hours away from both sets of our parents who are in different directions for each other. Over the Christmas and New Year period we try to see everyone which involves heading to one set of parents for 4 or so days over Christmas and then to the other family over New Years.
I love seeing everyone, I truly do, however, every year I can guarantee my fiancé will catch something, and 50% of the time I will too. Bringing people together from different parts of the country will inevitably lead to some intermingling of bugs and germs that will ensure someone gets sick. Remote work is currently in the headlines as people are being asked to avoid spreading the COVID-19 virus, and its seems more people are starting to wake up to the many health benefits of working from home and working remotely.
No Germs in My Office
One of the benefits I have found from working remotely, and in particular from home is that I am far healthier overall than I ever was when commuting. For a start, I am not being shoved onto a metal tube with hundreds of people sharing their germs regularly, nor do I sit in an office with air conditioning that is also helping to cycle the germs around the building. My incidence of illness is a lot lower because of the reduced likelihood of me coming into contact with a an illness.
I will admit, I am perhaps more overly cautious than most when it comes to germs, if I am out and about I regularly use hand sanitiser, a habit I picked up after caring for someone going through chemotherapy. Even so, working remotely provides a level of protection from many illnesses and bugs just through virtue of isolation.
In the UK, the average worker spends nearly an hour commuting, a practice which has been shown to lead to increased stress. Remote workers, and in particular those working from home or locally have far reduced stress from commuting, which in turn benefits your immune system. Stress increases the production of cortisol within the body, a hormone that reduces the effectiveness of your immune system. Working remotely and reducing the stress of the commute is therefore a double whammy; a better functioning immune system and less opportunity to catch germs.
A 2018 survey of remote workers also found that 77% of those surveyed said remote and flexible working allowed them to be healthier (eat better, exercise more, etc.). Again, it doesn’t take a medical degree to realise that living a healthier life in general will also reduce your risk of illness and improve your immune system’s strength.
Healthier and Happier
So if you are already working remotely, great! You should already be less stressed than your commuting colleagues and friends. I would also encourage you to look at how else you can be using your flexibility to be healthier – whether the is cooking better meals or taking a walk.
For those who are trying to convince their company to let them work from home or remotely, show them those linked studies. Show them to the HR department. A happier and healthier workforce is a big benefit to any employer.
What is your experience with working remotely and your health – both physical and mental? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @remoteworkin.