Watching Silicon Valley giants race to create bigger and better headquarters is stressful to me for two reasons:
- I know that I’ll probably never in my life work anywhere that nice.
- I don’t really get it.
No, seriously, hear me out. These mega-companies are constantly competing to offer better amenities for their thousands of employees: Everything from in-house chefs to nap rooms and fitness centers is being thrown at new hires. It’s no secret that many of these companies sort of want their workers to live at work. Facebook, for example, pays employees $10,000 to move closer to Menlo Park.
But, here’s a silly question: Why not save billions of dollars and just let more workers work from home? That change costs absolutely nothing (as opposed to Apple’s new one-ring-like headquarters, which comes with a hefty $5 billion price tag.)
Why everyone should work from home
I’ve been working from home to some degree for about three years now, and about 1.5 years “full-time.” Quite frankly, I couldn’t be happier. I honestly don’t want to go back to working in an office ever again. And, yes, I know I’m young -- so what do I know? But my uncle has been working from home for Oracle for about 20 years. Guess what? He still gets his bonuses.
In 2015, the average worker telecommuted only two days per month. This should go up. Just a few more days each month could make a big difference to your quality of life. Here are three reasons you should consider working from home more often if you can manage it:
1. You’ll be more productive.
Worker satisfaction surveys have shown time and again that remote workers are not just happier, they’re also more productive compared to their office counterparts.
Harvard Business Review recently profiled Ctrip, a Chinese travel website. The company asked half of its workers to work from home for nine months, while the other half worked in the office. The company's conclusion was that its remote workers were not only happier, they were also less likely to quit and were more productive.
How much more productive? Ctrip’s remote workers completed 13.5 percent more calls than office staff -- amounting to nearly an extra workday each week.
2. You can take more breaks.
On the flip side, working from home means you won’t have to deal with looming managers monitoring your every move. You can take breaks whenever you want, as long as you get your work done.
Studies have shown that taking regular breaks improves overall productivity and creativity and helps you stay on schedule. Not taking breaks, on the other hand, leads to stress and exhaustion.
Ideally, you should take breaks every five-to-90 minutes, for 15-to-20 minutes at a time. That means about an hour’s worth of breaks outside of lunch (on the low end of this range). The chances that you did that today in the office? Zero.
3. You can wake up later.
“Early to bed and early to rise makes a man happy, healthy, and wise.”
I’m sure most of us have questioned this Franklinism (otherwise coffee wouldn’t be necessary). Who among us wouldn’t want to roll out of bed one hour later than we do right now? Being an early bird or a night owl is sort of like being an introvert or an extrovert. To an extent, you’re just born that way. For example, night owls have been shown to:
- Function just as well during the day (because they’ve been forced to adapt their entire lives)
- Remain more mentally alert in the late afternoon and evening than early birds
- Be more creative in general (they often stay up late to have breakthroughs or work through complex problems)
- Score better on general intelligence tests
I’m not saying that there are no advantages to waking up early -- there most certainly are. But if you’re a night owl, try to sleep in a bit more for your own sake. You’ll be more productive, and happier, too.
4. You won’t have to commute.
You don’t need a study to tell you that not wasting time commuting every day is a good thing. But have you ever really thought about the true cost of commuting? Here are some really disheartening stats:
- The average American spends $2,600 a year commuting.
- If your commute is 45 minutes long, you waste 16 days each year commuting. If it’s 90 minutes? A whole month gone, just like that.
- You probably spend 38 hours a year just stuck in traffic.
- Commuting is absolutely awful for your health.
Granted, you can do things while commuting (like listen to a podcast or book or read a paper on the train). But, the sad truth is that by the time you retire, you could have spent over a year of your life just commuting.
Do whatever you can to either shorten your commute or do away with it entirely.
Remote work just makes business sense.
Many employers are afraid that the more workers they let work from home, the more fractured and decentralized their company will become. But this doesn’t have to be the case. Plenty of successful startups are 100 percent remote, and worth billions.
Related: 4 Ways to Manage Remote Employees
So, take charge of your life and stand up for your own health, wellness, and productivity. Ask your employer if you can work just one day more from home each month. If you can swing it, try one day each week. You’ll be surprised at how much happier -- and more productive -- you’ll become.