I am fortunate enough to be someone who benefited enormously from the shift to remote work that came from the COVID19 pandemic.
I had always found commuting to be a challenge for both my mental and physical health. When I worked for Mind, I commuted 4.5 hours a day from Brighton to East London. It was so exhausting that I was relieved to eventually move to London, only to find that the tubes are too packed in the morning to board, so I traded my long train journeys for a gruelling and hazardous cycle through central London each day.
When the pandemic hit and everyone who could was required to work from home, I was initially worried that mixing my work and home environments would be lonely and difficult to switch off from, but I soon found the benefits outweighed the downsides so significantly that the transition eventually began to feel absolutely life-changing.
Suddenly it was 5pm and I was already home. I could say yes to things I’d previously considered to be for people without jobs. I became more community orientated. I could stay out later in the evenings without fear of the early alarm. I could wake up to natural light and casually sip coffee while I checked my morning Slack messages from a desk at the end of my bed.
Eventually I also became aware of the financial benefits too. As the months rolled by, I noticed my bank account looking significantly healthier than usual. I was awake for fewer hours and the physical demands on my mind and body were reduced, so the recommended three meals a day which I’d always found weren’t enough to get me through suddenly made sense. Coffee was now something I could enjoy for pennies rather than pounds and exercise was a safe lunchtime run rather than a pricey after hours gym membership.
Throughout the pandemic, I noticed business leaders fearing the trend to working from home would lead to a decline in productivity for employees. I was surprised by this as I found the very opposite to be true – I was more productive than ever and finally enjoying my working days. Rather than battling through the constant distractions and piecing together a functional work station each morning, I suddenly had instant access to a peaceful, comfortable and productive work environment from home. Collaboration with colleagues had never been easier as the time-wasting palaver of looking for private space and usable stationary had become a thing of the past. Co-working was now an effective and fully digital experience, a simple click away.
Since the threat of COVID19 has gradually reduced, the ‘return to work’ discussion is beginning to emerge, with many companies expecting employees to return to the office at least a couple of days a week. For me though, there’s no going back to that life now I know how positive and productive the alternative can be.