Ten benefits of working from home

Gabrielle Lis

Whether you're a full time remote worker, recovering from injury or illness, or practising social distancing during a pandemic, understanding the benefits of working from home can help you accentuate the positives of a stint in the home office.

1.It's more flexible.

A lot of the items on this list are linked in some way to the increased flexiblity afforded by working from home. There's flexibility in terms of when you work, how you work, what you wear, how you structure your day... Some people chaff under the rigid routines of a 9-5 workday, and they're likely to feel happier and more empowered when they have more say over their working hours and conditions. Injured workers specifically will probably find it easier to incorporate rest and rehabilitation (e.g. stretching, physio prescribed exercises, meditation etc) into their day while working from home. Those of us who have competing responsibilities (e.g. housework and childcare on top of paid work) can usually do so more smoothly while working from home, e.g. slow cookers for the win! The flexibility of remote work can be a huge advantage.

2. You gain time (and lose the hassles of commuting).

It takes a lot less time and energy to walk across the lounge room to your designated work-zone than to wrangle with public transport and traffic jams. Obviously this varies depending on where you live and work, but for most people there are simply more hours in the day to work, rest and play if you skip the commute. This can create a feeling of freedom and ease: really valuable for people who are recovering from injury.

One RTWMatters team member who works from home said: "I love the extra time I have in my day. I use the ‘non-commute’ time to go for a walk and/or talk to someone. This helps me stay connected with the wider world and avoid cabin fever."

3. Freedom from scrutiny.

It's not uncommon for injured workers to feel judged and scrutinised when they return to work. A RTW Coordinator might say all the right things to an injured worker - "Take breaks when you need them," "Go home early if you're feeing tired," - but co-workers won't necessarily be so supportive. Some injured workers will respond to scrutiny by pushing themselves beyond their current capacity, risking re-injury. Others might feel like they need to demonstrate how injured they are, adopting "sickness behaviours". Both reactions can delay recovery. At home, there are fewer (if any) observers, liberating injured workers to do what they need to support recovery.

4. I heart my home office.

Some (not all, but some) people who work from home will be able to put together a work space that really works for them. (Others will have to dodge toys, children and laundry baskets, but that's another story.) Ideally, remote workers can decorate as they choose, remove distractions as they choose, set things up in a way that promotes their own unique brand of productivity. This can be a huge boon for injured workers, who might have physical and emotional needs that are difficult to accomodate in the greater workplace.

5. Challenging workplace relationships are less in your face.

Whether it's your garden variety co-worker irritation or something more serious, taking a break from challenging workplace relationships can be an important part of recovery. Some injured workers will believe co-workers contributed to or caused their injury. Others will be less able to cope with normal frustrations, because they're too busy coping with mental or physical ill-health. Time away from interpersonal stress can bring new perspectives, or provide an opportunity for intervention in a fraught situation. 

6. Remote work just suits some people.

Some of us are bring Kimmi Schmidt levels of enthusiasm to workplace interactions; others are more Bernard from Black Books. Less extroverted people might thrive while working remotely, especially if they are also self-disciplined and organised. (So...don't be too inspired by Bernard, is what we're saying.)

7. Working from home can boost productivity.

Yep, you read that right. Recent research from Stanford University showed that remote workers were significantly more productive than those tied to the office. This is because "work-from-home employees work a true full-shift (or more) versus being late to the office or leaving early multiple times a week and found it less distracting and easier to concentrate at home." (The research was conducted in China, and it's possible that cultural differences lead workers to treat remote work differently in that country. But still; the possibility is there.)  

8. Working from home reduces sick leave and promotes worker retention.

The same Stanford University research found that "employee attrition decreased by 50 percent among the telecommuters, they took shorter breaks, had fewer sick days, and took less time off". Swedish researchers have also looked at the relationship between flexibility and sick leave, and found that employees from workplaces where flexibility was not available were 1.5 times more likely to take sick leave. It makes sense: with flexible work, there are less barriers to attending work each day. Lowering the barriers to work attendence may be especially important for injured workers. 

9. Trust.

The principle of trust underlies remote work in a number of ways. Employers demonstrate that they trust workers to get the job done even without the surveillance and prosocial pressures of workplace dynamics. Employers also demonstrate that they are trustworthy in turn by being receptive to the needs of workers. Trust breeds satisfaction breeds loyalty - probably another contributor to the increased retention mentioned above.

10. Working from home is a challenge that can promote personal growth.

We're not going to lie: as well as all these advantages, there are challenges to working from home. (More on that here.) But - without getting too Kimmi Schmidt on you all - challenges are what makes us grow. Working from home requires self-reliance and self-motivation. Learning to meet the challenges of remote work is a way of building resilience, resourcefulness and self-confidence. These things don't come naturally to everyone, but workplaces can support remote workers to develop the necessary skills. We tell you how here.