In part 1 I began discussing the motivations behind WFH, starting with saving time and gaining flexibility. Those two life enhancements alone are significant. However, WFH provides so much more! In part 2 I’ll cover the remaining major WFH advantages.
Control Over Your Environment
If the 2020’s have taught us anything, it’s that we truly have a global society. The world is big and we feel the effects of awful things that happen near and far.
Here’s just a few of the challenges of the 2020s so far:
- COVID-19 outbreak resulted in millions of deaths and economic decline
- Post-COVID long term health effects and increased mental health issues
- Most “named storms” on record in 2020
- Unprecedented wildfires
- Record heat with Death Valley at 130°F and Siberia hitting 100°F
- Protests over police use of excessive force
- Attempts to overturn U.S. election
- Taliban take over Afghanistan
- War in Ukraine and civil war in Ethiopia
- Continuing Immigration crisis
- Murder hornets
- 40-year high inflation rates
- Supply chain disruptions cause shortages in everyday goods
- Global decline of democracy
- Gas prices more than doubling in 2 years
- Record level gun-related deaths and sharp increase of active shooter incidents
This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the point. It can sometimes feel like the whole world is crumbling around us. If you’re lucky and have so far avoided death, poverty, and severe mental illness, you want to keep it that way. WFH can be your sanctuary.
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WFH to Avoid Illnesses Like COVID-19
I can’t say that working from home can solve all of these problems, but it can mitigate some of them. The easiest win, and the reason WFH took off in 2020, is to avoid deadly viruses like SARS-CoV-2. Most of us know someone who has died or has gotten severely ill from it. Even some of the biggest skeptics have worn masks and been vaccinated against it. We stayed home and kept our kids at home from school. Some of us had very little contact with others, putting our mental health at risk. It was hard, and it still is for some people.
It changed the way we work almost overnight. Businesses were forced to take measures to avoid exposing their workforce to the virus. Some companies failed miserably, and were complicit in spreading the virus to their employees in workplaces across the country.
We need to know we’re not going to die from going to work. If this sounds ridiculous, watch Radium Girls on Amazon Prime, a show about women who work directly with the radioactive element radium, not knowing that the radiation was poisoning them. The company they worked for knew about it, and tried to keep it under wraps.
The pattern of businesses exploiting workers, and not caring for their health, is NOT a thing of the past! It still happens today, and it will continue to happen.
Even if your workplace isn’t giving you terminal cancer, it can still be bad for your health in other ways. Harassment, lack of breaks, lack of time off for emergencies, no flexibility for health conditions, and no paid parental leave, are all common in the U.S. In fact, in the United States, we generally work longer hours than most countries, and have no laws requiring vacation time or parental leave.
You might think that poor working conditions and exploitation is a thing of the past and that our laws are now protecting us all from abuse. For some workers, that just isn't reality. Here are some recent and common examples:
- Garment workers paid less than minimum wage in sweatshop-like environment
- Modern-day slavery in South Georgia
- Disregard for injuries in factory workplace
- Overwhelmed health-care workers get PTSD, or become suicidal
- 1 in 4 people quit their jobs in 2021, feeling they are treated poorly
- Big companies are battling against unions
You can also read countless stories straight from your average Americans on r/antiwork about their work problems great and small from being bitten by a dog, to being screamed at with racist insults. There is no shortage of nonsense and cruelty in the American workplace.
We have a lot of fellow Americans making wages that aren’t livable, working long hours, in less than ideal conditions, who watch the daily news filled with death, disaster, and financial ruin. This is a recipe for stress, physical and mental illness, and desperate action.
The Great Resignation, a trend of workers quitting their jobs, is further proof that some people are just done. But others still are fighting for fairness, sometimes winning small battles, sometimes losing big ones. All of it seems pretty sick in light of the world’s richest billionaires more than doubling their wealth, and the CEO to average worker pay is somewhere between 670 to 1 and 1000 to 1 (depending on your sources).
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Can WFH Solve All Our Problems?
Well, unfortunately, not everyone is able to WFH, and I’ll be honest, probably not everyone should. But for those who can and want to WFH, it can make a huge difference.
You decide what’s around you. You’re in control of your environment.
There is no end to the problems created when you put a lot of different people in the same space. Here are some of the environmental problems WFH can potentially solve, either completely or partially:
- Encounters with rude or nosy coworkers
- Office gossip and judgment
- Harassment and discrimination
- Noise or air pollution
- Wearing masks
- Uncomfortable dress code
- Bad smells (coworkers or office)
- Slow internet with over-zealous filters
- Power outages
- Fire drills and bomb threats
- Active shooting incidents
- Traffic stress
- Virus and disease spreading
- Loud noises
- Dangerous working conditions
You might be able to think of more, but the key here is control. You create the best place for you.
You can be safe.
You can be comfortable.
You can be happy at work.
None of that is a guarantee unless you take charge, and you can start by WFH!
Employers have proven repeatedly that they aren’t interested in what works for you. They are only starting to realize what even makes an employee happy. Microsoft, for example, conducted some research and discovered what makes their employees happy. We knew it all along, and the answer is to just give employees some freedom, treat them like adults, and let them work.
That’s it. Stop forcing all the extra nonsense meetings, emails, and red tape. Let people do their jobs.
Note: This is assuming your workplace is already physically safe and non-threatening. Dealing with a more extreme, toxic work environment likely wasn’t part of that study. Bad workplaces come in a range of awfulness. In the extreme, you might be fearing for your life, health, and potentially damaging your body or mind permanently. More commonly, a workplace might just have suffocating policies and an uncomfortable environment.
But will they really let us do our jobs? Real change takes a long time, and sometimes boils down to waiting for the older generation to retire.
Instead of waiting for it, find employment that allows you to WFH. Let’s continue to show the world how effective we are and how our happiness is in their best interest. They will eventually get it. Today’s WFH dream can be tomorrow’s norm.
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Stress and Money Savings
Like Thanos, stress is inevitable. But when you work in an office you encounter stressors that you won’t find at home.
Money is a huge stress factor. Worrying about money is, in fact, one of the greatest sources of stress in America. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), stress can lead to chronic health problems such as diabetes and heart disease.
In America in 2020, four of the leading causes of death were:
- Heart disease: 696,962
- COVID-19: 350,831
- Diabetes: 102,188
- Influenza and pneumonia: 53,544
Now let’s put two and two together. When you’re worried about things like how much you pay to gas up and maintain your car, and you go to the office and encounter one of the many possible stressful situations that can happen there, you are risking an early death.
Traffic, loud coworkers, funny smells, uncomfortable room temperatures, annoying questions, constant disrespect, narcissists, pointless meetings… need I go on?
Reducing stress is one of the best benefits of WFH. It won’t all go away, but so much of it can be mitigated. First, you can save quite a bit of money, thus reducing money-related stress. Check out this WFH money savings calculator to see what you can save. Flexjobs.com claims that you can save up to $12,000 per year by WFH.
Most of the money savings comes from not commuting, eating out less, and spending less on office attire.
Another money saving method that became popular in the past couple of years is to move to a place with a cheaper cost of living, since WFH makes that possible. Get a high paying job in a big city, and then move a few hours away into a rural area. This may not always work out because some employers will reduce your pay based on where you live.
Stress comes from many other sources, and finding ways to reduce it can be difficult and not particular to WFH. However, having better control over your environment by WFH can enable you to take action. That could mean moving to another location, an excellent WFH perk allowed by not having the necessity to live close to an office building.
The ability to move while retaining the same job is quite a perk. You can now avoid high traffic areas if that stresses you out, or even locations with high amounts of allergens in the air if you have children with asthma. Some people may even be able to escape poor living conditions caused by wars, politics, natural disasters, etc.
"#WFH Work From Home: Everyday Reflections on COVID-19 and The Remote Workplace" is a WFH book for further and deeper reading about WFH benefits and challenges through accounts of working professionals during the 2020 pandemic.
Having control of your environment allows you to make it less stressful. You can make your home office relaxing and cozy. You can wear comfortable clothes and listen to music. Put some plants around you, open your windows, take a walk with your dog, do what makes you happy!
You might not have the self-discipline at first to break from bad habits and create this optimal space for yourself, but the point is that you can. Nobody will stop you. It can be a beautiful thing to set up your home office, exactly how you like it, and tailor it to your every single preference.
You can balance your life, you can develop good habits with no one to blame but yourself for not achieving your goals.
WFH to avoid diseases and stress. Save money and use the savings of time and money to generate more money. Wealthy and successful people are protective of their time and make their money work for them, and WFH can be a conducive environment for you to move in that direction.