DOES FLEXIBLE WORKING MAKE US HAPPIER?
If we’ve learned anything from the challenges of the past couple of years, it’s that many of us enjoy flexible work arrangements and the autonomy it brings. But how does it impact our health?
The benefits of working from home and wide appeal of flexible work hours, a shorter commute and greater independence means more and more employees are breaking free from full-time work in an office space.
In August 2021, the Australia Bureau of Statistics found that 41% of employed Aussies regularly worked from home, up from 32% in 2019. From 2015-19, the most common reason people worked from home was to catch up on work, while in 2021, 22% of Aussies chose to work from home for the flexibility it offered.
Australians are so keen to see their office 9-to-5 routine change that 50% of employees say they’d be willing to take a pay cut to get it, according to a McCrindle Research survey.
Working remotely: Taking charge of your workday
Why are some of us willing to sacrifice our salary for flexibility? Psychologist Sue Langley, an expert in positive psychology in the workplace, says it’s about having more autonomy.
Those who still have a boss but have the freedom to work from home are experiencing job satisfaction too. One report released in April 2020 revealed that 78% of Aussie office workers believe remote working is likely to become the new normal once the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The survey found that Aussie workers think the greatest advantage of working remotely is the fact they can make use of the time they’d otherwise spend commuting.
Almost half (49%) said they use this reclaimed commuting time to be more productive, while 38% said they use it to spend more time with their family or on leisure activities. And 36% of office workers also said not having to do the daily commute resulted in less stress during the work day, with the lack of traffic jams and overcrowded or delayed trains.
Connecting with others when you work from home
As great as the benefits are, there can be downsides to this new way of working – most stem from working alone or not feeling completely part of a team.
Entrepreneur and business coach Jane Copeland, who ran her digital marketing business from home for many years says it’s important to know upfront how lonely it can be.
“Working from home brings isolation. We can connect with people online but there’s not a lot of human interaction – that’s a big downside,” she says.
To feel part of a team, Jane suggests starting a group to connect with like-minded people.
It’s a common cycle, says Jane. “Think about it as a sprint where you’re working hard for a certain period. You put all your energy into it, but then you do really need to recharge.”
Nutritionist and psychologist Jayta Szpitalak agrees: “Binging on work, like binging on food, can be highly stressful for your body and mind. The need for regular exercise and healthy food is highly important for your body to re-energise, and taking time out for your mind to relax will allow you to concentrate better.”
Here’s how to master work–life balance when you’re working from home:
- Get ready for work the same way you’d get ready for a day in the office – this helps you set your intentions for the day ahead.
- Create your own workday structure and stick to it. Create a routine and rituals for your day – coffee breaks at a certain time and scheduled lunchtime exercise for example, so that wherever you are it feels familiar.
- Have separate areas designated for work and play, so you can remain focused on the tasks at hand.
- Factor in regular exercise, even if it’s a quick walk outside. Add it to your diary as you would any other meeting.
- Schedule mini-holidays or local weekend getaways throughout the year.
Health Agenda magazine
Updated February 2022
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