CEO & Founder of Jody Michael Associates, a company that specializes in executive coaching, leadership development and career coaching.
While employers try to figure out return-to-work strategies, workers are getting more and more comfortable at home. LiveCareer, an online resume and job search service, recently surveyed 1,000 workers in the United States and found that the two groups could be on a collision course: Although 61% of workers say they want their company to let them work remotely indefinitely, 79% say their company plans to return to onsite work eventually. And if faced with the option of not being allowed to work remotely, 29% of workers say they would quit their job.
One of the biggest benefits of telecommuting is time savings. Most workers surveyed (66%) save somewhere between seven and 30 days a year by not having to deal with a commute. But is that extra time actually being put to good use?
The survey delves into how that extra time is being spent by workers:
• 84% are spending more time with family or friends.
• 78% are getting more sleep.
• 77% are undertaking more recreational activities.
• 70% are learning new skills and competencies.
• 60% are embarking on self-improvement, training or education.
I’ve witnessed many of my executive coaching clients also using this extra time in positive ways and wanted to share a few additional ideas for making the most of this time:
1. Schedule “me time.”
Your individual me time can be anything that allows you to enjoy a pause in life. For one of my clients, it’s simply spending 20 minutes in the morning alone with a cup of coffee after she gets the kids off to school.
2. Be efficient.
There’s a more flexible time allocation with remote work. Other clients will schedule 15-minute breaks between Zoom meetings so that they can load the dishwasher, start a meal in the slow cooker, put in a load of laundry or focus on a quick organizational project.
One of my clients tackles bigger projects by blocking out multiple 10- or 15-minute blocks of time over a period of several days or weeks. The result is her big, laborious weekend projects are getting done effortlessly! Making time to get these small and big tasks done throughout the day helps you keep your personal life on track during the workday so you don’t feel as overwhelmed during your off hours and weekends.
3. Use savings wisely.
Another major benefit of remote work is financial savings. LiveCareer’s survey revealed that the average person saves $4,000 a year by working remotely. Many people are no longer buying that expensive latte, spending money on new business attire or eating lunch out.
One of my clients is using her savings to pay for a personal assistant who is helping with errands like grocery shopping and small chores around the house. This gives her back more time to spend with her family and is well worth the extra expense that is now, with the commute savings, covered.
4. Get moving.
More people are using their time to get in better shape, which in turn improves their mood and mental health. The survey found that the vast majority of workers (60%) are working out more now that they are working remotely.
One of my clients has lost 25 pounds since he took the initiative to walk during all meetings that do not require him to be on video conference. He schedules these brainstorming or informational meetings in the mornings, puts in his earphones and hits the pavement averaging more than 10,000 steps by lunchtime. He takes a quick shower and has all of his video meetings in the afternoon. The results are powerful: He feels better, he has a positive outlook on life, he’s sleeping well and he’s building positive mental and physical health while still working.
5. Redefine productivity.
While working from home has been a blessing for many, there are others who simply couldn’t be effective while working at the kitchen table. One of my clients recognized this about herself and rented a room in a nearby co-working space. She set up a serene little office that is literally a half block from where she lives. When she has a break, she’s able to run home. This was a creative and inexpensive way for her to separate her work life from her personal life. Without someone looking over their shoulder or micro-managing how they are working, people are seeing the mental health benefits of having autonomy and getting creative about how they complete work on their own terms.
6. Seek out a change of scenery.
Remote work also allows some freedom to travel and still work. Based on the survey’s findings, 49% of employees traveled to a different city or country to work remotely in the last year. And many people ended up leaving expensive urban areas for a slower-paced lifestyle in smaller towns.
This rang true for me, as my partner and I bought our second house in Palm Springs, California, during the pandemic. I was amazed at how different life there was! The pace was slower. Traffic was non-existent, with parking abundant and free. And everything I needed was within a 10-minute drive. As a result, I noticed that I drove slower, read more books and took more walks. I could literally feel the stress of big city life leaving me, even though I worked the entire time during my stay. Thanks to my beautiful environment, a pool that beckoned me and the slower pace, it honestly felt like I was always on an extended vacation.
I’ve been delighted to see so many people finding small ways to prioritize self-care and well-being in small spurts. Given that most of us tend to prioritize ourselves last, behind family and career, this emerging trend of micro-self-care and well-being is providing a nice return for our overall mental health.