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How Remote Work Can Influence Your Health

August 1, 2019 No Comments

Featured article by Denis Kryukov, Author at Soshace

In today’s ever-changing world, we’ve adopted many technologies that enhance the way we live and work: we’re staying online more and more, our work assignments are getting ever so relentless, and the line between personal and work lives is getting blurry.

In this environment, many people are turning to remote work to solve their problems: they’re switching from the physical constraints of the offices in favor of designing their workplace themselves. Still, remote work isn’t just about abandoning the office environment; it’s a lifestyle in and of itself which causes a real paradigm shift in the minds of those professionals who’ve tried it.

Remote work is a staple of the tech world and Health and IT are two important spheres that are becoming increasingly interconnected — so it makes sense to ask this question: “Which positive effects can remote work have on my health?” and “Are there any negative effects?” In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of remote work and see if some of its negative effects can be negated.

Benefits

Remote work requires a lot of dedication and flexibility on the professional’s part, but the benefits it can offer are immense — and many of these benefits are related to physical and mental health. Let’s see what these benefits are exactly!

Lower stress levels

Work-associated stress is a problem which often causes burnout and hinders employee retention. One of the major aspects is commute: as reported by The Washington Post, commute time is getting increasingly long. Although podcasts can somewhat help fight the boredom, spending this time with one’s family or doing one’s favorite hobby is much more enjoyable — and office workers don’t hide that.

Remote workers avoid commute completely — they have the freedom to work from home, cafe, or local library. Additionally, the very fact that they have this freedom of choice affects their mental health in a positive way.

Thanks to the latest bio- and medtech improvements introduced by devices like Apple Watch, monitoring stress levels is seamless — apps like Breathe utilize the fact the smartwatches are our loyal companions throughout each day. Apple itself is also constantly improving its Health system, allowing iPhone and Watch users to monitor various aspects of their physiological and psychological well-being.

Eating healthily (or avoiding eating unhealthily)

Grabbing a Starbucks cup is a staple of the office environment routine; coupled with snacks and cafe food, it leads to health damage — unhealthy food and drinks, taken regularly, slowly but surely add up their negative effects. It might be a stereotype, but office workers generally don’t have a lot of free lunchtime on their hands — and cafes are happy to offer their services.

For remote professionals, their local cafe is their kitchen — a CoSo Cloud study claims that 42% of all remote workers eat healthier compared to their office counterparts. Although this isn’t the case for all remote workers, the time saved from avoiding commute can easily be invested in more important activities — healthy cooking, for instance.

Our smartphones play a major role in this case: apps like FatSecret serve as personal dietologists available 24/7. Just 10 years ago, automatically gauging the calorie count of any meal via image recognition would be a sci-fi scenario — nowadays, this is the reality.

Caveats

Still, remote work often poses certain challenges — for some professionals, leaving the office environment can be too stressful. As a remote company helping remote web developers, we know these struggles pretty well — but we also know the solutions to these problems. 

Feeling isolated

For many remote professionals, work-associated stress is magnified by the fact that they barely interact with their coworkers: in a remote environment, in-team communication is usually limited to short daily meetings. This prevents team members from having face-to-face chat with each other.

Although chit-chatting may seem like a huge waste of company’s resources, its importance cannot be overstated: it helps colleagues get to know each other better and build interpersonal relationships. Ultimately, these connections

Unfortunately, many remote professionals feel that they lack the sense of belonging to a “real team” — a group of people who see and interact with each other on a daily basis. For this reason, telecommuting, although technologically advanced, often influences mental health negatively. So how can we fix this?

Our experience as a remote company tells us: team building activities are the answer! They help team members interact with each other in a fun environment, all the while empowering them to grow both individually and as a team. At Soshace, we organize outdoor activities for our Saint-Petersburg-based professionals; we also hold bi-quarterly book clubs.

Audio- and video-conferencing solutions (like Skype, Zoom, or Slack) can actually combat this problem by helping remote team members feel more connected, simply allowing them to talk with other people. Naturally, these apps also come in handy when organizing team building activities for remote teams.

Working productively — and then over-productively 

Remote workers are famous for their productivity: as evidenced by a Stanford University study, they can be 13% more productive than their office peers. Although it’s a great competitive advantage, it can ultimately lead to burnout: while office workers can easily distinguish between personal life and work, their remote counterparts often have trouble doing so. Indeed, when your home becomes your office, is it possible to resist the temptation to work one hour more?

To remedy this, we at Soshace encourage our team members to do careful planning: X hours for a given task. When X hours turn out to be not enough, we discuss how it can be optimized and finished during the next time period. Although this approach may seem “lazy”, we understand that, in the long run, shielding ourselves from burnout is more important.

Ironically enough, the very software designed to boost productivity (e.g. RescueTime) can be used to prevent the harmful effects of over-productivity. That way, the remote worker’s workflow gets slightly updated to match this formula: “Today I will dedicate minimum X hours to this project… but not more than Y hours.”

Conclusion

Remote work is a fascinating topic to uncover: it can influence various spheres and activities, making us rethink the way we work. Naturally, it also influences our physical and mental health. Nevertheless, remote work is the future — and we should adapt to the changes it’s about to bring. 

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