Up at 5AM: The 5AM Solutions Blog

Lose the Commute, Gain Improved Quality of Life and Work

Posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 @ 01:23 PM

As telecommuting has grown in popularity across many industries, working from home is something that many of us 5AMers do at least part of the time. It sounds just about perfect: Work somewhat flexible hours, wherever you want, wearing what you want, and listening to whatever you want. Plus, the rush hour commute from my bedroom to my office could make anyone jealous! These "occupational hazards" of the telecommuter might sound lighthearted, but in all reality, they can (and do) make a huge impact on the economy, the environment, and individual worker productivity. Last April, Inc.com published an article on telecommuting statistics with some impressive numbers as reported by the Telework Research Network. Some highlights of the estimated benefits of working from home - if 40% of our workforce were to telecommute at least half of the time during a one year period - included:
  • $200 Billion
 in productivity gains by American companies
  • $190 Billion
 savings from reduced real estate expenses, electricity bills, absenteeism, and employee turnover
  • 100 hours 
per person not spent commuting
  • 50 Million tons
 of greenhouse gas emissions cut
  • 276 Million barrels 
of oil saved - Roughly 32% of oil imports from the Middle East
  • 1,500 lives
 not lost in car accidents
  • $700 Billion 
total estimated savings to American businesses
Not mentioned in the list is another figure: Approximately 80% of diseases are shown in some studies to be triggered by stress. 80%. Granted, working from home is work like any other, and is not without unique challenges, but eliminating the commute itself, commuting expenses, forced encounters with unpleasant coworkers (ha! in fact where improptu collaboration and inspiration arises), and separation issues with children or other family members requiring care surely help temper the stress level of the telecommuter. Aside from that, not dining out for lunch, keeping time that would have been lost on the road (allowing for more meals cooked in the home) and not going to after work happy hours, in theory, all cut down on the potential for additional unhealthy choices.

Over the time that I have spent telecommuting, I have come to realize that working from home, with all the flexibility and relative lack of occupational stress could potentially relax some individuals too much. It is very easy to sit at the desk in your home office, or at the kitchen table, and work in a pair of sweats or PJs all day. By dinner time, going to the gym (or anywhere else) can start to sound like a true inconvenience. Plus, there is always something else that needs to be worked on - and the home office is never truly closed. So to some degree, working from home can foster the feeling that your work is never done. Not having the black and white structure of 8am to 5pm can mean that the telecommuter workday might end up being 9am until 10pm, or even 10am until midnight. If you are not self-aware, the line between home and office blurs, and personal time and work time blend together. This can be a serious challenge.

I have heard about this problem from many peers, and the identified solution is often the same: Structure and self-discipline. At 5AM, we believe that we are privileged to be a critical part of an industry that has the capacity to change the human condition for the better. Two of our mantras are “Be Good” and “Do Well.” These simple yet multi-dimensional messages don’t just pertain to our business skills and ethics, but are also relevant on a personal level. I want to benefit the human condition through my research, projects, and work. But I also want to "Be Good" and "Do Well" for myself, too. I have come to realize that working from home doesn’t have to lead to a sedentary, unhealthy lifestyle without work-life boundaries. To the contrary, by design it allows for more potential hours in the day to be a healthier, happier person - and a more productive and creative employee. The key is in exercising that potential. I have recently dedicated myself to the task of applying some of those estimated 100 hours saved by not commuting to some early morning gym classes. I will be starting my days earlier, and adding a healthy amount of structure, so that I will feel more energized and can optimize my productivity across the board (...and maybe even have an official end of the day once in a while).


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