Why working remotely works

26th Jun, 04:29

Over the past half a century, women’s work has undergone a seismic revolution. Yet the way men work remains stuck in the 1950s—and it's leading to depression, burnout, poor health and family breakdown.

As the coronavirus upends our assumptions about how work works, here's what we hope to see more of in the post-pandemic world.

What is working remotely?

Remote work does what it says on the tin. It's about taking advantage of the digital technologies at our fingertips to do our work away from the office—occasionally, regularly or full-time.

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Why work from home?

There's a lot of tantalising evidence for the benefit of working remotely—research generally shows that people are both happier and more productive when working from home—but from a men's health perspective, one of the main draws is the elimination of the commute.

In a recent survey, men reported spending four-and-a-half hours per week commuting to work, while one quarter of men spend more time commuting than they do with their children.

It's perhaps unsurprising that this puts strain on relationships: a Swedish study found that men who commuted more than 45 minutes are 40 per cent more likely to divorce.

Why the hold-up?

The promise of remote work has been dangled in front of us since the internet first went mainstream, but apart from some notable (and often short-lived) experiments, it's remained a largely fringe pursuit, especially for men.

Yet the sheer fact of having to be at work for an average of 45 hours a week (not including commute) means men are proportionately less able to exercise, contribute domestically, or even relax—with negative consequences for their physical and mental health, as well as their family and relationships.

How can we fix it?

Perhaps no other issue has gained such instant traction during the coronavirus crisis as remote work. Pretty much overnight, millions of employees were sent home from their offices to try and work out how to continue doing their jobs from a distance.

But now that we’re slowly emerging from our hideaways, are we all just going to head straight back to the office? Or could this be a Pandora’s box moment for the way we work?

A survey of company CFOs in America revealed that 74 per cent of them expected at least some of their workforce to continue working from home once the pandemic was over.

This will be welcome news to their employees: a recent Gallup poll showed that 60 per cent of people wanted to continue working from home as much as possible once the restrictions were lifted.

Who does it well?

Unsurprisingly, startups are leading the way when it comes to remote work.

Without the baggage of decades of corporate culture behind them, they're able to recognise that good work can be done in places that aren't an office cubicle.

Scratch, an Australian sustainable dog food startup, is emblematic of this shift—they have a co-working space that employees are welcome to use if they want a place to work or collaborate, but everything else can be done remotely.

Their justification: they want their employees to be judged on the work they produce, not how long they're in the office.

Also, it gives you more time to walk your dog.

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