The 7 major benefits of working from home

According to a recent Gallup poll, 43 percent of Americans now work “remotely” (from home) at least once a week. And this option is especially attractive for older, working adults who aren’t ready to retire, but want to lighten the rigor of their schedule and eliminate the wasted hours.

For me personally, I spent much of my career commuting into Washington, D.C., and Philadelphia via train. I often used to run into Joe Biden, who was doing the same thing. But I now enjoy working remotely and find it has several key benefits…

1.) Eating better

It’s often true that when people eat on-the-go or at their workplace cafeteria, they tend to make unhealthy choices—even if there are healthy options available (which is often not the case).

For instance, during my time as a commuter, I could never get a healthy meal on Amtrak. Ironically, the menu on this government-run, long-distance railroad didn’t reflect the government’s own, long-time dietary recommendations. (Sounds like a government that has gotten too big for the left hand to work with the right, if not completely “off the rails!”) Likewise, the cafeteria in most of the hospitals and clinics where I worked shockingly only offered mostly unhealthy foods, with processed ingredients for meals.

Since I started working from home, I eat much healthier foods. In fact, it’s pretty simple to create and stick to a routine…

I shop often during the week, making sure to stick to the outside aisles at the grocery store for fresh, whole foods. Then, all of those healthy, whole foods are readily available in my very own kitchen when I’m hungry throughout the week. And I’m not the only one reaping these rewards…

One recent study showed that 42 percent of people who work from home say they eat healthier than they did in a workplace setting.

2.) Improved sleep

Working from home allows you to get more natural and restful sleep, as you don’t need to get up at some arbitrary time before dawn to engage in a long, draining commute. In fact, 43 percent of people who work remotely say they experience improved sleep since they started working from home. Plus, you can easily take a quick “power nap” at lunch, which has been shown in studies to be highly beneficial for refocusing and recharging, and for your health long-term, as long as it doesn’t exceed 30 to 45 minutes.

3.) Less exposure to germs

You don’t get exposed to germs that run rampant in the office and on public transportation when you work at home. The net result is a benefit to workers and employers alike…

In fact, research shows that a staggering 69 percent of people who work remotely don’t take sick days off. This is likely because even when you’re feeling sick or just “off,” it’s still easier to get some work done at home, than it is to muster the wasted time and energy to go into the office. Saving this energy will also help you to recover faster, and you won’t pass those germs on to co-workers.

4.) More free time to exercise and build relationships

Without a lengthy commute, you’ll have more time on your hands. For me, it added up to at least five extra hours a day, all told!

And all of this extra time means you can get out and do some moderate exercise a few times a week. I suggest walking around the block, swimming, or doing some yard work out in the sunshine, which will activate your body’s production of vitamin D. Just aim for about 2.5 hours moderate exercise per week.

You’ll also have more time to create and manage relationships. Which is important, as a study from Sweden found that when one partner commutes more than 90 minutes per day, there was a 40 percent greater chance of getting a divorce.

5.) Lower stress

Working from home lowers stress levels because you avoid the frustrations of commuting, being exposed directly the fluctuating moods of your boss, and the daily dramas of co-workers. In fact, studies show that 82 percent of people who work from home report a lower stress level compared to working in the office.

Plus, you have more time to reduce your stress naturally at home, by exercising, spending time in Nature, and socializing with friends or family.

Working remotely also grants you greater personal freedom. You can dress the way you like (or not at all), and you have more control over your daily routine and schedule. So, when you put in your hours, you’re more likely to be the most productive, most energized, or most inspired—all of which can help you feel happier on a daily basis and much healthier in the long run.

6.) Allows for other responsibilities

For people who are the primary caregivers for their children or parents, working from home is a great option. It grants them more time and opportunity to remain in the workforce while taking care of other domestic responsibilities.

7.) Save money and resources

Working remotely helps employers reduce expenses by eliminating office space and overhead expenses. Meanwhile, working remotely helps employees by reducing expenses for attire, gas, vehicle maintenance, food, and childcare. (Even if some care is still required, you typically don’t need it for as long or as intensively.)

In addition, working remotely really helps the environment by cutting out the wasteful uses of energy required to commute (and reducing your “carbon footprint”).

Now, with all that being said, there are a few downsides you should be aware of when working from home…

Find ways to stay connected socially

For one, you’ll have significantly reduced social interaction. And studies show that loneliness is just as bad for your health as heavy smoking or obesity.

So, if you work from home regularly, use some of your extra free time to try to strengthen your social contacts and connect with your community. I recommend getting out of the house at least once a day.

Perhaps attend a class or club that meets weekly. You can also go for a swim, take your dog to the park, or meet up with some friends. You can even opt to do some work in a public space—such as a café, local library, or in the park.

In addition, you also need to set boundaries between work time and personal time. It can be tempting to keep your office “open” 24/7 when you work from home—“after” hours and on weekends. But keeping up this round-the-clock availability can lead to dissatisfaction, fatigue, and even depression.

So, I suggest establishing clearly defined working hours and personal hours. And if you can’t arrange a dedicated room as your office, just try to set up a separate, designated space for work. Then try to “close” the door, so to speak, at the end of your workday.

Tune back in tomorrow for more tips for staying healthy during the workday…even when you work in an office.