With the world outbreak of COVID-19, these times are like nothing we’ve seen before. Death tolls are on the rise, hospitals are running out of room and every day, another country declares a state of emergency. Streets are empty. Schools are closed. Ground beef is a commodity. Don’t even ask about toilet paper. And yet another consequence that we really never saw coming? Working from home. Office buildings are closing their doors and ‘work from home’ is no longer a commodity, it’s a national order.
In less than a week’s time, jobs we would’ve never considered to have had the capabilities of going remote have suddenly been thrust into the virtual platform. While a global pandemic calls for less than ideal circumstances, I think many will be shocked to find their new, at-home offices more suitable for the long run. In his book “Virtual Culture,” Bryan Miles celebrates all the freedoms and benefits that can come with remote work. He passionately declares virtual working to be the future of business and yes, he practices what he preaches. Miles and his wife founded BELAY in 2010, a virtual solutions company with over 600 team members- all who work from home. And even better, they’re all thrilled about it. BELAY has made the Inc. 5000 list three times and was awarded the #1 spot in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Best Company Culture. His employees are happier and his company is more successful- all because he ditched the cubicles? It sounds too good to be true, right? But I think he’s onto something.
Global pandemic and social distancing aside, “Virtual Culture” lists the countless benefits remote work brings to its employees. Let’s just check out the top five.
1. No more long, soul-sucking commutes
One of the most startling figures noted in Miles’ work was concerning the American workers’ commute. In the 2014 US Census, 139 million workers reported an average commute of 26 minutes each way to work. Five days a week, fifty weeks a year, and we have a collective 3.4 million years spent in the car. 3.4 million years. My jaw dropped. Can you imagine the amount of work that could be done in 3.4 million years? I mean, surely we would have the cure for cancer, the cure for Covid-19, the cure for any and everything with that kind of time.
2. More flexibility and more of your life back
All of us in the working world have lives outside of the working world. We all have families, parents, pets, friends, homes- responsibilities that have nothing to do with our jobs. The assumption that our personal lives can be put on pause from 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, is completely absurd. As a virtual employee, you are free to do your work and live your life simultaneously. Kids appointments. YOUR appointments. A last minute friend passing through town. The Spectrum guy, who gave you a super reasonable 7AM-3PM window. All the little and big interruptions that are inevitably apart of our weeks, they’re suddenly not an ‘interruption’ when your work allows you to take them on. They’re just life. And having a life is okay- at least, it should be!
3. Productivity increases
By now, you’ve probably reached the point in life where you are familiar with your ideal work environment. And if I had to guess, florescent lighting and a three by five, walled cube doesn’t exactly get your creative juices flowing. We all work differently. You might be most ‘on’ with your computer in your lap, feet on the coffee table and SportsCenter humming in the background. The guy next to you might prefer a crowded Starbucks, air pods in and two americanos deep. The freedom to choose how and where you work not only guarantees more productivity, you might actually enjoy yourself.
4. Save money! So. much. money
There’s the obvious expenses of gas and car maintenance that dramatically change with the virtual office. But what about lunch? How much more likely are you to go out to eat if you’re at home? I know, table service dining sounds more appealing than a PB & J on your couch, but what about saving $75 a week by eating from the fridge? $300 a month? Please. Pass the Smuckers.
Another often overlooked cost- clothes. When you don’t have an office to go into or client meetings to sit in, business attire is completely unnecessary. Now I would never advocate abandoning all casual clothing for sweats and a bath robe. Have some dignity. But when you’re working from the kitchen table or the bookstore, the dress code changes- and it’s a whole lot cheaper.
5. Save time! So. much. time.
Take out the morning routine, the getting dressed, finding your keys and praying the tank is just above the E to get you there. The morning drive- the stop lights, the school zones and God forbid if there’s a wreck on the interstate. The obligatory small talk with the eight to twelve people you see on your way in, the mandatory lunches, the client visitors- I could go on and on. Take out the 10, 15, 30 minute interruptions and ‘non work’ time that fills up your work day and you’d be shocked at how many hours you could take back.
Again, I realize our current day ‘work from home’ situation is not ideal. The transition was abrupt and by force. And when your house is supposed to be quarantined and your co-worker is a three-year-old who has a habit of flushing play-doh down the toilet, it’s not quite the virtual kick-off you were hoping for. But once the dust settles and the restrictions are lifted, what if you stayed put? What if you stayed ‘socially distant?’ Not necessarily from others, but from your actual office building? With a computer, a webcam and a solid wi-fi connection, Miles is convinced you can do your job from anywhere. So, if you could, would you?