When listing off the benefits of allowing employees to work remotely, from their homes or other locations far afield from their normal office, proponents and adopters of remote work systems usually mention time savings, increased productivity, and lower overhead. And while those things are certainly upshots and significant benefits of allowing employees to work remotely, there are other benefits that are equally important and equally worth noting, even though they don't often get the same recognition as those benefits mentioned above.
One of the biggest of these overlooked benefits is the improvement in employees' health that results from working remotely. Employees working at home show substantially lower rates of acute sickness, obesity, and long-term stress ailments like fatigue and depression. And it's no coincidence that these indicators of overall health improve when employees go from working in an office to working at home. Let's look at some of the ways employees' health improves when they work at home, and the reasons why remote access employees are so much healthier.
A Germ-Free Environment
Well, maybe not entirely germ free. No one's home (or local coffee shop) is free of the germs that cause acute ailments like the common cold, the flu, and other productivity-sapping sicknesses. But few places attract these germs quite like office buildings do. By bringing hundreds of people into the same one location, offices aggregate all the germs they may have encountered at home, at the places they stopped into on their way to work, at their children's schools and daycares, and so on and so forth. This is why, when cold and flu season come around, there is almost always an epidemic of these sicknesses that sweeps through any office environment, making employees miserable and, in the worst cases, temporarily derailing the office's productivity. Again, working from home probably doesn't mean employees spend their days in absolutely sterile and germ-free environments, but it spares them from the ramped up exposure to germs that is part and parcel of working in an office.
More Time Means More Exercise
When office workers were asked what they would do if they had more free time in their day, the number one response—ahead of everything else, ahead even of spending time with family and friends—was more exercise. People want to go to the gym and stay healthy, but between work and other obligations, the time to do so becomes incredibly short, and many people are forced to give up on their ambitions of working out to stay healthy. But working from home frees up time that would otherwise be spent commuting and prepping to go into the office, and evidently, many remote workers use that time to exercise. Employees who have the freedom to work at home report that they exercise more, and are less likely to be obese, than their office bound colleagues. And of course, obesity isn't an ailment that exists in a vacuum; it contributes to any number of other health problems. Any change in work style that decreases obesity among a company's employees will make for a much healthier work force.
More Time Means Less Stress
Every year, scientists find more evidence that stress isn't just unpleasant and uncomfortable, it's actually unhealthy for those who experience it for prolonged periods of time. Stress contributes to heart disease, weight problems, mental illness, and generally decreases the immune resistance of those who experience it. People who reduce their stress live longer, and stay healthier into old age at far greater rates than those who live with high levels of stress. And what type of people experience low levels of stress? For one, people who work from home. Remote access workers report far lower degrees of stress than employees who work in offices, even when they doing similar work for similar lengths of time every day. Simply working while at home (or at a coffee shop, or on a tropical beach) seems to reduce the amount of stress people experience, and it makes them healthier overall.
Good Health, Better Business
And not to be mercenary about this, but healthier employees are, generally speaking, better employees. They work harder, work longer, and their output is of higher quality and more sustainable. And not only that, but businesses that provide their employees with health benefits can realize substantial savings by instituting programs that encourage better employee health. This is no small matter, given the spiraling costs of health care and health insurance these days. Many businesses, when they look to cut costs, first look to reduce their spending on employee health care. One way to do that, given the health benefits of working at home, may be to institute remote access work systems. Of course, better health is a benefit in and of itself, but it seems businesses may experience major financial benefits, too, when they take sensible steps to make their employees healthier.
Making it Work
Of course, if you're giving employees the ability to work remotely, you need to be able to safeguard their access into the network. Most companies tend to set up a VPN configuration to accomplish this, and then protect the VPN with multi factor authentication. To learn more about multi-factor auth, download our free eBook below.