In recent years, the topic of mental health and employee wellbeing has been at the forefront of business conversation. The phrase ‘happy staff, happy clients’ gets rolled out a lot, and many business leaders want to promote a healthy culture for their employees.
The option of flexible and remote working being given to employees is often cited as a way of ensuring they can better balance their work and home lives. Flexible
working often opens the job market to people who would usually be excluded as they cannot commit to the ‘status quo’ - Women with children and people with disabilities or chronic illnesses often find themselves locked out of office work, and the option of flexible working would promote better diversity within the workforce.
UK mental health charity Mind says that flexible hours allow for a better work/life balance, a chance to avoid rush-hour commutes which often cause undue stress, more availability to attend medical appointments, and workers feel like they have more control over their working lives.
Many workers also find that by commuting less frequently, they have regained some of their time which they are able to spend on themselves or with their families. Lower costs related to commuting can also go a long way in easing an individual’s financial situation, having a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
The daily commute often adds a large amount of stress to the average worker’s daily life. From seemingly never-ending traffic jams, to increasingly crowded public transport infrastructure, the average Briton’s daily commute is increasing yearly. Every extra minute added on to a workers’ commute drastically reduces job satisfaction, increases stress, and can increase the likelihood of mental health problems. In Buffer’s 2020 State of Remote Work Report, not having to commute was the top benefit listed by remote workers, a result which echoed both their 2019 and 2018 reports.
But it is not just about the loss of time – commuters are spending more and more of their wages on getting to and from work. Over the past ten years, rail fares have risen at a rate twice as fast as wages. Flexible and remote working gives employees more control over their hours and working patterns, easing the burden on public transport infrastructure and roads, as well as the burden on their mental and financial health.
It also has a net-positive effect on our environment - Global Workforce Analytics estimates that if all office workers in the US worked from home for half of the week, it would reduce emissions by a shocking 54 million tonnes.
Studies show that remote working, even just one or two days a week, can make a huge impact not only on the environment, but have positive impacts upon employee health and wellbeing. Even flexible working patterns could make a big difference; by not forcing workers to travel at peak times, it decreases the burden on public transport, commuting costs often lower, and workers spend less time in traffic.
For a more comprehensive look at employee wellbeing, and the personal and environmental effects of the daily commute, read the full report here.