So about two months ago, my company ExpandTheRoom started a little experiment… “Let’s ditch our office!”, we said. It all started last year after one of our team members was presented with a great opportunity for her family…but it involved moving to another part of the country. Because she’s such an all-star, instead of having to leave her job in NYC, Allison became our first remote team member. And it was great! ExpandTheRoom already had a pretty open work-from-home policy, and as a tech company we have the luxury of doing almost all our work from computers — which are conveniently portable and ubiquitous now-a-days. We were already using Slack to communicate with the people sitting next to us, and we were already having video conference meetings with clients a few blocks away. The time was right.
Shortly after Allison went remote we hired an awesome developer from Washington, and then one of our producers felt Raleigh calling his name…At the yearly company offsite retreat, remote working was all anyone could talk about, and so it was decided. Starting April 1st, we’d only go into the office once a week — to catch up, figure out what was working, and what we could improve on. In July, we plan to not go in at all. And in September, when our office lease is up, the experiment will conclude and it will be decision time — should we stay or should we go?
I’ve only been almost fully remote for about two months now, but I’m already feeling the benefits. I realize not everyone can be afforded the luxury of working from home, but if you’re in a position to potentially go remote or convince your company to make the leap, perhaps this benefits list will help your case. And if you already work from home, let’s compare notes.
Sleep is important. I try to always get at least 8 hours, because I know that even if I stay up for an extra hour or two of productivity, it’s going to come back to bite me when I spend the next day sluggishly trudging through work.
When I learned we were going to go remote, my first thought must have been “Oh god, Kerrin. Don’t let this be an excuse to sleep in until 5 minutes before the work day starts…” A previous version of myself would definitely do just that. Instead, most mornings I try to get up around the same time I would if I were commuting and use the time to do other things (which I’ll mention soon), but I also listen to what my body is telling me. If I had a late night or I’m exhausted from the busy day before, I’ll catch a bit more Zzz’s.
I’ve actually started trying something that would seem unimaginable to College-Era Kerrin, who would gladly sleep until noon given the chance — I don’t use an alarm clock. I try to keep my bed time pretty consistent, and rely on my circadian rhythm to do the rest. The reason is to follow my body’s natural sleep cycle rather than be jolted awake. sleep.org says, “When you let the rhythm wake you up naturally, you feel alert because you were ready to stop sleeping. When an alarm forces you to wake up before your body is ready, you feel groggy, as you may have interrupted a deep stage of sleep.” The trick here is to not fall back asleep after you initially wake up. I find it a lot easier not to hit the proverbial snooze when I wake up naturally, both because I feel way less groggy and because I know going back to sleep brings the threat of oversleeping. I don’t even have an emergency alarm because I worry that I’d bargain with myself to keep sleeping until it goes off. So far so good.
Running to catch the bus. Standing in the rain. The bus is late. The subway smells. Too many people. Why is that guy staring at me. Jeez cover your mouth when you sneeze..
I do not miss my commute. On some days I love the rush of New York City, but I like moving slowly too. I love spending a bit more time in the shower and taking my time getting dressed, not having to scarf down my breakfast on a crowded bus. Working from home allows me to be more mindful as I go through my morning routine. Mindfulness, slowing down, deep focus, and single tasking are in right now. After years of on and off practice I finally feel like I’m starting to “get” being mindful and reaping the benefits, and I believe that’s in no small part thanks to taking it slower here at home. I highly recommend the blog Zen Habits to help with your own mindfulness journey, and you definitely don’t need to work from home to benefit from it.
These next few are going to follow the theme of “More time” — undoubtedly one of the best benefits of working from home. But it depends on what you do with that time — as I stated earlier, it’s way too easy to use that extra time to sleep or veg out on the couch.
They say making your bed every morning gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment, it’s a small task that motivates you to get started and to keep accomplishing more. So I took it one step further and started dedicating a portion of my mornings and part of my lunch break to tidying up. Before I worked from home, I’d finish making and eating dinner around 9:30pm. I’d muster up enough strength to throw a few dishes in the washer and then try to relax for an hour before bed. Now I use tidying and cleaning as a way to get my body moving in the morning and to break up the sitting I do throughout most of the day. And a clean living/work environment makes me a lot less grumpy and more clear-headed.
I love being home when my partner gets back. Previously, we’d both end work around 6pm. He’d get back by 6:30 and I’d get back by….8. That’s a lot of lost time we could have spent together. I can only imagine the longing for that time multiplies when you have children you’re missing out on time with. Now when he gets home we usually take a walk together (spoiler alert: another benefit is more exercise) and talk about our days. It is true quality time.
I’ve been able to meet up with friends more often too, even if they’re not always close by. Another perk of working remotely is that it doesn’t necessarily mean “from home” — I can work anywhere there’s wifi. So a few weeks ago when my friend asked if I wanted to catch a Tribeca Film Festival Screening at 6pm, my office for the day was a co-working space a block away. (I used Croissant’s free trial, check it out ). When my alma mater hosted an alumni event, I drove to the school and worked from there. I love the flexibility to be with who and where I want to be.
I’ve recently discovered I LOVE DIY. I didn’t know how much I enjoyed it because previously I just didn’t have the time to slow cook ketchup for 12 hours (stirring every hour of course). I’ve bought a lot of plants to keep me company and now I’m really into gardening. I signed up for a woodworking class and built a table. I’m going to shift my work day by an hour next week to try a pottery class. Previously by the time I got home I was too pooped to do any of this. All of these new hobbies make me feel happy and fulfilled outside of work. Check out The Importance of Hobbies For Health.
Seems a bit contradictory since working remotely means you never leave your house, right? No! Cabin fever is definitely real. To combat it, I’ve started taking a walk in my waterside neighborhood nearly every day during my lunch. The sun, nature, fresh air, birds…it’s so rejuvenating. On rainy days I’ve been trying out at-home workout videos on YouTube, particularly the channel Blogilates. Very glad that no one is around to watch me attempt that…
My partner and I also go on a longer walk when he gets home. I’m not the sort of person to do well walking to nowhere on a treadmill, so we’ve started doing walking errands. There’s a Whole Foods 1 mile away, a Target 2 miles, a CVS 2.5 miles…let’s just say we definitely get our steps in.
A Treehugger article titled “When Did People Forget They Could Walk?” caught my eye recently. It states that out of 17 countries surveyed, Americans come in last place when it comes to how often they walk to their destinations. It’s true, walking a couple miles to a store is never the default. With my extra time and need to get out of the apartment, I’m trying to change that for myself.
When I was in NYC, sugar filled lattes and fast food were pretty much the norm. I tried bringing lunch but I’d always end up hungry later and head out for a snack. I tried bringing my own snacks, but it just wouldn’t be practical to bring my whole kitchen to the office. But guess what my apartment has? My whole kitchen.
Stocking my pantry with only healthy foods doesn’t give me the temptation of sneaking something bad. I had a love/hate relationships with the donuts that would frequently be on the office counter when I walked in each morning. Making my own food also leans in to the benefit of hobbies, as I’ve recently learned I love cooking. I cheat on my plant-based diet way less when there’s no tempting dairy products around. I buy more fresh produce since I’ll actually be around to eat it instead of letting it go bad in the fridge. More time to make dinner means I can make more thoughtful meals instead of microwaving a ready-made dish. The other day I even caught myself drooling over the thought of sliced cucumbers. When did I become this person…
The bus fare, the subway fare, the lunches, the lattes. It adds up. My wallet has definitely felt a bit heavier these past couple months, and while money isn’t the root of happiness or health, it does allow me to fuel my healthy hobbies, food, and the last benefit on my list…
Two words: Digital Nomad. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the world and gaining new experiences. Remember how I said the great thing about computers is that they’re portable and the wifi is ubiquitous? That can go beyond taking a stroll to your neighborhood coffee shop. Sure, the ETR team is still mostly based in New York, for now. But if remote working sticks around, I could see us going global. There are so many programs for “Digital Nomads” out there to work and travel, and that seems amazing to me.
Vacationing to some place is one thing — you can see all the touristy spots and run around trying to get it all in in time — but living there is another. That’s what’s so appealing to me about working remotely in a foreign place, you can take it a bit easier and really immerse yourself in the local culture — what it’s like to live your life there everyday instead of through the eyes of a tourist. I have yet to embark on a digital nomad adventure, but I’d be lying if I didn’t hope this time next year I’ll be writing another Medium article from Bali.
Thanks for reading! I’d love to know if your company is thinking about or has taken the leap into remote work. Do you have any tips or benefits I didn’t share here? Do you want to be my roommate in Bali? Comment below!