Doing away with office distractions (and those damn fluorescent lights) and having the freedom to work wherever you want whenever you want is alluring enough to make working from home a professional dream. And increasingly, working remotely is becoming a reality for professionals across the world. According to survey results from the American Time-Use Survey, “in 2015, 38 percent of workers in management, business, and financial operations occupations and 35 percent of those employed in professional and related occupations did some or all of their work from home.” But working from home may not be as beneficial as we would like to believe.
The United Nations International Labor Organization released a report last week stating that three types of remote workers — those who regularly work from home, “high-mobile” employees that consistently work from various locations outside an office, and those who work in both an office and off-site — were found to have higher stress and experiences of insomnia than those who regularly or always work in an office.
The report, titled “Working anytime, anywhere: The effects on the world of work,” gathered data from 15 nations analyzing the impacts that advances in technology that allow increasingly more laborers to work remotely have on work-life balance.
In the study, 41 percent of highly mobile workers reported excess stress as opposed to 25 percent of office workers. Forty-two percent of highly mobile and regular home workers said they also experience bouts of insomnia.
The findings solidify that mixing work and play is like playing with fire — it can mar the work-life balance, or improve it. “It highlights positive effects of teleworking, such as greater autonomy on working time and better work-day organization, and reduced commuting time resulting in a better overall work-life balance and higher productivity,” said Jon Messenger, of the UN International Labor Organization and co-author of the report in a release. On the down side, teleworking “blurs the boundaries between work and personal life, depending on the place of work and the characteristics of different occupations.”
But remote working communities are trying to bridge the gap between losing your work-life balance and giving up the freedoms of telecommuting. Acting as a middle ground, they allow paying members to have access to guaranteed workspace away from the living room, WiFi, and sometimes even food. “All of the independence of working remotely comes with traps,” Peter Litvinenko, founder and CEO of the remote work company Remote Seats, says. “We have the freedom to work in our sweats and in front of the T.V., but there is a certain staleness to your day that leads to overworking or a lack of productivity. The goal of Remote Seats is to put you into spaces where you are inspired to put your head down and work while also feeling like you are in a creative, free environment where you can network with a neighbor or grab a drink at the bar.”
Remote Seats utilizes restaurants, hotels, and art galleries across New York City (such as the world-famous Caffe Dante) during their uncrowded daytime hours — filling the spaces with WiFi modems, power strips, and freelancers and remote workers of all sorts so they can work in a work-conducive environment that keeps them out of the house and the office. “Creating structure with variety in your work environment allows you to channel your most productive self,” Litvinenko adds. “It teaches us that there is a balance to strike with discipline and freedom. It can be as simple as having a hard ‘stop time’ for checking your emails that you adhere to or joining a remote working community in your area.”