Feeling more relaxed, eat a healthier diet, have more time off, exercise more, and have a better sex life are the top five positive effects of working from home were, according to a survey of 4,100 people.
In contrast, nearly half of American workers worry about their jobs and feel pressure. Almost one in three people say they are “always” or “often” under stress at work and 35 percent are thinking about quitting. Despite the generally improving economy, workers today worry more about money and feel more insecure than ever before—and with good reason: a recent poll conducted by The New York Times revealed that 56 percent of respondents had been laid off once in the last fifteen years, 25 percent had been laid off twice, and a startling 14 percent had been laid off three or more times.
Being laid off, fired or quitting a job results in an increased risk of having a heart attack after age 50, according to a study by Duke University of 13,451 men and women, ages 51 to 75 from 1992 to 2010. The risk is equivalent to smoking, hypertension and diabetes. The risk increases the more times a person loses a job.
Outside of job insecurity, what is the cause of this stress? One recent study found that people cite heavy traffic as the number-one cause of stress in their daily lives. Number two is frustration from interruptions at the office. Another survey indicated that the most frequent work-related stress for women is balancing work and family demands. Working from home reduces or eliminates all these major causes of stress.
Research also indicates that the more control we feel we have over our lives, the less stress we experience. Perhaps that’s the reason the one thing that people most want from a manager is autonomy. Being your own boss is the ultimate in terms of autonomy. Despite working harder and longer hours, most people report their stress level goes down once they are in charge.
Recent medical studies confirm these reports. Despite the hard work and increased productivity involved, working at home produces less stress than working at similar tasks in the office. For example, a woman told us that having the flexibility to adjust her hours and her work pace is relaxing. “It’s almost like magic. I can tailor my work to what I want to do. I can stop and take a TV break and still get more done. I feel great at the end of the day.”
Common office-related stress factors, like fluorescent lights, ringing telephones, clattering equipment, buzzing conversation, and cafeteria junk food are also avoided. A financial consultant explained how the difference has affected him: “When I was commuting to and from work, I had to have a glass of wine when I got home to unwind.” Now that he works from home he rarely has a drink outside social occasions.
Often small things make big differences in reducing stress. Open-collar workers can work in postures that are most comfortable to them. Negative attitudes of co-workers, the gossip, and the office politics that interfere with getting work done, not to mention the frequent meetings that consume a reported 45 percent of managerial and professional time, no longer need to be contended with.
A recent survey of home-business owners and telecommuters found, among other things, that telecommuters do not smoke, drink, or use drugs as much as people who do not work at home. Telecommuters also receive promotions at a greater rate than non-telecommuters.
It’s well established that lower stress means better health. Stress lowers the white blood cell count and the immune system’s resistance to disease. Heart disease and high blood pressure, which affect one in four Americans, are acknowledged to be stress-related diseases. Not only do people working from home experience fewer of the major causes of stress; they also have more time to exercise and more control over what they eat. Better health is one of the greatest benefits of working from home.
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