Almost two years ago, I quit my job and started working full time as a freelance health writer. Leading up to my resignation, I was beset with indecision and really began to question whether this was the smartest thing to do. What if I didn’t succeed on my own? What if I wasn’t making enough money, and couldn’t pay the rent and bills every month?
Looking back, it was easily the best decision I ever made. Without a regular 9-5 job to govern almost every facet of my life, the world suddenly opened up. I woke each morning actually looking forward to the day, and was so much more enthusiastic about doing the actual work because with every hour I sat down at my laptop, I was making a name and money for myself — no-one else.
Without the shackles that tied me to a desk, I was free to roam. My partner and I soon hit the road and embarked upon what would end up being a non-stop, one and a half year travel extravaganza which spanned 11 countries and three continents. It was seriously good times. But it wasn’t until our trip ended, and we found a permanent nest to move into, that the health benefits really began to make themselves known.
Working from home was literally making me healthier. Here’s my take on why working from home is one of the healthiest moves you’ll ever make.
Get more sunshine
More working from home means more sunshine. It’s a simple fact. Think about all those days you’ve sat inside your gloomy office and looked out at the sun-bathed world beyond the window. It would be seriously frowned upon if your boss found you sunbathing outside the office on a fine summers day. But with no boss around when you’re working from home, you can get as much sun as you want.
And sunshine, as it happens, is one of the most critical factors for a healthy body. As you know, vitamin D3 is a critical component of a strong immune system and healthy bones. What many people don’t realize, however, is that the sun provides the most bioavailable form of vitamin D3 on the planet. Our bodies have evolved to convert the sun’s rays into health-giving vitamin D3, so why the heck wouldn’t you want to get more sun?
When working from home on a sunny day, time your breaks to coincide with going outside. This could mean five minutes relaxing or doing some light yoga out in the sun, interspersed with 20 minutes of solid work. Another option is to get outside during your meal breaks, exposing as much as your skin as possible (unless you’re in an area where extensive sun exposure means a whole lot of sunburn!) to ensure you’re getting your vitamin D3 quota each day.
Get more sleep
Most of us suffer a long commute to work (well, I used to anyway). Essentially, that commute means less time to do other things, and inevitably sleep is one of the first things to get cut short. A recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that a whopping one-third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, which as we know can lead to all kinds of negative health consequences.
Working from home, the commuting nightmare is gone. When I lived in Toronto, Ontario, I spent a solid four hours of my day simply sitting in traffic on the commute to and from the office. I’d endeavor to spend that time wisely, either listening to audiobooks or calmly preparing for the day ahead… but invariably just ended up getting stressed out and frustrated with all the horrible drivers on the highway. It was wasted time, pure and simple.
With commuting out of the equation, you can use those extra hours to ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night, and wake up when your body is actually fully rested, rather than when your alarm goes off. I have no hesitation in saying that your health will improve exponentially when you ensure you’re getting enough sleep each night.
Move around more
One of the most important ways in which working from home is better for your health is enabling you to move around more. A 2009 study published in the Journal of Medicine in Science and Sports Exercise demonstrated a direct link between sitting duration and early death. It isn’t the only study out there to make this correlation, with plenty of recent work showing that the less you move around during the course of a day, the higher your risk of disease and death is.
Working from home, you have every opportunity to move around as much as you like. I always make a point of getting up to move around at least every 20 minutes, which could involve simply walking to get a drink of water, or perhaps doing some light stretching or jumping jacks to get the blood flowing and offset that detrimental effect of sitting. With nobody around to judge you for being away from your desk, there’s never been a better time to move more!
I’m talking about time flexibility here, although your muscular flexibility should improve from all the moving around you’ve been doing! Because you’re working on your own schedule, you can work your job around your life, rather than the opposite. Get out in the afternoon for that round of golf you keep putting off, or work longer hours during the week so you can take a longer-than-usual weekend to get away from it all.
After ditching the office in favor of working from home, my days opened right up. On any given day, I’d wake up when my circadian rhythm dictated (rather than being blasted awake by an obnoxious alarm), have a leisurely and nutritious breakfast, squeeze in some cuddle time with my kitty, work for a few hours, head out for a walk or run through the park, work for a few more hours, make dinner, maybe slot in one more hour of work while the roast sizzled away, then eat dinner with my partner and relax for the evening. Hair appointments, visits to the doctor, meeting up with friends for coffee — my work day revolved around these events, rather than restricting them.
Experience diverse health benefits
If you’re like me, you’ll see dramatic shifts in your health and well-being after you ditch the 9-5. On my very first day at home, I noticed that my chronic anxiety levels had plummeted, along with constant tiredness and long bouts of depression. Because I woke up actually looking forward to the day ahead, I started the day with a positive mindset. This mindset filtered into everything I did during the course of the day. I was able to accomplish more in my work, and people commented on how my disposition had done a complete 180 for the better.
Beat the traffic on long weekends!
This last health benefit of working from home will have people jumping for joy! I’m sure you’ll agree that being able to finish work early and hit the road before the 9-5 masses is a very big deal indeed, meaning you can get to your weekend destination quickly and stress-free.
Anyone can work from home
You don’t need to be a freelance writer or self-employed to enjoy all the health benefits of working from home. If you’re still “working for the man,” consider having a chat with your boss about whether your organization is open to you working from home. Many workplaces (my own former job included) have policies which enable employees to work from home at least two to three days a week, especially if making that shift can alleviate stress while still maintaining productivity. It’s a conversation worth having, and one which you’ll truly appreciate in the long run.
If you’re struggling to imagine how you could ever work from home, it’s likely that you need a mindset shift. Once I realized that my health and happiness were utterly dependent on having the freedom to do what I want with my days, it was easy to justify having that chat with my superiors. The fact is, we’re spending far too much of lives either at work or going to work. Remember that you’re working to live, not living to work.
— Liivi Hess