Is Remote Work the Cure to Time Strain?

remoteworktime

If only there were more hours in the day...

How many times have you found yourself thinking this, unable to check things off of your to do list like you planned?

This statement is symbolic of a dangerous trend facing the modern worker. It’s called time strain, which according to a study in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, arises from a high number of demands on your time together with an inability to control how work is completed. There are many factors that play into time strain, but it boils down to the dual demands of work and family, along with restrictions on where and when people work.

This study found time demands can decrease energy and well-being while increasing emotional exhaustion and psychological distress. Fortunately, many organizations are moving to a working model which helps combat this problem. This model is remote working.

Remote work, by its very nature, immediately reduces time demands by eliminating hours spent commuting. Nobody likes traffic and wasting time. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commuting time in the United States is 25.5 minutes. That may not seem like a lot, but do the math and you spend more than 4 hours per week, or the equivalent of 27 working days per year commuting. That’s a lot of time dedicated to traveling to a required location to get work done. If you were able to work remotely, and eliminate the need to commute completely, and all that time could be yours. This extra time is sorely needed, and could be better used spending time with family and friends, exercising, preparing healthy meals, or enjoying a favorite hobby.

Another great benefit of remote working is that in order for it to work well, performance measurement must change from traditional time based measurement. Traditionally, employers defaulted to the mindset that “if my employees are in the office they must be doing something work-related.” This perspective is outdated at best and counterproductive at worst, given the statistics on employee engagement. Time sitting at a desk does not equal time working. But because employers can’t look over your shoulder if you are outside the office, performance is measured based on productivity linked to actual deliverables and outcomes. This incentivises remote workers to be more productive and thus has the potential to free up additional hours.

An inability to control where and when you work is the second component of time strain. If you are not meeting with clients or do not have set store hours, then why can’t you get work done on your own schedule? There is no surprise that work flexibility is the number one job demand among U.S. workers today. While you may still have some set meetings, remote working can allow you the flexibility to work when you are most productive. So if you need to drop your kids off at school or you are absolutely not a morning person, then get your work done later in the day. Remote working can give you the freedom to work where you feel most inspired and focused, whether that means in a home office, a coffee shop, a coworking space, or Bali, Indonesia.

Being able to improve time demands and controls helps to ease time strain, anxiety, burnout, and ultimately leads to greater well-being. If you are not already working remotely, consider asking your boss for a flexible work arrangement. There are lots of benefits in it for the employer as well!

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