The ability to collaborate, communicate and access software and information from virtually anywhere has changed people's lives all over the world, both personally and professionally. On the personal front, it's so much easier now to take care of household business and complete errands online, including banking, bill paying and even filing and paying taxes.
We store our important documents and photos in the cloud, make travel arrangements using apps and buy household goods online. And we use our devices to entertain ourselves too -- binge-watching TV series on a tablet or powering up to the next level on a favorite video game.
Given the inroads virtualization has made into our personal lives, it's no surprise that it's also changed the way people work. Most businesses rely heavily on software and online tools to operate. But now virtualization has made it possible to leave the office behind permanently.
According to Gallup surveys, more people are telecommuting at least part time than ever before. Almost 40 percent of workers have telecommuted, a fourfold increase since 1995. And some businesses, including mine, employ a 100 percent remote workforce.
When managed well, a home-based workforce provides many benefits to an employer, including high productivity and low overhead. But here's one benefit that most people wouldn't think of immediately: Home-based workers tend to be healthier and happier. Here's why:
- They don't have to delay checkups. Office workers in a traditional workplace setting typically have to take paid time off to visit their physician for an annual checkup or address a health problem. Home-based workers usually have more fluid schedules, so they can squeeze in a doctor's visit or a dental appointment without losing vacation days.
- They have more balanced social lives. People who have to rush to work every morning, work at a frenetic pace all day and endure a long slog home five days a week tend to have less time for friends, family and relationships. Home-based workers have an opportunity to set their own pace, and with no commute, they typically have more time.
- They tend to be less stressed. The American Psychological Association reports that more than a third of U.S. workers experience regular work-related stress. Home-based work isn't without stress; it requires the same commitment and dedication a traditional office job requires. But it does allow employees more control over their own schedules and lives.
- They can avoid the fast-food rut. It's easier to eat healthier foods when you don't have to rely on a vending machine for sustenance or face social pressure to join colleagues at the local fast-food place. Home-based workers also tend to have more time to eat breakfast and lunch since they set their own hours.
- They aren't exposed to as many germs. According to the CDC, approximately 80 percent of infections are spread by hand contact and touching contaminated surfaces. Office-based workers come into contact with more objects that have been handled by coworkers - from door handles to breakroom supplies, telephones and elevator buttons.
When employers embrace the idea of a remote workforce and make the cultural adjustments necessary to create and manage a committed offsite team, they realize many benefits, including lower operating costs.
But a healthier workforce is one advantage they might not have seen coming. The health benefits of working remotely are something to consider for companies that are looking for ways to improve employee wellness and satisfaction.
About the Author
Tricia is the President of eaHELP. She joined eaHELP in November 2010 as a virtual assistant and first employee of the company. She has a background in senior retail management, including experience overseeing a team of more than 150 employees, and supporting senior leaders in the church construction industry.
Originally from New York, Tricia currently resides in Charlotte, N.C., with her two daughters. She obtained her B.A. in Business from the University of Hartford in Connecticut. When she is not working, you'll find her near water-pool, lake or beach.