I’ve Been Working From Home Since 2020, Here’s Why It’s Impossible To Go Back Into An Office Full-Time

NEW YORK — Remote work has become a common phrase in the 2020s. What was a necessity during the pandemic has now become a way of life for many workers and their companies. Plenty of skeptics out there still think remote work is just a fad and can’t possibly work in the long run. Believe me, I used to be one of those voices. Now, after four years of working remotely, it would be virtually impossible for me to consider returning to an office full-time. Here’s why.

Two decades ago, I only knew one person who worked at home full-time, my uncle. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around the thought of working where you live, even if he had a dedicated office space for his business. My family had similar questions: “What does he do?” “How does he get anything done?” and “He never has to meet clients in person?”

We never criticized the work but never understood it. Fast forward to 2020 and the pandemic, and millions suddenly had to figure out remote work on the fly. Like many people during the COVID years, I lost a job based in an office in the heart of New York City. That’s when an offer came from my current boss — the Editor-in-chief of StudyFinds, Steve Fink.

I knew Steve for several years, working with him in the four years leading up to the pandemic. However, I only met Steve once or twice in person — he was already working remotely full-time after convincing our employers that he could do his job at the same level from home. Just like my uncle, I really didn’t understand Steve at the time. I respected him, and he always had valuable insights that improved our team’s work, but I asked, “How does this guy get anything done at home?” I was about to find out, and it would change my life forever.

3 Ways Remote Work Changed My Life

1. Less stress from commuting

Of course, not everyone has to deal with New York City traffic; but no matter where you live, commuting to and from work is generally not very fun. It’s a time-consuming process that often leads to stress before you even reach your desk and start the day.

A survey conducted before the pandemic found that one in three commuters traveling by car are agitated or stressed out before reaching their place of work. On average, commuters spend over five full days every year just driving back and forth between their job and home. Imagine losing a week of your life every year and replacing all of those minutes with pure stress and anxiety.

Finally, ditching crowded trains and buses or New York City traffic gridlock gave me back multiple hours each day. Instead of actively planning to leave my home 60 to 90 minutes before my shift begins and getting home long after I actually left the office, remote work gave me the ability to maximize my time each day. When the workday ends, I can go right into planning out the rest of the day — from cooking to exercising; there’s no delay due to a long commute.

No commute also puts more money back in my pocket. Whether paying to take public transportation or filling a car with gas, you’re literally paying money to make money.

Just look at New York City’s controversial congestion pricing plan. If you live in a suburb with no realistic way of using public transport, you may soon pay $15 daily just to drive to your job in NYC’s central business district. At $15 a day, five days a week, four weeks a month (roughly 20 days), that’s $300 in tolls just to go to work each month. If you think that’s fair to middle-class workers, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

2. Being present for family and friends — and pets!

Nothing is worse than getting a call from your family that something’s gone wrong while you’re at work. It can be a helpless feeling of being disconnected from your loved ones during a moment of crisis.

One memory that still haunts me after more than 10 years is the day my family lost our cat to a sudden illness. I was commuting to work by train at the time, a trip that took nearly two hours each day. Besides being at work all day when our cat suddenly fell ill, that commute robbed me of some of her final hours before she passed.

Remote work isn’t a free pass to do what you want at any time, but it gives people like me the ability to be there when needed most.

It’s a gratifying feeling for adult children to be able to help their senior parents who can’t handle difficult chores anymore. For parents, they’re nearby when their kids are sick or have an accident at school. Being present boosts my sense of well-being because I know I can help in an emergency without the restrictions of a commute or potentially having to ask multiple bosses for an excusal from work.

Recently, I was pet-sitting for a friend who was out of the country. Before her flight back home, her cat had a near-fatal stroke. I was there, in the room, present in this animal’s life. Twenty minutes later, we were at a local animal hospital in the emergency room, getting life-saving care. If I were working in an office, I would likely have come home to a dead or permanently paralyzed cat hours later. It’s an extreme example, but one that shows the advantages of being present for others when you’re working close to your loved ones.

3. Creating the work environment that works for you

When you work in an office, it’s not exactly feasible to ask your boss to change the room’s design — or even repaint the walls. Your job satisfaction can drop even further when you factor in who you work with. A recent survey found that 69 percent of Americans believe they’ve worked in a toxic workplace. Moreover, that survey found that one in three people don’t trust their HR representatives or managers to resolve workplace issues.

When you work remotely, you dictate your workplace environment. Your desk is where you want it to be. You’re around the people (or pets) you want to have around you. You can create a space that helps you maximize your productivity and comfort while working.

Working remotely can even give you more control over your diet and health, as you can better pick and choose what you eat throughout the workday. Have you ever had a job where fast food eateries were the only options around the office?

What do other remote workers think?

I asked StudyFinds’ Dr. Faith Coleman about her experiences with remote work and the flexibility it’s given her in recent years — especially after undergoing surgery.

“People need each other. For work and for play, physically, mentally, emotionally, intellectually, socially, financially, and spiritually. I need people. I work mostly at home but spend a few hours here and there at the Carver College of Medicine,” Dr. Coleman says.

“I’m available for friends and their families when they attend medical appointments/procedures. I’ve kept working through my recovery from orthopedic surgeries. Sometimes I do nothing at all. The flexibility would be difficult to do without. If I return to full-time at a worksite, though, the most important thing will be my attitude and how I construct and respond to the circumstances. Work-life balance is a misnomer. It’s all life.”

Obviously, remote work is something only some are capable of doing, depending on their profession. However, as I celebrate my fourth year of working remotely, I no longer consider this a strange thing my uncle did 20 years ago or some fad that’ll soon die out as offices crack down on “lazy” workers. Remote work is here to stay, and, in some ways, it’s changed people’s lives for the better.

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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