Posted on Jan 02, 2024, 5 p.m.
Working solely from the traditional office space is not as necessary as it once was. Telecommuting is growing in popularity as a way for workers to experience a range of freedoms. Not to mention that businesses tend to gain from lower overheads and a satisfied workforce. Yet, it’s important to recognize that telecommuting can also be a powerful tool for maintaining wellness.
Many talented workers today live with challenging health conditions. The flexibility and freedoms that telecommuting provides can be a positive influence that allows staff to have an inclusive and enriching workplace experience. This is why — whether or not you personally live with a health condition — it’s well worth advocating for access to remote work options.
To effectively represent this to your employers, it’s important to get a better understanding of the health benefits of telecommuting. So, let’s dive a little deeper into the subject.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employees are entitled to request reasonable accommodations that empower them to perform their duties. While this is a legal obligation, it’s always important to encourage your employer to go beyond these regulations if possible. Extending the potential for accommodations even to those who may not strictly qualify as disabled is a positive move. It sends a message that the company culture is one that recognizes a range of challenges and is keen to support staff through them.
This is where telecommuting can be a fantastic resource. Firstly, it means that those who find it difficult to navigate traditional workplaces can function from a home that is likely already well-suited to their needs. They may have tools that assist with mobility. Their computers might have text-to-speech software that enables them to navigate vision impairments. They could have furniture designed for their specific posture needs. This minimizes the potential discomfort they experience while making adjustments to their needs in the traditional workplace.
Working from home can also mitigate the commuting challenges of those living with chronic injuries. Spending long periods of time sitting on the way to work can be uncomfortable for those with sciatica or herniated discs. Staff with limited mobility due to musculoskeletal injuries may also find they’re at greater risk due to unexpected swerving on public transport. By offering telecommuting as an option, the company is empowering people with these invisible injuries to make choices that suit their needs.
It’s vital to remember, though, that telecommuting shouldn’t be forced upon staff with health conditions. The company’s first responsibility is to make the physical workplace accessible to everyone. They can then offer telecommuting or even hybrid operations as options if individual workers feel it is most conducive to a positive working experience.
Reducing Mental Strain
Physical health conditions are not the only issue to address in the workplace. The ongoing psychological, emotional, and neurological wellness of staff must also be paramount to employers. Seeking options for telecommuting can be a practical and positive way to reduce unnecessary mental strain the traditional workplace can put on staff.
Some of the aspects it can help address include:
- Commuting stress: While it has long been a prevalent part of working life, there is increasing recognition that commuting is often bad for mental health. Short trips may be better, but long journeys every day can provoke stress and anxiety, among other conditions. Particularly for workers who already live with mental health conditions, providing the option for telecommuting empowers them to disrupt the discomfort or damage their journey to work causes.
- Workplace stimuli: Some mental health conditions and neurodivergent traits can cause staff to be sensitive to external stimuli. The noise, harsh lighting, and number of people
in the traditional workplace can exacerbate their symptoms. Telecommuting or hybrid work models may give these staff the opportunity for much-needed breaks from constant and overwhelming stimulus.
That said, telecommuting is likely to be most effective as part of a wide range of mental wellness resources the company offers to staff. It should provide training and literature about coping mechanisms for living with stress. Maintaining an open-door policy for workers to discuss difficulties with managers and human resources (HR) teams is vital. Perhaps ask your HR team about providing access to subsidized telehealth therapy so workers can seek help at their convenience, too.
Promoting a Healthier Lifestyle
Co-existing with a health condition isn’t just about combatting symptoms and minimizing the potential for new challenges to arise. It’s also imperative to create a solid foundation of wellness. After all, when staff are generally healthy, this can make managing specific conditions a little easier and more practical. When a company offers telecommuting as an option to staff, they’re providing a valuable way to promote healthier lifestyles that boosts this foundation.
A key part of this is that telecommuting may mean workers don’t feel they have to delay or miss regular checkups with their physicians. When their chosen clinic is not close to the workplace, they may be forced to choose between taking time off work and their wellness. Telecommuting often means they can easily travel to appointments during lunch breaks or around their tasks.
It’s also worth considering that not being in the physical workplace every day can minimize staff’s exposure to communicable illnesses. Let’s face it, offices with a lot of staff, customers, and visitors can be hotbeds of germs and viruses. Telecommuting, therefore, may bolster both the overall health of staff and protect those who are vulnerable due to immunocompromised conditions.
Many businesses today aim to boost their workers’ health with wellness programs. Telecommuting options can certainly be a part of this. However, it’s also important for companies to ensure that the other resources available in their programs are suitable for remote workers. If they provide meditation or yoga sessions, they should arrange for these to be live-streamed to telecommuting staff. Similarly, healthy snacks available in the office should be available to remote workers either by delivery or by providing them with a budget to buy them.
Telecommuting is a powerful tool whether you live with a health condition or are prioritizing your long-term wellness. The flexibility of the working environment and the ability to disrupt the damaging potential of physical commutes are among the many reasons remote work should be an option.
It may be a little tricky to convince employers in some circumstances. Don’t just highlight the benefits to the health of workers. Aim to also provide examples of how telecommuting can be practically implemented into the types of tasks staff at your company perform. The more information and forethought you can demonstrate, the more likely it may be that your employers are receptive.
This article was written for WHN by Charlie Fletcher who is a freelance writer from the lovely “city of trees”- Boise, Idaho. Her love of writing pairs with her passion for social activism and her search for the truth. You can find more of her writing on Contently.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
Opinion Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of WHN/A4M. Any content provided by guest authors is of their own opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.
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