In the first article in this series, I talked about how I feel that there are many benefits to working from home, more than the negative parts. I showed a Twitter poll and they discussed in detail how my number one benefit from working remotely is that I get much more work done, instead of being stuck in “cube land”. In this article I will discuss my number two benefit, staying healthy and avoiding stress. This has become more and more important to me the more I work in the software engineering industry (over 26 years).
Staying Healthy & Avoiding Stress
When I started working remotely fulltime in 2013, the last place I worked before that was Mitchell International in San Diego, California. I told you that Mitchell moved to a new location that was mostly big open floors full of tiny cubes. The only people that had offices were vice presidents and above. Before the move, I had an office since I was a principal software engineer (the highest level they had).
Once we moved, I have never gotten so sick, so often at the workplace! Big open areas with cubes with very low walls just allow any sickness that someone brings in like the flu, just wash over the entire floor. I could watch the people out sick on the opposite side of the floor from me until it got to my area. Parents with school-aged kids were the biggest spreaders and some sat right next to me, including my boss. Just about every major communicable illness caused so many of us to call out sick. Just think about all the lost work and revenue that this caused the company from this decision, which I warned them about. The vice president of my department told me I didn’t know what I was talking about.
When I had an office if I heard people were getting sick, if I just closed my door, washed my hands more and I would rarely catch it. What made things worse was the little amount of sick time most companies give employees. In America, it’s around 5 days per year. When each employee starts, they are told this. The problem is if you run out of sick days, then employees will just come in sick and infect everyone else! I even did this until someone in the human resources slipped up and told me that salaried employees get unlimited sick time!
Wow, once I heard this, I wouldn’t come to work if I ever felt even close to being sick. Most of the time, I would put in work at home as long as I felt up to it. The problem was none of the hourly employees got unlimited sick time, so they would continue to come in sick. There were a few times when someone came in very ill and I had to ask my manager to send them home. I felt bad, but I was looking out for everyone else in my area of the company. Now that I am working remotely, I rarely get sick from communicable illnesses. Even less than when I had an office!
Dealing With Stress
Another thing that improves my health is less stress. Most of us know that stress can lead to all sorts of health issues including early death. To me, software engineering is a pretty stressful job depending on where you work. When my day starts and ends with a stressful Southern California commute, the day just goes downhill from there.
My commute is from my bedroom to my dining room! Stress can also lead to all sorts of unhealthy habits, like overeating, abusing alcohol, or drugs. Fewer distractions help a lot too along with listening to music, taking walks when I want. I can go for a swim if I feel stressed and sometimes even play guitar to alleviate stress. I can even keep out of office politics for the most part! I go to work, not to socialize.
Another way I deal with stress now is by going to acupuncture and massage treatments every two weeks. I wish they could be the same massages I get in India, especially the one where they drip hot oil on your head. I also go to regular Chiropractor appointments, where they can fix my back, next, hands, and more. Due to working at a computer all day, my neck is always an issue.
This is how I deal with many health issues these days. I rarely ever go to a doctor anymore. As a matter of fact, my doctor forces me to come in at least once a year, so he will write prescriptions for the next year. Otherwise, he might not see me for years! I would much rather spend my hard-earned money on eastern medicine instead of pill-popping western medicine.
Getting & Staying Healthy
Ever since I left Mitchell, I have lost around 120 lbs (54 kilograms). Remote work has helped with that weight loss and continues to help me keep it off! At home, I cook all of my meals and I rarely eat out at a restaurant anymore. Now that I eat 100% gluten-free, that helped me to lose weight and keep it off, cooking at home allows me to ensure that gluten does not get into my food. If it does, I get very, very ill to the point where I can barely get off of the couch. For the most part, that type of illness usually only happens when I travel to speak at conferences or when I do photography for rock bands. I have been cooking so much at home since 2013, that I am now working on a cookbook of my recipes along with recipes from other tech professionals. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Voice of Slum NGO in India, so they can feed and teach children from the slums. If you are trying to lose weight, don’t give up. Losing weight is very hard work, but worth it! These days I feel like I have changed my metabolism back to the way it worked when I was in my 20s! I have no medical proof of that, it’s just way I feel.
Since I lost the weight, drastically reduced my stress, I have been able to completely get rid of two very serious health issues! Each one of these issues would have shortened my life. Combine them and I was going to leave this earth before my time which I didn’t want to do. Now that the world is dealing with a deadly pandemic, those two conditions would have made me a lot more susceptible to it. My goal is to be around for my kids and grandkids for as long as I can. The one healthy habit I still struggle with is exercising. I need to do more, but most days just completely forget about it.
I can keep going with the health benefits of working remotely, but I think you get the point. I just don’t know why more companies don’t understand the benefit of having healthier, less stressed out employees? Not only will they save a lot of money on increased health insurance payments but their employees will be at work more which equals more work is done which means more revenue. They will also retain employees since they will feel better and less stressed. Onboarding a new employee is very, very expensive compared to the cost of retention. When I was at Mitchell, I estimated that a new employee, in my department, wouldn’t be 100% effective until they have been there for around 6 months. I have previously written about this in the article If I Ran a Software Company.
Now, there are downsides to being isolated more, including depression, which can also lead to health issues. So it’s still important to keep in touch with co-workers, family, and friends. I still struggle with this but I hope with more people working remotely will bring rise to new ideas and ways to deal with this. The current worldwide pandemic is making this very difficult to do, so I can’t wait to get to the new normal.
What do you think? If you have anything positive or negative about working remotely and staying healthy, please comment below. Make sure to check back here soon for the next article in this series!