Blog | 06.14.2022

Long before corporations had a remote-first policy, I saw an opportunity to ditch my commute and go virtual

My perspective on the benefits of flexible work including reduced stress, improved productivity, and higher job satisfaction

If a “Hahvid” business professor predicts it, something tells us we should listen.

Prithwiraj Choudhury who specializes in the future of work studying companies that went 100% remote years before the pandemic says in 10 years “remote work” will just be “work.” 

“Remote work is often pitched as something that employees want and employers don’t. My research has showed that this is a win-win. For employees, it’s great to work from anywhere because you can move to a cheaper location. You can live where you want to,” says Chowdhury.

I can personally attest to the benefits of a flexible work plan. My quality of life noticeably improved when I began to work remote 10 years ago. Including a boost to my physical and mental health, as well as a greater work/life balance.

Long before the pandemic forced us to re-evaluate our work-life balance, I took the leap to fully remote. In 2011, I had a close friend who relocated to Tampa. He was so valuable to his Boston-based company, they allowed him to relocate. He switched from 7 days in the office to fully remote from his new home in sunny Florida. Fortunately, he also maintained a lower cost of living by retaining his Boston salary.

The Problem isn’t the Office, It’s the Commute

This modern work utopia sparked an idea! For nearly 10 years, I was commuting from my home in Providence, RI to the greater Boston area. As many New England drivers are aware, Boston has notoriously congested and busy major highways. Route 128 is one of the most heavily traveled sections of Route 95. And in my humble opinion, features some of the area’s most frantic commuters!

From the time I sat at my desk at a small, but thriving educational book publishing company in Waltham, MA, I stressed about the evening commute. As a newbie editor, I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with clients such as National Geographic School Publishing and Houghton Mifflin, yet I dreaded the three hours behind the wheel.

“If the pandemic’s two-plus years of remote work experimentation have taught us anything, it’s that many people can be productive outside the office, and quite a few are happier doing so. That’s especially true for people with young children or long commutes, minority workers who have a tougher time fitting in with the standard office culture, or those with other personal circumstances that made working in offices less attractive.”

“The Office Monsters Are Trying to Claw Their Way Back to 2019,” NY Times

Years later, I progressed to a job with a similar 100-mile daily commute. Yet on a less busy corridor of Massachusetts known as Route 495. The company was recently acquired by United Technologies with headquarters in Westborough. While I was fortunate to telecommute on Fridays, it wasn’t corporate policy to allow a remote-first arrangement.

After several years commuting two hours daily to Westborough, and an occasional deadline that kept me in the office well past midnight, I needed something closer to home. As a new mother, I also wanted the flexibility to drop and pick up my son from pre-school.

According to software findings giant Getapp, the number of people working from home has risen by 400% since 2010. With companies from Dropbox to 3M now giving employees the option to work virtually forever. Choudhury said businesses that don’t adapt risk higher attrition.

Re-Entering the Local Workforce (Welcome to the ‘Burbs)

Part of my motivation to jump back into the Rhode Island job market was the flexibility that IT integrator, Carousel Industries offered. With headquarters in the rural town of Exeter, I didn’t necessarily desire to relocate there. Leadership at Carousel understood that they could cast a wider net if they searched for talent beyond the local labor market.

Now working for NWN Carousel, “the hybrid work” company, I have a balanced approach to work and family obligations.  As a Boston-based Cloud Communications Service Provider, NWN Carousel fosters a company culture of work-life balance. In fact, after NWN Corp acquired Carousel Industries, they accurately forecasted that more than half of the U.S. workforce will be remote. This puts organizations in the inevitable position of building communications systems and platforms to support employees working from anywhere with the same communications experience that they would have in a traditional office environment. 

It’s a model NWN Carousel created to sustain its employee base and deliver a hybrid work experience for its customers – spanning millions of users – across North America’s 7,000 leading organizations.

According to a study by Kantar, “When asked to rate their physical health now that they are working remotely more frequently, 64% of global respondents say their physical health improved. This is higher for Gen-Z and Millennials (around 70%), and lower for Gen-X and Boomers (around 60%).” The study goes on to explain, “The most important factors contributing to improved physical health are feeling more relaxed at home (69%), followed by having more time to exercise (57%), and getting more sleep (52%).”

Emotional health has also improved due to remote working, according to 62% or those surveyed.

Setting up the Perfect WFH Office

When I started working virtually a decade ago, I didn’t yet understand the importance of a dedicated home office. Or the need for a robust wireless at-home network. I was just grateful to have flexibility… and I still am. Covid-19 continues to reshape how we work. I feel indebted to first responders who comprise of more than (60%) of U.S. workers, according to Pew Research, who don’t have jobs that can be done from home. For a majority of workers, their jobs continue to entail at least some in-person and some remote.

Now I understand that hybrid work requires a sustainable and holistic approach. I have a dedicated home office with a window view and a library of my favorite books as a backdrop! I also have smart cameras and mics to support quality visual collaboration and secure devices, as well as the network bandwidth I need to provide for 24/7 availability.  

Choudhury says, “My prediction is the process will unfold in every industry and every country. There will be a few leading companies that will adopt this and attract talent, and there will be laggards digging their heads in the sand and losing talent.”

With NWN Carousel offices stretching throughout New England, and across major metros areas nationwide, I know if I’m craving in-person time, I can go to a nearby office. Or attend one of our  networking events.

Return to Office, Done Right

One day, I may switch gears and fully return to the office. Until then, I’m happy to have the flexibility of a hybrid approach.

“The office needs to be redesigned. Instead of having cubicles and corner offices, we need to have more meeting rooms, and community kitchens where the team can cook a meal together. The 25% time deepens your bonds within the team, and the virtual water cooler broadens your social network in the firm,” says Choudhury.

Luckily, the traditional mammoth conference rooms and restricting cubicles of a decade-ago will be a thing of the past. And I’m more than ok with that.