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This article was originally published by Body & Soul

By Cassandra Green

September 24, 2021

Any gift during this difficult time is worth celebrating, especially one where you can get back a few hours in your day.

The truth is that after months of sitting at a home desk (dining table) doing work (dispersed with sneaky laundry loads) and drinking home-made coffee (takeaway from down the road) – we’ve finally got our WFH routine down pat.

But with Australia steadily getting vaccinated we will once again face change and mount the ‘back to the office’ pilgrimage that we have done already once before. Oh joy…

According to the Productivity Commission, we shouldn’t expect the advantages from the working from home revolution to be thrown out the window.

Many of us have learnt to love our home offices and the money and time saved on the commute (including the office days where you’re *forced* to buy Guzman and Gomez because you didn’t meal prep).

We’ve benefitted too much from this workplace shift to let it go.

Just how much? The commission report suggests that just one day at home per week, over the year, would save the equivalent of seven full working days of travel time and nearly $400 in travel costs. We’ve been doing it for months.

If that’s not an endorsement for flexible working post lockdown, we don’t know what is (especially as the commission found that in large cities such as Sydney and Melbourne the average commute is around 70 minutes).

But what are we going to do with all this extra time on our hands?

Well, new research from LinkedIn suggests many are using it to increase our overall wellbeing – hurrah!

The study found that 41% of us are using the time usually spent commuting on exercise. We’re also getting into healthier eating habits with almost a third saying they feel better as they’re eating less takeaway.

Futurist and organisational psychologist, Amantha Imber, says that swapping the bus for a sweat session has become increasingly popular.

“[We] have developed rituals, for example, before logging on for the day, people might go for a 30 minute walk in their local area and maybe listen to a podcast…we’re just saving so much time with eliminating that daily commute; I think for many people, it’s between one to two hours.”

The trend towards an enduring flexible work model is clear. The Productivity Commission found that a third of Aussies would prefer three days a week at home, while 20% would rather to be solely based at home.

We’re guessing the latter part are the ones who have made the most of their commute times, in the form of exercise, meditation and other things that they have chosen to do for themselves, rather than clocking more hours on the job.

“I would say that this is definitely an enduring trend because we’ve now experienced it for 18 months which is long enough for it to feel like the new normal and certainly what research from LinkedIn suggests is that employees are no longer willing to work for organisations that don’t provide flexibility,” says Imber.

“7% of people would chose to resign instead of being forced or mandated to return to the office for organisations where that was the case. So, I don’t necessarily think it will be working from home 100% of the time like we are now, I think that we’ll be hybrid.”

These predictions are also having impact across the country, where more and more Aussies are moving out of heavily populated cities to more rural and regional areas for better work/life balance.

However, with talks of a hybrid mode where days in the office are still required, the Productivity Commission report showed more Aussies moving further away from cities, but not out of a commuting zone altogether.

For example, in Sydney populations in the likes of Hornsby, Turramurra, Peakhurst and Hurstville are expected to grow, while in Melbourne it would be to outer suburbs such as Mornington Peninsula areas Mount Martha and Safety Beach.

“I would say this [moving away from city centres] is something that we will see more of,” says Imber.

“If we only want and expect to be in the office part time, it means that a long commute is a lot more doable because we’re not doing it every day. So, absolutely I would expect that we will definitely see more Aussies buying further away from where their physical office is located.”

Whether we decide to move further afield and commute less, or stay where we are and commute less – we should expect office workers to have more time on their hands, even after the lockdowns end.

It’s important to take this time for you. In fact, Dr Addie Wootten, CEO of Smiling Mind, says that even a “quick lap around the block can do wonders for your mind.”

A great tip to make the most of this time, is to try setting your alarm at the time you’d usually wake up to go to work – but instead do something for you.

  • If your commute is 10 mins, try a guided meditation such as this one or have a cup of coffee away from a screen, outdoors and without your phone
  • If your commute is 20 minutes, try doing this Lululemon vinyasa flow workout to feel more balanced.
  • If your commute is 30 minutes, try an online HIIT class such as this one.
  • If your commute is 40 minutes, call your mum or a friend or go for a walk and listen to a podcast (such as 2 eps of Extra-Healthyish).
  • If your commute is 50 minutes, we would recommend awe walks in your local LGA.
  • If your commute is 60 minutes, try going to your nearest water body and going for a dip. There is a lot of existing research to suggest that being on or near the water can hugely improve our mental wellbeing.

How to ask your boss for more flexibility

We have already done the return to work once before, and some may have found their employers less than impressed by the idea of a ‘hybrid working model’.

It can feel difficult to ask your boss for new hours, but it really is where the world is heading, and you may need to gently guide them there.

“Organisations are already shifting their flexible work policies to accommodate the new ways of working so understanding your organisation’s policy is the first step. If your request is over and above the organisation policy, then state clearly what sort of arrangement you are looking for,” says careers expert at LinkedIn, Shiva Kumar.

“When presenting your case, understand the expectations that the organisation has from your role and also the likely impact on other team members and customers. Highlight the benefits that this might also have on your mental health and work-life balance.”

Finally – document, document, document. Show how a move to a flexible working schedule might have helped you get more done at home.

“Be open to having a dialogue and finding a solution that works for you and your organisation,” he adds.