The Rise of Remote Work Necessitates the Virtual Commute

The Rise of Remote Work Necessitates the Virtual Commute

Did you know that you are likely spending the average 4.3 hours you saved weekly not commuting on working?   

According to new data from (a Centre for Economic Policy Research Website) gleaned by surveying more than 10,000 American remote workers, 35% of them have been using that extra time to work. 

The relationship between workers and commuting remains a love-hate.  And one of the rewards of remote work is the elimination of commuting.  

Nonetheless, commuting to work has its rewards:

  • Physical movement 

When you commute, particularly by cycling or walking, you’re working out unintentionally. If you use public transit, you walk from connection points to your destination point – this is also unintentional exercise. Some people are known to take the stairs to get to the office floor instead of the elevator to burn some extra calories. 

  • Time for “prospection” 

Commuting provides the time for people to plan their day – this is called “prospection.” It’s simply planning which makes you more productive and ready to take on the day.  

  • Socializing 

You meet people when you commute and have plenty of opportunities for conversations.  

  • Opportunity to transition 

Commuting helps wire the brain and body for work and life, helping you transition from one part of your day to another. 

  • A “suspension” period 

When commuting, you can forget your roles and duties for a while. You can suspend yourself as a mere traveler – not an employee, not a parent, or any other role you play in your life. 

  • The “incubation effect” 

When you lose yourself while commuting, a solution to a problem at work that you were cracking your head for can magically emerge. This is called the incubation effect – you unconsciously get a “Eureka moment” when you were at a dead end.   

What if you’re told that virtual commuting can render all the benefits of conventional commuting? 

With some conscious effort, you can replicate commuting to work when working remotely via virtual commuting. A virtual commute can be encapsulated as any activity that allows you to switch “on” and “off” before, in between, and after the workday. The goal is to draw clear distinctions between work and home life. 

How can you reap the same benefits of conventional commutes through virtual commutes? 

It takes a dose of creativity, resourcefulness, effort, and consciousness to commute virtually and enjoy the same rewards of conventional commuting. 

  • Physical movements 

Before your work-from-home hours begin, you can take a walk or jog outside to get some fresh air and your dose of vitamin D from sunlight. With nationwide and global pandemic movement restrictions lifted, this is feasible, especially for those opting for permanent remote work 

You can walk or ride a bicycle to the coffee shop or internet cafe that you work remotely from. It’s also a good idea to intentionally exercise or do some yoga before you hit the keyboard. 

If you’re on workation, taking a dip in the pool or the sea before opening your laptop to work can give you a semblance of “swimming to work” and recharge you.  

  • Time for “prospection” 

You can take the time you spend rolling on your bed, showering, or brushing to mentally plan your day and work, indulging in prospection. You can also listen to your favorite music and get the work juices flowing, creating a mind map about what you must do for the day. 

However, don’t do this when you’re cooking or cutting up vegetables and fruits for your salad bowl. It can be dangerous. It’s highly recommended that you do prospection when doing things that don’t require mindfulness.  

Genashtim, a fully remote company with 100% remote staff does prospection a little differently, at least in its Language Department. Team members encode their tasks for the week in an Excel spreadsheet.  It’s primarily for record purposes and also doubles up as a reference for employees before they go about their tasks for the day.  

If ad hoc tasks come up, it’s important to do a delayed or on-the-spot prospection. 

  • Socializing 

While you take a walk or jog outside before beginning your work-at-home hours, initiate small talks or have conversations with your neighbors. You can talk to your family members about what’s on the news, what’s cooking, the upcoming birthdays of your family members – anything that comes to mind before, after, or in between isolating yourself in your home workstation. 

Remote work is all about communication via a myriad of telecommunication applications such as Skype, MS Teams, and Slack. So, drop a message in your team group chat and socialize before and after your work hours. This can be a bit tricky if your colleagues live in different time zones, but asynchronous communication will navigate you. 

If you work from a Starbucks joint or an internet cafe, you can chit-chat with the proprietors or the customers who are your newfound friends. 

Social media provides the opportunity to socialize as well. As a remote worker, you can start your day by greeting your friends and family in WhatsApp groups or sending your friends on Snapchat a snap.   

  • Opportunity to transition 

You can hardwire yourself to transition between work and life by simply treating your remote workspace as your space to work and nothing else. 

When you eat your meals in between work, either eat at the dining table or close your laptop when you eat. Eating and working simultaneously reduce the efficacy of both. It’s also important that you chew your food well and mindfully. Gobbling food up isn’t healthy for your digestive tract and that’s exactly what you tend to do if you eat while you work – your work will likely have more mistakes. 

Designate certain times of the day when you take short bursts of exercise (inspired by rajio taiso), watch or read the news or that new paperback book you are dying to finish, or have a hot cup of freshly brewed coffee. 

It’s about chunking parts of your day so you can transition from one part to the other seamlessly.  

Transitioning is challenging, especially when you work from home. Almost all of Genashtim’s staff work from home and since many of them are people with disabilities (PWDs) with medical conditions, the company encourages them to take frequent breaks that can be used to transition. Genashtim implemented the Take Some policy in February 2022, officiating the transitioning between the work and physical needs of its employees.  

  • A “suspension” period 

You can try meditating or listening to the songs of nature and be suspended from the chaotic real world momentarily as a part of your virtual commute. 

If you set up your remote workstation by the window overlooking greenery, the birdbox/birdbath, or your lawn, you can take serial suspensions by gazing off into the distance for a few minutes. 

Scented candles, potpourri bottles, and wind chimes enhance the ambiance and boost your productivity as a remote worker. They also allow you to have conscious mental escapes while working remotely where you can immerse in nothingness briefly. 

  • The “incubation effect” 

In a remote setting, the incubation effect is an extension of suspension periods. It’s where you mute your mind and lose yourself to a degree of oblivion. 

Such instances have the potential to break your mental block and induce clarity.  

The incubation process is mysterious. However, it can be broken down into two of the following steps when you work remotely: 

  1. Take a break. 
  1. Return to the problem after a few minutes, an hour, a day, or a week, afresh. 

There is an increase in the probability of your mind becoming clearer when you return to a problem at work a bit later.  

It’s what we were taught in school to do during exams too – if a question is difficult and you can’t figure it out, you can answer the other ones you know and then get back to the difficult question afterwards. Often, the answer is right there, and you can see it now that you “incubated” it. 

The same rule applies when you work remotely and within virtual commuting. This fascinating capability of the human mind solves problems unconsciously and is as useful in the remote work realm as it is anywhere. 

Final words about virtual commuting… 

Virtual commuting is very close to the right to unplug except for the fact that you must do the former with your active effort rather than relying on company policy. It can be mirrored as taking breaks that renew your work self and work spirit, helping you to be a more efficient remote worker. 

You can choose which virtual commute works for you – what we listed above are suggestions and they don’t always necessarily work for all remote workers.  

As you commute virtually, don’t forget to spend some time ensuring your wellbeing! 

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