Anyone who works from home knows that it makes you more productive, reduces the number of pointless meetings, and cuts out the time you used to waste on your daily commute. Yet a few years ago, several major technology companies started to push back, claiming that despite the high lease costs and overheads they had to pay to keep office buildings running, in-person collaboration was better than team members working remotely. One of these was former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who believed she could counteract her company’s precipitous decline by banning telecommuting. IBM made a similar move in 2017. Yet the COVID-19 shutdown has shown, once and for all, that we can be efficient and effective working out of our home offices – even when we’re trying to simultaneously tutor our children.
With this realization in mind, Silicon Valley has performed an about-face and started reversing Yahoo and IBM’s mandatory in-person work policy. Twitter head honcho Jack Dorsey recently revealed that when Twitter’s offices re-open, employees will have the option to stay away and continue working from home. Though the world’s most popular search engine company will likely want employees back at the Googleplex (yeah, it’s really called that) and Apple is unlikely to abandon the spaceship-like Apple Park headquarters – hardly surprising given the billions pumped into the architecturally ambitious project – many other companies have seen the light as their employees have proved that telecommuting is viable.
Though not thought of as that progressive by many, Microsoft stated that its team members can choose to continue working from home through at least the end of October, with productivity app Slack doing likewise. Mark Zuckerberg’s many minions will also be working out of the comfort of their home offices until the beginning of the new year.
A Home Office Helper
For the biggest companies, this means thousands of staff whose work locale has now changed, perhaps for good. To help ensure they have what they need to do their jobs to the best of their ability, Silicon Valley’s millionaires and billionaires are digging into their deep pockets and providing generous stipends for purchasing home office equipment and furniture. Before the pandemic struck, Reddit was already providing reimbursement for home internet and a yearly allowance for office supplies. Now they’re upping the ante by reallocating a monthly travel allowance so their staff can further improve their remote work environment.
Reddit isn’t the only one to get in on the act. Back in March when they sent their employees home, Slack gave everyone from interns to executives 500 bucks to better their productivity cocoons. Now they’ve doubled up, issuing each employee a check for $1,000 to take that further. While small to midsize companies can’t match the financial clout of the Silicon Valley big boys, many are also implementing similar programs to ensure telecommuters can do everything that they would if they were all together in an office, and maybe even more.
So now that companies are splashing their cash, how should you spend it wisely (no, that illuminated beer sign Michael Scott has in his condo doesn’t count). The first step is to stop as much optional sitting as possible, stand when you can, and build in more movement into each and every day. No need to buy a brand new desk – Vari and many others offer conversion options that can elevate your computer or tablet so that you can start standing to type, Zoom, and so on. Why would you want to? Well, for starters, too much sitting increases the incidence of low back and hip issues. Second, it puts your body into sleep mode so you don’t consume as many calories, your circulation slows down, and you get mentally sluggish faster.
Join the Standing Revolution the Right Way
Dr. Kelly Starrett, author of Becoming a Supple Leopard and creator of The Ready State, started a non-profit called Stand Up Kids with his wife, Juliet. On their website, they provide a bevy of information on sitting vs. standing and moving, as well as several free calculators. I used one of these to compare the metabolic effects of me sitting or standing, and found that if I’d get up off my can to work, I’d burn an extra 143,554 calories a year. To put it into context, Juliet figured out that standing more often than she sits burns the caloric equivalent of her running 33 marathons a year.
So if you decide to go the standing desk route, that’s going to be great for your health. But there might be a few issues that you didn’t expect. For starters, you’re going to need to mobilize your calves, feet, and ankles more because these areas often get tight if you quit sitting to work cold turkey. You can counter this by doing what Chris McDougall advises about the transition from thick-soled running shoes to minimal ones in his bestselling book Born to Run and try to make the change more gradually.
Another sound strategy to ease into standing and moving more during your work-from-home day is to buy a mat that has different shapes and angles to challenge your balance and fit in some sneaky micromovement while you’re hammering away at your keyboard. As Wirecutter noted when naming the Erogdriven Topo it’s Top Pick for standing desk mats, “This mat’s varied terrain encourages movement, making standing less tedious and less achy. The Topo isalso easy to move when you switch between standing and sitting.”
If seeking more focus and flow, you might want to up your headphone game as well - particularly if you’ve got young kids who are still doing school from home and who will soon be on summer break. If you want to go wireless, the current consensus among tech reviewers is that the Sony 1000XM3s are hard to beat. Or if you’re old school and prefer wired cans, Master & Dynamic’s MH40s are a great over-the-ear option. Should you prefer earbuds and be wary of jumping on the AirPods bandwagon, check out the noise-blocking, bass-thumping options from boutique hi-fi brand Periodic Audio.