Have you ever had to turn down the car radio when focusing on backing out of a parking spot? Or played soft music through headphones to concentrate on an assignment? That’s what my life is like every day in an office setting — constantly trying to quiet the noise so I can focus on my work.
I suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, a complicated disorder that results in extreme fatigue and difficulties with memory, focus and concentration. These symptoms can worsen with physical or mental activity and no amount of sleep will make it better. I’m also legally blind, with almost no sight in my right eye and diminished vision in the left. This means I rely on a screen reader, which translates on-screen information into speech through headphones or speakers.
Since moving to remote work almost two years ago, I’ve noticed major improvements in the quality of my life and work. Not having to block out all the extra background noise has really made a difference in how well I can hear my screen reader and my ability to focus and process information. With chronic fatigue syndrome I’m always very tired, so the less distractions the better — for both my work and my mental health.
"Since moving to remote work almost two years ago, I’ve noticed major improvements in the quality of my life and work."
The friends and colleagues I talk to say the same thing. One friend previously relied on before and after school care for her kids. Now, she can put them on the bus in the morning and be there when they get home. She’s saving $750 a month and spending more time with her family, which is what’s most important to her.
Another coworker suffered from a brain injury that made her very tired as the day went on. But because she was working from home, she was able to start work an hour earlier to give herself a 90-minute lunch. This allowed her to lay down and return to work refreshed in the afternoon, which just wouldn’t have been possible when she worked from the office.
Most of the people I speak to — probably 80 to 90 per cent — say they won’t go back to the office if they have a choice.
Unsurprisingly, PSAC’s member survey results tell a similar story. Nearly 75 per cent of respondents said they have been working remotely since the pandemic started, and more than 90 per cent want to continue working remotely when the pandemic ends.
Remote work makes sense for so many reasons. And while I realize not everyone has the option to work from home based on the requirements of their job, for those that are fortunate enough to have the opportunity, it’s become a part of everyday life.
"I’m proud that PSAC is calling attention to this issue at the bargaining table."
I’m proud that PSAC is calling attention to this issue at the bargaining table and pushing for work arrangements that allow members to shape their workday to match their personal and family responsibilities, which in turn benefits the employer with improved productivity and cost savings.
There’s no question that remote work has improved my work-life balance, morale and productivity. I just hope my employer recognizes those benefits and makes the right to remote work a permanent fixture in our collective agreements.
Jessica Bonish lives in Regina, Saskatchewan where she works as a benefits officer with Service Canada’s Employment Insurance program. Bonish sits on the executive of her local and chairs the CEIU Manitoba-Saskatchewan Young Workers Committee, to name just a few of her union commitments.