As offices start to reopen across the country, many folks that have been working from home are wondering if they are going to lose the work-from-home flexibility they’ve been enjoying during the pandemic. A recent USA Today poll says that about 40% of workers want to keep working remotely when business gets back to ’normal’.
For many, the biggest benefit of working from home has been avoiding the commute to MegaCorp on busy highways. The average daily round trip commute in the United States was 54 minutes before the pandemic – nearly 10 hours of driving a week!
My commute over 27 years was much longer than that. I had a daily 1.5 hour commute (by bus or car) for the first 24 years of my working life and 20 minutes round-trip for the last 3 years. Overall, my calculation is that I spent 4.3 years of 40 hour work weeks going to work. That’s equal to 16% of my total career.
To employers, I think employee commutes are often a bit of an afterthought. After all, how far someone chooses to live from work is their business, not MegaCorp’s. Most big companies had adopted some sort of ‘flex time’ concept before the pandemic, but I don’t recall any real effort to understand how far people travel to get to work at any of the three blue-chip MegaCorps I ever worked at.
As a result, I think employers (and politicians) are missing something important if they aren’t appreciating how incredibly significant a commute is in the total scheme of one’s total life. Hopefully the pandemic has opened people’s eyes. To spend literally YEARS of your life behind the wheel is a huge waste of time and productivity.
I have quite a few friends / former colleagues who have now reached the C-suites of many businesses. For the most part, they tell me that they will promote more flexible work arrangements post-pandemic than they did in the past, but still they are adamant that they prefer people working in the office as much as possible.
My hope is that if they do push for people back behind desks, they move to it slowly and really carefully assess what the implications are for the business and the employee. I’m one who might have worked years longer had I not had a job without much work-from-home flexibility. In an ongoing global ‘war for talent’, companies can’t afford to ignore the significance of commute time to employees.
How significant was/(is) your commute in shaping where you worked and how long you worked there?
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