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Your commute - pain or pleasure? by Gill Avery

Updated: May 21


‘Now I have no daily commute, I have been given back 3 hours of my life, every day!’ was the reaction of many people during the initial days of lock down. Some described a sense of spaciousness, around their busy days – enjoying cooking, gardening, relishing more time with their children and the online yoga class they always promised themselves. However as the weeks have progressed, I have detected a change in tone about the pros and cons of working from home.

Most obviously is that time gained from WFH has been absorbed into longer working days – often for good reason as there is the day job to be achieved as well as the Covid-19 context to be managed. Somehow our new time buffers at the beginning and end of the day have been eroded - imperceptibly and swiftly.

However there has been another interesting effect of shrinking our commute from living room to the spare bedroom, kitchen table, or the luxury of a home office. One client described to me how their thinking has become ‘fuzzier’ since WFH; another spoke nostalgically about the pleasures of their weekly long distance commute across the UK and yet another about the loss of the sense of movement, of going ‘somewhere’ for work.

So what purpose did – or indeed does – our commute serve?

Asking clients and colleagues, the answers varied.

One client used to cherish their rail commute with fellow first class travellers who, over years, became a group of invaluable mentors. They missed this invaluable input. Others, more introspective, appreciated time to mull quietly over the events of the day and create order in their thoughts and peace in their feelings before engaging with friends and family. Yet others used their commute to escape, and ‘leave work behind’ enjoying a book, story, podcast, game or movie; creating a distinct change of mood and focus, relaxing between work and home.

The benefits that we derived from our commute will link to aspects of ourselves that we may understand to be our strengths: our keenness to take action, influence others, grow trusting relationships, hone our thinking and learn more.

Recognising our needs and the gifts that our commute brought – or maybe still brings us – enables us to actively support ourselves in finding alternatives, when no longer having this enforced time in our week. Indeed what time may we have in our lives to be on our own and to relax? Recent findings from the US indicate that 72% of women and 61% of men are feeling more stressed as a result of the pandemic*, and we know that too much stress reduces our wellbeing, performance and resilience.

Our action research shows that to be resilient we need frequent ‘recharges’ of energy every day, based on our unique interests. To some extent, this can be the opportunity of commuting time.

As we WFH, how can we recreate the gifts of our commute – whilst gladly leaving behind the frustrations and discomforts of the rush hour?

We may need to plan the equivalent of our commute – to read, watch, listen, or reflect before reengaging with others in our home or neighbourhood. Extroverts may enjoy a virtual tea or beer on the way ‘home from work’. Walking or cycling can replicate the movement we once had in our day.

We are all learning our way forward. It would be great to hear how you replacing the benefits of your commute in your ‘next normal’

*Brink News 12 May 2020

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