An ancillary but significant effect of WFH is the removal of commute from our daily lives. Depending on where you live, you are saving several minutes or hours every day of commuting time by working remotely. One report suggests that the average employee in India can save 1.47 hours daily and INR 5520 (approximately 58£) monthly during this period. But apart from savings, how else are we reacting to the absence of commute? And will this change our work travel patterns in the long run?
Let us dig deeper.
This might come as a surprise, but a zero commute working model is a double-edged sword. People use these stray moments of leisure for a variety of purposes, from catching up on their to-do lists to planning their life goals. One survey found that nearly 1 in 3 Londoners miss listening to music/podcasts like they would in a pre-pandemic world. Others would catch up with the news, read books, reply to emails, watch television, or simply relax. Now, there’s no dedicated time of day for these highly value-adding activities.
The savings from WFH are universal. As in India, UK workers have been able to save £93 per month – this adds up to two years of salary for the average worker! These savings are filling up important gaps in quality of life, including debt repayment (17%), mortgage payments (10%), and saving up for a house (11%).
Of course, the biggest pro of not commuting is personal safety.
With employees increasingly wary of using public transport, even as offices reopen, continuing to WFH seems like a smart alternative. As per a WFH report, 40% of travellers plan on using ride-sharing options lesser, and 52% are uncomfortable using subways and buses. Driving and private transportation is a costlier alternative, which is why WFH is probably here to stay.
It also helps that reduced travel time could improve productivity by 13%.
There’s also an argument to be made for stronger infrastructure. No matter its benefits, zero-commute isn’t an option for employees in field services sectors – healthcare, F&B, retail, manufacturing plants, etc. Even for desked employees, hybrid workplaces and shift timings are very much part of the new normal. That’s why policymakers are rethinking urban infrastructure and processes to provide safe commuting options.
New York City’s usually 24/7 subway systems will now close between 1 AM and 5 AM for a round of disinfection. The Paris Metro is applying AI to scan people’s faces for face masks. This ensures that there is a viable alternative to indefinite WFH, as well as a safe public transportation system for emergencies.
For now, our regular approach to daily commutes is a thing of the past, even as we anticipate safer urban travel experiences, with all the benefits we enjoyed before.