In the pre-pandemic and post-pandemic periods, the world seems to have changed drastically. While one is a utopian reality, the other is a nightmare for most people.
However, the reality is a matter of perspective. You can alter it into a shoebox that fits us.
With COVID-19 and social distancing being the new norm of social life, every tiny part of a person's life has changed. From being confined due to lockdown to adhering to work from home, the scenario has shifted to a new world.
All these new developments have affected the work culture in organizations worldwide.
We all loved to stretch our legs to the comfort of our homes.
But a year later, that seems to have faded away. Do new things last for a while? That's a question we all know the answer to.
Although we all loved working from home because of the flexibility and ability to focus, deep down, we miss what the office offers. For example, the social interaction, the joy of collaboration, and the endless cups of a coffee break.
Is the pandemic causing you to rethink your commute?
Are you reconsidering your views on the long commute to work? Has the pandemic made you rethink your commute, or are you considering a new job closer to home?
With the lockdown over and everything back at the game, people are now facing the dilemma of going to the office or continuing with the comfort of work from home.
With the office reopening slowly, most people are not looking forward to commuting and losing their free time.
Studies indicate that this perception has changed recently. People now want to return to their pre-COVID lives. They want their hustle back as the charm of lockdown has started to wear off.
The resistance of many companies and organizations who are keen on getting back to normal is logical. You, too, will feel this resistance since work from home is attached to terms like mellow, unproductive, and endless Zoom calls and virtual meetings.
Nonetheless, organizations should promote short commutes to gain employees' loyalty because people are more affluent than before and can use that time to work.
The companies can encourage employees to work from home at least a day per week. Since insisting on employees to get back to the office full time can cause a major threat to retention and diversity.
Suggested Read: 8 Top Employee Retention Factors
**Let's dig more into the transition of work culture and people's outlook towards commuting to work post the pandemic. **
Work commute culture before and after COVID-19
2019 seems like eons ago, and the world has changed along with the mass's perception of many things and lifestyles, especially towards work life.
Until now, the narrative about the work commute has been that it is a negative thing and potentially affects employees' health.
According to a recent study by the association for psychological science, longer commutes lead to more stress, blood pressure, and a higher rate of divorces.
Before the pandemic, a longer commute or even the thought of going back to the office was frowned upon. Hence, the phrase "Monday blues" came about.
We commute through computers. Spirits stay mute while our ego spread rumors. We're survivalists turned to consumers.
The lengthy commute have always been linked with many health ailments, including obesity and mental exhaustion.
Commuting has been such a negative term that most people are willing to shell out a part of their salary for a shorter commute or a job close to home.
But with the pandemic and the change in the workforce, the narrative has altered to some extent.
With work from home, the working hours have increased more than before. People now are working throughout the day. Every freedom has its cost.
Even though the shift to remote work has ended the traditional 9-5 workday, employees now work in bursts more than ever.
Employees now work at night, in between caregiving tasks and managing household chores simultaneously, and the endless calls and meetings are becoming overwhelming.
According to the latest study, employees now tend to work all day hours, leading to worse health and wellness.
The endless digital workdays make it harder for employees to get off-hours. As a result, you are exposing them to more stress and health ailments than ever before.
With lesser social interactions and exposure to the office, they face isolation and reduced levels of knowledge sharing with their colleagues, which further deteriorates the mental wellness of the employees.
Suggested Read : Coping With Social Isolation and Mental Health
Even the work-life balance is disrupted more than pre-COVID-19 days as most of the employees working remotely blur the family-work boundary and thus end up working even on no working hours.
Social anxiety, agitation, fear of confronting people, or anger issues due to more workload pressure are some new difficulties people face post-pandemic.
However, these can be resolved if we encourage more of a hybrid work culture rather than full-time in the organization.
The work from anywhere future
One thing that had been in the news before the outbreak was the future of work culture and how there was no need for everyone working under the same roof.
The work from home made things quite flexible but even it had its downsides.The hybrid work culture can be the future of work-life as there's a right balance between work life and leisure.
More flexibility and less rigidity will lower the threat to retention and diversity as most employees are women from colored backgrounds who may find work from home rather suffocating.
The commute to work should be short and effective. With technology being advanced and breaking the barriers, everyone seems irrelevant to collocate to one building for work.
The company can provide worksites closer to their hometown or even telecommuting. The pandemic has answered that teams and the entire workforce can perform effectively while being distributed.
However, there has been an interesting observation about commuting. People who telecommute tend to be more behind the wheels than those commuting to work regularly.
The choice of working from a desk or at a place near home positively affects employee turnover and productivity.
Suggested Read : Work From Anywhere: The Next Step In Corporate Wellness
Establish your work commute routine
The subjective well-being of an individual is affected by daily routines like commuting to work. There hasn't been any evidence of commuting affecting well-being.
You can turn the dreaded commute to a more pleasant and productive one. It is not impossible to have a more effective commute to work to benefit you and your future goals.
A long commute to work provides us with the transition from work and home, which gives us a sense of planning our day and transitioning from one role to another. Thus, providing you with structure, stability, and separation.
Individuals may benefit more from a long commute to work or even a daily commute, contradicting the popular view of harming individual lifestyles.
More future-oriented people can utilize their commute time and focus more on their goals than sulking to work. You can optimize the time spent commuting to work by scheduling things that need to be done ahead of time, thus giving you more leverage over others and improving your work performance.
Lengthy commute can also reduce stress and give individuals the opportunity to relax and think, according to Harvard research.
Make your work commute more productive
Getting more things done during your commute makes it less miserable and more productive. Prompting commuters to engage in more goal-oriented activities while commuting to work results in job satisfaction and decreased emotional exhaustion.
Additionally, multitasking is beneficial for the well-being of employees during work commutes.
We must do tasks that do not tax the same parts of our brain since multitasking requires us to focus on more than one thing at a time.
By cycling or walking to work, we can both commute to work and get our daily dose of physical activity as well.
If your work commute is short, then cycling is better than taking the subway. You'll end up feeling refreshed and energized at work.
"Is it really necessary to repeat that cycling is a proven way to boost happiness? Research shows that when it comes to your daily commute, cycling is the happiest form." - @humankindcity
If your commute is longer, you can meditate while listening to podcasts or enjoy a long drive to ease the morning drowsiness.
Suggested Read : Cycle to Work Scheme: Inspiring Employees to Cycle to and from Work
How work commute is good for your health
In a recent report, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development found that commuters take an average of 38 minutes to reach their workplace, which means they spend almost 300 hours a year commuting.
Unlike the popular opinion on how the commute to work harms employees' well-being or how it is the reason behind stress and other mental exhaustion, a recent study found quite contradictory conclusions post-pandemic.
The pandemic has drained most employees’ mental well-being and job satisfaction due to fewer in-person interactions and digital burnout. People now want to change the overarching narrative of work commute and turn it into a more positive one.
The work commute was a ritual in your daily life, and habits have been a natural human behavior since the beginning. They provide a sense of stability, purpose, and structure into an otherwise uncertain world of grief and anxiety.
**Let us look into some of the reasons why the work commute is rather a positive thing.
1. A return to stability and structure in life
Daily work commute structures your daily behavior into a better pattern that soothes the brain. The stability and predictability provided by structure and stability make post-pandemic days easier to cope with.
When you can predict the future, you are less likely to face difficulties and anxiety. In the wake of the pandemic, people have learned that everything in life is uncertain.
Returning to rituals like commuting to work is a relief for many as it gives them a sense of stability and purpose. Partaking in routines or habits is an instinct that is hindered, and can affect your overall wellness.
2. A sense of purpose in life
The daily ritual of commuting to work gives a sense of purpose to many. People on their way to work often recall their intention of going to work and why they are employed.
Whether it is to support your family or to pursue your passion in life, while we commute to work by car, train, or cycle, we can think of all the benefits. As a result, the dreaded commute blurs the existential crisis many experienced during the lockdown, allowing them to wake up and reconnect with all the other purposes that working allows, resulting in increased productivity and job satisfaction.
People who did the most planning were better able to handle longer commutes.
3. An increase in wellness and a decrease in emotional exhaustion
Being prepared to brace the uncertainty of the day ahead helps to lower the level of stress. Commuting to work gives you time to be mentally prepared for the tasks, think about your to-do lists, or even come up with something new to pitch in your morning meeting.
Thus, this leads to less emotional exhaustion as you are already ready and composed when you arrive at work.
It cannot be achieved with work from home as you are busy hustling with either making breakfast or attending Zoom meetings. The chaos takes a toll on your mental health, making it impossible to be prepared ahead of time.
Thus,commuting seems like a better option than working from home.
Tips for making your commute less stressful
We can easily turn the table and make our commute less stressful and more productive by practice the following -
1. Walking or cycling to work
Walking or cycling to work can increase leisure time satisfaction and decrease strain. Even cycling to work is related to a wide range of health benefits. A shorter commute to work led to an increase in job satisfaction and increased employee retention.
2. Engaging in mindful sessions, reading books, or listening to music
It can be exhausting to commute to work for many people, but for those who enjoy exploring new music and podcasts, it can be an enjoyable experience. As a result, leisure time is incredibly difficult to fit in within the busy schedule of work life.
Reading fiction as you commute to a job you don't like will make you feel somewhat more fulfilled; being in the right job will make you feel incredible. — Laura Vanderkam
When you commute long distances, you can engage in soothing meditations, read a book on the train or listen to music to calm your anxiety nerves while driving or walking to work.
Work commute now is more of a healthy choice of life than a robotic task.
Suggested Read : 15 Best Podcasts to Listen to on Your Commute .
3. You could use the commute time to switch your mindset
The time you spent commuting to and fro work can be used as a transition period. You can use it as an opportunity to transition from personal to professional self.
While at home you can play the role of caregiver or even a homemaker and on reaching office you can don your professional self. Each of the transitions requires a shift in the mindset, and if you don't take time to make one, then each will overlap the other and mess up the entire work-life balance. Commuting makes this transition process smooth and easy.
4. Engaging in routines can be beneficial for mental wellness
Studies have found that those who engage in periodic structure daily, like commuting to work, are more likely to lead a healthy lifestyle.
People who immerse themselves in activities like reading a newspaper on the sub or even checking their calendar for the day tend to feel more excited for the day ahead and satisfied with their work than those who don't.
Even the smallest habit of getting a doughnut on their way to work can be satisfying and serve as a purpose for them. The simple ritual can serve as a major factor in reducing stress, lowering anxiety before engaging in high-stakes, performing tasks, and even increasing your coping mechanism to failure and criticism at work.
5. The boon of a long commute and shared experiences
A long commute is often associated with exhaustion and loneliness. But we can turn this into a positive experience by engaging in more conversation and reaching out to more people.
Psychological studies have shown that talking to strangers and sharing experiences can be more comforting than talking to family and friends. You can make your commute more enjoyable by sharing your life experiences with strangers.
You can escape the everyday shackles of life by commuting.
People who engaged in conversation had more positive commuting experiences.
Summing it up
In the end, the commute is about time management and how we can make it more productive and less tiring. Commuting in the post-COVID world can be quite therapeutic for balancing what we do and who we are.
During this uncertain time, it helps us maintain a sense of purpose and comfort.
Whether we are a veteran or new to the world of commuting, the journey of going back and forth to work is worth experiencing.
The mere drive, ride or walk that we used to despise can serve an important role in activating and orienting us to everyday work.
Work commutes are therefore not something we have to do. They are something we should do.