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For many employees, travelling to work is a stressful, annoying and draining experience. Overflowing slip roads, long traffic jams, delayed regional trains and packed underground trains all contribute to make the commute a chore. Moreover, there’s the time it takes, which is just as valuable as leisure time on a Sunday afternoon. I think it’s time to improve the commuting experience. And I’ve collected a few ideas here about how to make it happen.
Intelligent concepts produce solutions to prohibit a long commute
In today’s working environment, long commutes are considered reasonable. We’re prepared to travel as far as necessary to pursue a dream job. Not everyone can or wants to move house immediately. In addition, more than one in ten employees need to travel as part of their job. Numerous studies have shown that commuting and travelling are particularly arduous when particular stress factors are present. When that is the case, those affected start the day negatively, rather than feeling calm, relaxed and ready to perform. This topic is familiar to all of us. But it also concerns employers, who can do a lot to improve the situation. For example, companies in the Netherlands with more than 50 employees must submit a mobility concept every five years. In some companies, this involves measures such as:
- The alignment of working hours to public transport timetables
- Parking spaces reserved nearer the building for car pool vehicles
- Offering company bikes instead of company cars
- Financial contributions to the cost of public transport
- Locations that enable tasks like shopping, sport, or medical appointments to be completed on the way to and from work.
BMW has established that 72% of its employees prefer to choose where and when they work. As a result, the company has now made this possible for every second employee. For example, it often helps to come in to work later to avoid the morning rush hour. Ford has also established a “Ford Smart Mobility” program that focuses on similar issues. One of the program’s tests demonstrates how to optimally combine electric bikes with cars and public transport.
Self-determined, sensible and uplifting
As a rule, the more controllable an event is, the greater the well-being associated with it. That also applies to the daily commute. Those who travel to work by foot, bike or public transport are much more relaxed and perform better. According to a survey conducted by the Austrian labor department, less than 20% feel stressed about their commute. The proportion among those who travel by car is twice as high. This confirms the findings of British stress researcher David Lewis form the University of Sussex. He found that the stress levels associated with commuting are comparable to those experienced by fighter jet pilots. And the variables we can’t control, such as operational disruption, traffic jams and delays, are the biggest stress factors.
On the other hand, journeys during which useful tasks can be undertaken are rated as being far less arduous. The demographer Heiko Rüger has assessed data from thousands of frequent travelers in Europe. His conclusion: The values for feelings of stress, poor health and depression are lower among those that actively enjoy commuting. They achieve this by reading the paper in the train, having a snooze, singing loudly in the car, etc. The values for those who see travel as a chore are twice as high.
Finding out what works on the commute
How can you design your work commute in a way that makes sense for you and puts you in a good mood? Here are some suggestions:
- If possible, walk or use a bicycle. This helps give your body the exercise it needs and gives you time to clear your head.
- Travelling by car or on public transport gives you time. You can use it to think about and prepare mentally for the day, or get closure on past events. It doesn’t matter whether that means work topics, or a shopping list. In the car you can also think out loud – because nobody is listening. According to US psychologist Thoman Brinthaupt, talking to yourself has many benefits. These include reducing aggression, seeing other perspectives and achieving greater spiritual clarity.
- If possible, read a good book, a magazine or listen to an audio book or music that you like. This is time you can use to relax or educate yourself with specialist books and audio language courses.
Of course, my suggestion list isn’t complete. There are hundreds of creative ways of achieving an attractive daily commute. Got any ideas? How do you organize your travel to work?