Conquering the Commute

Apr 19th, 2010 | By | Category: abundance, Career advice, career challenges, challenges, mentor, office problems, personality, success

The time, energy and expense of getting to and from work appears to be assets down a rabbit hole.  Although some try to put a positive spin on it, very few workers like their commute.   As commuting time and expenses increase the more it impacts our quality of life.  Is there anything we can do about it?

One preferred answer seems to be to work from home.  More and more employers are adopting telecommuting work schedules that enable the employees to work from home one or more days a week.  With the advent of personal high-speed Internet connections, and the migration of office processes now firmly rooted in computer-based operations this appears to be at least a partial solution to conquer the commute.   In 2004, Congress enacted legislation to encourage government agencies to enable telecommuting. Over the years telecommuting has gained some ground in the federal government and private industry.  Although telecommuting solves the problem of getting to and from work, there are other issues that arise on both sides of the telecommuting issue.  Management often asserts that telecommuting undermines office efficiency, while some employees complain telecommuting effects work assignments and promotion potential.  Telecommuting one day a week on a staggered schedule may reduce daily traffic up to 20% or more. With all of the potential benefits of telecommuting it amazes me that more union, employee groups, and voters are not demanding increased telecommuting opportunities.  I would certainly vote for increased telecommuting.

Flextime is another method of reducing the number of days each week that an employee has to commute to the office.  Flextime has several variations, but the concept is the employee works 80 hours in a two-week period, but does not have to be there 8 hours a day five days a week. Some flextime options permit the employee to work any hours they choose including weekends to achieve the 80 hours while others have limits on the days and number of hours per day an employee can work.  The most popular where I worked was the 5-4-9, which required the employee to work 9 hours a day with a day off every other week and a 10 hour – four day week which gave one day off a week.  Flextime has the potential to cut commuting traffic by 10 -20% or more each week. Most people on a scheduled flextime plan schedule Monday or Friday as their free day so they have a three-day weekend.  While this work option is gaining popularity, there does not seem to be the union, employee and political push to make it a more widely available option.

More and more employees are considering their commutes when choosing where to live.  Higher gas prices and longer commuting times are starting to reverse the trend of residing longer distances from work.  There are more young people with families moving to closer in locations.  However, the majority of workers pay the price of a longer commute for more house, better schools, beachfront, etc.  The price of the longer commute continues to increase both in expense with higher gas prices, and time as traffic increases.  There were several studies during the era of $4.00 a gallon gas crisis that placed a strain on budgets due to the increased costs of commuting.  In addition, parking, car maintenance, and other associated expenses continue to rise.  Although living closer to work is a sure way to cut your commute, there are other considerations, such as , you may switch jobs or the amenities of your neighborhood.

Lastly what if you are stuck with a commute and none of the options of telecommuting, flextime, or living closer to work are options, or how about the days you do have to commute? The classic suggestions are public transportation or car pools.  These may cut down on the expense of commuting, but may actually increase the time.  The one thing that I found good about taking public transportation is that it relieved a lot of stress associated with driving during rush hour.  Although there was time to dose, read, listen to music or rest, it leaves a lot to be desired.  Vanpools may be a little better, but usually have very rigid schedules.

The commuting dilemma is growing worse for most everyday, and there does not appear to be an easy remedy.  Conquering the commute may become one of the biggest factors in career choices.  In addition, we should all work towards implementing telecommuting, flextime, offsite offices, and other commuting relief efforts with our politicians, employers, and unions.  In the mean time, use your commuting time as wisely as you can.

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