Missing the commute?

About a year ago, as the pandemic spread around the world, a large number of people were asked or told to work from home.

After the initial struggle of making remote working work, practically with tools and connections, a majority of people were quite pleased with working from home. Some of the benefits often quoted were:

  • It saves me a lot of time, not having to travel to the office
  • I can spend more time with my family
  • I don’t need to squeeze into packed commuter trains, worrying if I will be able to secure a seat today or have to stand the whole way
  • I can exercise more easily
  • I can go for a walk in the morning, at lunchtime or after work
  • My insight into my children’s school work is growing
  • As a team, we have focused on solving a crisis, and that’s a great team building force

Yes, the benefits of working from home have for many been plentiful.

But over time, other feelings have crept up on us too. Some express a sense of monotony, “groundhog day”, Zoom fatigue and missing the community of a workplace, to mention but a few.

And there are even those who have noticed that they miss the commute! Which, if someone would have suggested a year ago that they would, might have sounded incredulous. But there it is. For many it’s become true.

A realisation has been that the actual commute, other than taking you to and from work, has other purposes too. Maybe not always intentional, but none the less real and practical.

Regardless of what means you commute by, the process itself can provide an opportunity for

  • personal alone time
  • reflection
  • relaxation
  • reading
  • listening
  • learning
  • planning
  • preparation for the working day
  • evaluation of the working day
  • ideas and insights
  • simply being

And when looking at it that way, the opportunities that arise from that commute become apparent.

Some people also express that the commute allows them to have a cleaner break between work life and personal life – as ‘working from home’ can easily become ‘living at work’ where it’s hard to switch off work.

But this is not to say that you have to commute to achieve the benefits of what the commute time/process make possible.

All those things can also be achieved if you don’t commute, but you need to find a new way of doing it.

Here are some ideas for how to recreate the experienced benefits of the commute, if you’re missing them.

  • Block at least some of your old commuting time at the beginning and end of day for a new remote/virtual ‘commute’.
  • Start and finish your working day with a walk or bike ride, to create a sense of moving from home to work and back again. Maybe have a set route that you can travel each day to recreate that sense of daily repetition.
  • On your ‘commute’, do the things you would do on your old commute – like picking up a coffee, reflecting, listening, mentally preparing for or wrapping up the day. Use your phone to record your thoughts, insights and commitments so that you can access them later.
  • Use some of the time you previously spent on your commute for focused learning; follow a podcast on developments in your industry or profession, read a business book chapter each day, join an online course or business network with asynchronous communication that allows you to participate when it suits you.
  • Or simply allow yourself to just be; to have your thoughts float away, observing the world around you, allowing yourself to be inspired. You never know what great insights and ideas you might have. The brain is powerful; our best thinking often comes when we don’t try to consciously think but allow our subconscious to connect the dots.

Author: Mandy and Elisabet

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