Managing your com­mute

Most se­nior lead­ers have a com­mute, of some sort, to and from work each day. But with longer, more thought­ful, com­mutes it ap­pears that it is pos­si­ble to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence – and your over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity. By Kate Kearins.

NZ Business - - INSIGHT -

FOR many city col­leagues and friends, the daily com­mute seems to be get­ting longer not shorter. See­ing home in day­light hours can be a rar­ity for some dur­ing the win­ter work­ing week.

Com­ing from the so-called prov­inces to Auck­land, I came to un­der­stand why, some­times, de­spite their best ef­forts to ar­rive on time, peo­ple would of­ten be late for early morn­ing meet­ings. Traf­fic con­di­tions, pub­lic trans­port, and park­ing are not on any of­fi­cial meet­ing agenda, but they are part of daily busi­ness in the city.

Managing your com­mute in the in­ter­ests of work and a bal­anced life is in or­der. De­spite what the New Zealand Trans­port Agency refers to as “a long-stand­ing driv­ing cul­ture”, more ef­fort is be­ing made to in­crease Auck­land’s pub­lic trans­port pro­vi­sion. And fig­ures show more peo­ple are get­ting on board pub­lic trans­port. There is an in­creas­ing sense of be­ing in a big­ger place like Mel­bourne or Syd­ney where com­muters pour in and out of the cen­tral trans­port hub.

Con­sider a pro­duc­tive com­mute. Work­ing while com­mut­ing is clearly an op­tion for those on pub­lic trans­port. Think­ing through big is­sues, scrolling through what’s com­ing up, set­ting goals to achieve, re­hears­ing tricky con­ver­sa­tions or go­ing over a more ad-libbed style of pre­sen­ta­tion are all use­ful work.

So too might be the op­por­tu­nity to learn some­thing new. Take one of those MOOCs (mas­sive open on­line cour­ses). Or read work-re­lated ma­te­rial that you would not get time to read at work. Catch up on the news. Use the time to ob­serve what is go­ing on around you. Pick up the cues as to what oth­ers are read­ing, wear­ing, or do­ing – mar­ket in­tel­li­gence.

Al­ter­na­tively, take a time-out com­mute. Do some per­sonal tasks like pay­ing the bills, free­ing up time at home later. Or do some fun stuff like read­ing or so­cial­is­ing. Use the time to con­nect with those you are with, con­verse more ran­domly than in­stru­men­tally. Text or phone friends and rel­a­tives. Plan your so­cial life. De­lib­er­ately blob, zone out, or med­i­tate.

An­other op­tion is to com­bine your com­mute with ex­er­cise. A study in the Amer­i­can Journal of Pre­ven­ta­tive Medicine showed peo­ple with longer com­mutes had higher blood pres­sure, thicker waist­lines and less fit­ness than those who worked at, or closer to, home. So we’re prob­a­bly ad­vised to add in some walk­ing. Or run­ning (per­sonal shud­der). Cy­cle if you think it safe enough – but per­haps avoid the ly­cra.

Writ­ing about city cy­cling in The Spec­ta­tor, Henry Jef­freys states “Ly­cra isn’t just a fab­ric; it’s a state of mind.” Weav­ing in and out of traf­fic in the at­tempt to win some sort of self­im­posed time trial isn’t ter­ri­bly smart.

Avoid the com­pet­i­tive com­mute. Tak­ing time on the walk­ing parts of the com­mute is be­lieved to in­crease hap­pi­ness and de­crease stress. Think­ing we are gain­ing time by run­ning for the pedes­trian cross­ing be­fore the lights change might be an il­lu­sion. Same with be­ing in the driver’s seat and run­ning the red light. Go for the greater sense of be­ing in con­trol.

Where you have man­aged to avoid a lengthy or ar­du­ous com­mute by work­ing at, or close to, home, or in a more free-spir­ited way, be grate­ful. With longer, more thought­ful com­mutes, how­ever, it ap­pears that it is pos­si­ble to en­hance the ex­pe­ri­ence – and your over­all pro­duc­tiv­ity. Kate Kearins is pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment and deputy dean of Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy’s fac­ulty of busi­ness and law.

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