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.
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.