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Work/Life: Why Do We All Commute at the Same Time?

A member of my team and I caught the 7:05 a.m. train into Manhattan for a client meeting. Something must have been wrong with the trains that morning because it was standing-room only and there were still eight stops to go. People were not happy. We arrived in Penn Station and then fought our way through the crowd into the equally packed subway. Once we emerged into fresh air we both looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, "Why do we all keep commuting at the same time when we really don’t have to?"

A member of my team and I caught the 7:05 a.m. train into Manhattan for a client meeting. Something must have been wrong with the trains that morning because it was standing-room only and there were still eight stops to go. People were not happy. We arrived in Penn Station and then fought our way through the crowd into the equally packed subway. Once we emerged into fresh air we both looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “Why do we all keep commuting at the same time when we really don’t have to?”

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We started imaging what the world would look like if everyone staggered the time they went to work or worked from home at least one day a week. Not only would you have fewer cars on the road and fewer people on public transportation, but the roads, trains and buses would be used more efficiently. For example, one group could arrive early and leave early, another shift could arrive mid-day and stay later, and then a final group could arrive in the late afternoon and stay through the evening.

Think of the benefits:
1) Teams and clients in other times zones would have better coverage
2) People would have more flexible options for managing their work+life fit
3) Employees would be less stressed and drained when they arrive at the office and at home
4) The environment would benefit
5) Companies would use their real estate more efficiently

As we arrived at our client’s office, we ended our brainstorming session with a prediction: in 30 years we will look back and laugh that we all ever commuted to work at the same time everyday. Today we are like the pre-Industrial Age farmers who couldn’t have imaged going to work in a factory. Our children and grandchildren will commute to a location when it makes sense, and not just because it’s what “we all do.” And they will do it in a flexible way.

What do you think? What is your vision of the future of commuting and what do you think the tipping point will be that will challenge this outdated, unnecessary behavior?