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Commuting misery pushes people to rethink outdated habits

At this time of the year it is not unusual to have some travel problems in the UK caused by bad weather. Over the last couple of years we have had enough snow to cause a few days of disruption on trains and roads but it’s soon been over. This year things look a bit different.

Instead of the snow we’ve had torrential rain and strong winds. This has caused widespread flooding in low lying areas, blocking roads and damaging the railway infrastructure. On top of this we’ve had a 48 hour strike on the London Underground, adding to the misery for commuters.

When this happens, some people struggle in to their usual place of work whilst others take the opportunity to try working from home. Those deciding not to endure the frustration of queuing for overcrowded trains and busses, or get stressed out in traffic jams, find that working at home has several benefits. No longer are they wasting valuable hours of their personal time in pointless travel, but they also find they can get much more work done from home without the interruptions that happen in the office.

Of course there are some jobs that cannot be done from home, and there are some homes that are not suitable for work. But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse for forcing thousands of people to endure miserable travel conditions unnecessarily. We just assume that people have to commute to work because that’s they way it’s been done for the last 100 years or so.

It takes a major disruption such as bad weather, strikes or terrorist bombings for people to sit back and look more objectively at the situation. Why are they wasting time and effort travelling in to work in order to sit at a desk and send emails all day? They could do this from home, or a convenient location equipped with WiFi.

They may have to travel to an office to attend meetings with colleagues, but when travel is interrupted they find they don’t miss most of them anyway! In their personal lives they may well use Skype to ‘meet’ with distant relatives and friends and they wonder why they can’t do this for work.

So the pressure is increasing on managers to justify the outdated ‘presenteeism’ model of work. Once employees have seen the alternative they will not want to go back.