The daily commute

We’re coming up on the third anniversary of the first Covid lockdown in the UK – March 20th, 2020. On this day a lot of people stopped travelling to work and sat at home instead, doing the same things online as they did in person, but this time from their bedroom, dining room, garage, sofa, bed, floor, or kitchen table.

Some of us lucky folk have already experienced fully- or partially remote (hybrid) working conditions so we knew what to expect and what we needed to do, for ourselves and in supporting others in this new arrangement.

Once lockdown was over (all three of them, or was it four?) the conversation of returning to an office-based working arrangement started. I was lucky that I only needed to return to a 2-days-per-week on-site/campus working arrangement, where I would still spend most of my day on Teams calls, in Teams chat, or on emails – it just wasn’t feasible to get all those people I needed to talk to in the office on the same day.

All this remote working meant one big difference to me. I wasn’t spending 2 hours per day commuting. That was time I was able to use for either extra work when the need arose, or time at home doing house and family things.

The thing is, I actually needed that time during the 21 mile commute: a short walk to the car park and then the drive home, including the inevitable traffic jam and roadworks at some point on the journey. This was the time I would listen to music, think about the day, try and make sense of events or conversations, try not to beat myself up about things I could’ve said but didn’t, etc. This was time for me and, being alone in the car, I could use it in whatever way I wanted.

When I had the motorbike and lived on the south coast I had a 7-mile commute from Bournemouth University to home. It was across town so it was all main roads, traffic lights, roundabouts, and other road users all impatient eager to get home too. That was 20 minutes of focus and attention, staying alive riding. On a good, summer’s day, however, I’d take the ‘long’ way home which was nearer 70 miles long – from the university, I’d go in completely the wrong direction and head west to Dorchester, out to Yeovil and then the smaller, more technical roads back over to Salisbury and Winchester before heading back to Southampton, the New Forest, and back to Bournemouth. That was a good hour and a half or more riding, focusing on the road and riding it. I’d get home tired but totally relaxed. Without thinking of it I’d have sorted the day, my feelings, anything that transpired, anything I needed to be ready for tomorrow … it was time unplugged and unfocused, but the time needed to process whatever had been going on.

Working remotely none of us get this valuable time anymore. We go from desk to home literally by turning the screen off, getting out of the chair, and standing up. That’s it, work-David to home-David in mere seconds. For this reason, I often take myself out for a walk in the morning, just a 20-30 minute walk around the village before making my first cuppa of the day and heading straight to the desk … a mirror of what I’d normally do if I was still commuting.

The thing is, at the end of the day I do something different. I don’t head out for a walk, but I might do it later in the evening, but I do switch off the screen and grab a book, put on some music, and read for another 20-30 minutes. Yet more relaxed and unfocused time for me. It may look lazy or unproductive, but it’s valuable time to unwind from the events of the day.

Photo by mohit suthar on Unsplash