With the coronavirus pandemic beginning to wane, traffic has returned to being terrible again in many cities. Back are the days of long, crowded, stop-and-go commutes. In and around Boston and other major cities, there is standstill traffic several times a day.
Having to commute five days a week used to be the norm. But one of the silver linings of the pandemic was a newfound understanding of the promise of remote work. Commuting is one reason why it's hard to justify going back to the old ways.
Losing two to four hours every day for a commute isn't appealing. For most folks, remote work provided some high-quality time: more time with family and more time for sleep.
At Altimetry, we've embraced these changes resulting from the "At-Home Revolution" and are keeping the best of both worlds with a "hybrid" work model.
Some of our teams are allowed to work remotely 90% or more of the time. Other roles in the firm need to be in the office more often. Of course, there are many aspects of a business that require higher levels of in-person interaction: recruiting, training, and building culture. There are now substitutes for some of those face-to-face interactions.
However, let's not forget the main benefit of remote work: killing the commute. People need to be together. But they don't need to be together five days a week, especially given the harmful effects of commuting.
Commuting is terrible for your physical, mental, and emotional health, and many studies prove this.
Before the pandemic, some studies showed that commuters spent at least 25 minutes on average traveling each way. So, that's nearly an hour getting to and from work.
One environmental psychology study found that long commutes increased stress levels. For the study, researchers had participants commute different distances and then complete a basic proofreading task. Those with longer commutes didn't catch as many errors.
Researchers also measured the participants' cortisol levels, the primary stress hormone, and found dramatically higher cortisol in those who commuted longer. The participants with longer commutes had higher cholesterol and body mass indexes ("BMIs") and generally received less sleep and exercise.
On top of that, a Brown University study found that typical metropolitan commuters who spent about an hour in the car driving to work and back had less time for health-related activities, such as sleep, food preparation, and exercise.
And as you might have read in my previous articles, research shows sleep quality has a profound effect on virtually every aspect of your life.
Researchers from the University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas found that driving more than 10 miles for your commute increases blood sugar levels. High blood sugars can contribute to developing diabetes and reduce your daily energy.
Worker productivity is also affected by having a long commute. The reduced sleep quality and the stress of commuting means you are showing up to work both tired and stressed out.
Additionally, the increased blood sugar caused by a long commute makes you even more tired. This is not a recipe for more productive workers.
To summarize, a long commute is terrible for you physically, leading to a higher chance of being overweight, higher cholesterol, and high blood sugar. It's awful for you mentally, increasing your stress levels, increasing worry, and reducing productivity.
And while we are excited for the world to reopen, we must remember that health is our first wealth (thank you, Ralph Waldo Emerson). If we want to build wealth at work, we must make sure we aren't sacrificing our health, too.
That's why the At-Home Revolution will not go away as the pandemic restrictions subside. As employers look to keep their employees happy, healthy, and productive, they will continue to embrace a hybrid work model.
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Altimetry's Hidden Alpha readers who followed our advice for the At-Home Revolution theme have seen an average return of nearly 70% for our seven open picks in that category.
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July 9, 2021