By Donal Laverty, Consulting Partner, Baker Tilly Mooney Moore

We live in a world of commuters. Because of our love of cars and big houses outside the city, 61% of people in the European Union clock up 60 minutes per day commuting. Even those of us who prefer buses, trains, bikes, or scooters invest an inordinate amount of time getting to and from our jobs.

The overarching narrative, up until now, has been that this is a bad thing. Some studies show that longer commutes lead to decreased job satisfaction and increased risk of mental health issues, while shorter commutes have the opposite effect. Yet, despite a number of years of working from home, our job satisfaction and general mental health have continued to decline.

Pre-Covid, our commutes were a part of our daily rituals, and rituals have been a natural human behaviour since the beginning of time. Ultimately, commutes structure our daily behaviours into a nice, neat pattern, and in this pattern, our brains find safety.

Commuting also provides us with a reminder of purpose; in those many or few minutes on the way to and from work, we often recall our purpose and prepare for our day’s work. We are employed for a reason — whether it is to support ourselves or our loved ones, create change and better society, or pursue our passions.

In the post-Covid world, directives to return to the office and the “requirement of being in” are missing the opportunity to rethink the role of the office completely in 2024 (and beyond). While it was once the place we’d go to get our work tasks done, and offsite was where we’d connect, the office is now all about connection.
From our data, we’ve found employees are most interested in coming into the office for team lunches, team meetings, and development opportunities such as sessions with leadership where employees can get real-time feedback. Creating a commute-worth office means creating experiences that can only happen in the office.

The risk of this office flip is that it could lead to people doing a double shift. If they’re coming into the office to connect, they still need time to actually get their work done. Commute-worthy experiences must accommodate the work that still needs to be done.To maintain the balance between who we are and what we do, to prepare ourselves for the latter, commuting could be seen as a soothing salve. That drive, ride, or walk that we used to despise so much served an important role in orienting us to everyday work and our sense of belonging. Commutes are not something we have to do. They maybe should be seen as something we should do more often.

To discuss any aspect, get in touch with Donal Laverty E: T: 028 9032 3466

This article first appeared in the Irish News on 2nd July 2024.