One man’s meat is another man’s poison, they say. Turns out, the same thing can present itself as being poison or elixir to the very human when offered at radically different existences in time. It might all indeed be a matter of perspective, of viewing things in different contexts but the crux of the matter still remains the same- every single awareness of the world is a coming together of both the goods and the bads.
Even something as disruptive as the coronavirus pandemic too seems to embody this natural dictum of duality, as the past two years ravaged by the global health crisis has managed to project. For indeed, with a worldwide lockdown induced by the contagious nature of the COVID 19 virus, human lives might have been affected in all their modernity but nature sure got a breather. Even for us lesser mortals, the pandemic spelled a return of sorts to dwelling in good old times, ushering along with it some aspects of a life that was better lived than now. Touching upon virtually every fragment of existence of humankind has been this raging health furore that has in turn manifested also the inherent prevalence of both the desirable and the undesirable along many aspects of the modern way of life as well.
Take for instance the necessity of commuting. A mode of going about life, quite literally in fact, commuting has always been a significant component of our existences wherein we commute for all types of reasons and to all types of places- to schools and universities, for work, to exotic locales or local retreats on vacations, to cafes and movies and pubs for recreation and relaxation or just about to immerse ourselves in the mindless but rewarding still experience that a rare day of going around town to nowhere in particular and yet to every place accessible entails. Necessarily then in the multifaceted expression of it in nature, the essential aspect of commuting has elements of being both a compulsion and a choice embedded in it. As an obligation that is somewhat forced and therefore not so fancied as well as in the freedom allowed of its choosing that indeed is a positive projection of it, commuting, as is many or in fact just about any of the routines of human life remains interspersed in its own vagaries of appealing to the ones it invariably chases.
But while commuting is an activity carried out in so much commonness, irrespective of its choosing or unchoosing on our part, it particularly has been the many repercussions associated with commuting to work that has forever been explored. The realm of work, as tainted as it is by a definition set in such mundane utterings of monotony, routine, grind, labour and so on and so forth in all universality despite somewhat ironically being glorified to extremes as well, is more governed by the essence of commuting than other pursuits of humankind. In times not so distant when the world could freely cherish such concepts of being together in thick and thin in the most physical assertions of it, that is to say when social distancing hadn’t fortunately needed to be the trend yet, and when therefore working within an office or a strictly defined workspace way outside the zone of the homes where the hearts reside was the norm, with work from home options only existent on paper with rare chances of it translating into the privileged reality that it has been held to be, commuting had been an inseparable aspect of work. So much so that commuter benefits classified as a very prominent mention on the expenses side of the balance sheet. And while that related to working up the monetary chartings of what was spent in the name of the daily commute to and fro that being part of the formal work organisation brought upon all bearers of it, the psychological effects of it was also as widely accounted for, of course not by anyone sitting up the echelons of management at the office. Numerous independent researches and surveys conducted through the years have consistently pointed to the downsides emerging from this travel necessity, with longer commutes tending to fare even poorly on the desirability rankings.
Among the most notable of such researches had been a 2006 conduct by Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman that saw close to a 1000 people unanimously proclaiming their morning commute to work as the most miserable part of their day. Interestingly, the travel from work to home at the end of a long day’s work counted as the third most miserable activity even as the dubious distinction of work itself filled the gap between the commute, perhaps quite aptly as well. The referendum against the commute has been well validated as well. Notoriously disgraced as being a dampener of productivity is the daily commute that works along diverse lines to come to rest in the largely unfavored worldview pertaining to it. Even not taking into consideration the money involved in the process, in the belief that would likely be reimbursed by the employer, the commute still has had many a glaring enough stigma attached to it. From leaving commuters with lesser time to go about their jobs both in very evident measures of eating up considerable chunks of time as well as in draining them out both physically and mentally to therefore considerably lowering the overall quality of life and catering to virtually every single thing in between, the non advocacy of the commute has been long established. Also the more abhorred the longer it took to reach one’s workplace has been this common code of ‘travel’, the optimum duration of which has been found by science to be a surprisingly not so short 16 minutes. And that perhaps sets the ground already for the other face of the commute to gain prominence- one that asserts also in beneficial notions of its working, even when they might not really outweigh the far more explored associated cons of it.
The goods of the work commute came to fore especially in the present times when an almost entirely remotely working world has come to be, making therefore the to and fro journey redundant. And like with another universality pertaining to things coming to be realised in their true value only once they are almost on the verge of becoming a loss, this surprising goodness of the commute too has also finally been able to arrive at its right place in the right time. And in such measures that are almost starkly contradictory to the earlier prevailing perception of them. With such emphatic indeed proclamation to the contrary of what has been believed to be its torturous nature in the supposed futile essentialness of it, the work commute suddenly emerged to be sufficiently important in such assertions of its non prevalence striving to hurt, rather than help productivity.
Why this importance that has begun to dawn on something like the daily commute largely considered as dreary can at least be partly attributed to it being a routine followed by all and sundry of the world. As a ritual we partake of everyday, again whether in choice or compulsion, the commute has been reinstating of the stability that humankind forever is pursuing in leading a life that is perhaps one of the most fleeting of awarenesses ever. Sidelining the dread of unpredictability and seeking to reside in some semblance of peace ushered in by the knowledge of a familiar something to return to every single day in utmost hope, our daily routine of living considerably influences our experience of life itself. Even in its monotonous, routine occurrence, the work commute, much like any other ritual we follow presents us with the safe haven of certainty. In such psychological assertions of it being very much akin to a binding force itself that lets us hold on to our own, it is only natural that the work commute should come to reside in an altogether different dimension of importance.
Another psychological realm where the commute works in to render itself indispensable to our modern lives and existences despite our forever held grudges against it lies somewhere along the boundary of the multiple identities we bear. In helping us leave our personal lives behind at homes and step into the professional world of the workplace, the commute can essentially be a harbinger of the elusive work life balance we aspire for. As a route from where we emerge out of one role and step into another, the commute is what has us maintaining distinct boundaries around discrete aspects of living. Also, the opportunities that we tend to explore along this embarking on the route, both physical and psychological in its working, mainly concerning what awaits us on the work front at the end of the commute can also lead us to be more efficient and productive at our jobs. Both in inducing us out of our current roles and positioning instead in the current and thereby setting in motion also the specific state of mind catering to what concerns us at the other end up of the spectrum, the work commute acts as a bridge for us to effortlessly get into the groove.
Also associated to the work commute being potentially more beneficial than what it has been traditionally deemed to be are such explorations it offer of the outer world that can set conversations flowing and connections blossoming. Whether you travel with your coworker taking the same route as you or take the commute instead as a premise upon which you relay anecdotes and stumble upon relatable references, the shared experience that the commute allows can make for great social settings. It also can be about the ‘feels’ that the commute ends up reinstilling in you- of you holding a job that dawns upon you purpose in life, of your blessed self having a vocation that keeps you happily occupied with what you indeed fancy, of your privilege in yielding a decent enough salary from your professional position that has you go about life rather comfortably- and numerous such realisations and beliefs that is what leads you to better appreciate of your life and its endowments. In these and numerous other such manifestations, the physically exerting trail of the commute to work can also be indeed charted out as a parallel track of benefits galore despite all our one time detesting of it.