As the pitter patter of raindrops hits the windshield, you tap the brakes and once more find yourself at a dead stop. Your exit is still eight miles away. Someone behind you honks and your navigation app shows an accident up ahead. With your stomach in knots, you call home to say you may miss dinner. Again. After you’ve already missed your daughter’s soccer game.
If you commute any distance to work, you’ve faced commuting nightmares. Accidents, gawkers slowing the flow, bad weather… All the while, our home life continues without us. It’s as though we’re stuck in the middle of a constant tug-of-war between work and home. Dedicating more time to one area usually means sacrificing somewhere else.
How bad is it?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans average 52 minutes commuting each work day, even without delays. And commutes in the New York area are the highest. America’s longest commutes are:
Beyond the annoyance factor, what do long commutes mean in terms of lost time overall? It’s actually pretty frightening.
Earlier in my career, I lived in the “windy city” – good old Chi-Town (number 5 on the list of “worsts”). I loved the city, but hated the traffic. I lived downtown but worked in the suburbs. In most areas, reverse commutes aren’t so bad, but that wasn’t the case in Chicago (at least not back then). Lots of people commute in both directions, and my drive averaged 75 to 90 minutes each way.
What to do?
You can try commuting at off hours, but that often means having to wake before dawn or get home after dark. Mass transit isn’t always an option – there may be closures or available routes aren’t convenient.
It wasn’t until 2005, when we moved to Colorado Springs for my husband’s job with the U.S. Air Force, that it became clear just how much time I was wasting on the road. The closest Cisco office was near Denver, about an hour away. After a few months of making the drive, I realized I was losing three hours each day — two hours in total drive time, plus time to make myself “office ready.”
At the same time, Cisco was re-evaluating office footprints and facilities costs. I made the case with my manager to work from home full time. Shortly after becoming a remote worker, I had my first child. I now have two boys and can’t imagine life chained to a brick-and-mortar office. With a husband who travels (a lot), I’m frequently on my own for school drop-offs, doctor visits, and karate classes.
How can remote work change
your home and work life?
Connecting with my team members anytime from anywhere is what maintains balance in my life. I still see my co-workers every day (from wherever I may be), and I also get to be home when my family needs me. It has been 12 years since I was last in the same office as my manager, yet I get to see and meet with my current manager over WebEx all the time. It’s the best of both worlds.
Take the 30-day challenge
Will it work for you and your team? Try it. Propose a team trial for 30 days and measure your productivity (and, more importantly, your improved sanity). Even if you start with just a few “mobile” days per week – you can rotate who’s out of the office when.
A 6-step formula for a pilot
Step 1: Share this free WebEx trial link with your team lead or your office communications team. Propose a 30-day trial to increase employee productivity while reducing commuting headaches, delayed morning meetings, etc.
Step 2: Once your team lead has approved the trial, make sure each team member also downloads the free WebEx software.
Step 3: Agree to “in office” versus “mobile” days for each team member. Rotating could be a good way to ease your team into the idea.
Step 4: At home, make sure you have a quiet space dedicated to work, including a reliable internet connection.
Step 5: Commit to using WebEx for 30 days – whether in the office or out – to facilitate your team and 1:1 meetings.
Step 6: Most importantly, track, track, track! During the hours you’d normally spend commuting, identify the additional work you’re able to complete. Keep a detailed log that you and your team can evaluate at the end of the trial period. (You may even want to agree to a consistent log format for all team members to use in advance.)
At the end of your trial, once you’ve reviewed all the productivity information — and you’ve experienced how video conferencing with WebEx can keep your team feeling connected — I think that you, too, will wonder how you ever survived without it.
We’ve all wished for more hours in the day… The real secret? We just need to be more productive with the time we already have. Reclaiming those wasted hours means more dinners at home and getting more work done.
Let us know:
Have you shifted to a full or part-time remote schedule? How has it changed your productivity?
Great article. I just started a 75% work from home position. I love it so far for all the reasons you listed and more. We use WebEx and MSFT remote collaboration tools. A previous position with a different company had a generous WFH policy but had almost zero collaboration tools. The complaint was feeling disconnected. I purchased and implemented a collaboration tool for the teams, and just finished rolling it out when my current opportunity came about. I am not sure about using the additional time to work that was previously used as a commute. I think WFH empowers the worker and also brings about more commitment to work at different hours. My current position requires us to work some off hour and weekend work, so not facing the 55-mile commute sure makes it bearable.
Peter — You’re absolutely right about the work flexibility being a primary benefit. No longer do we need to feel as though we must “clock in” or “clock out” at specific times. There are certainly times when I may have to run out for an hour or so during the day (to run the kiddos to the dentist or the like), but I also have the ability to log on and catch up after dinner, for example, if I still need to wrap something up. With all of the necessary tools within reach at home, I can work whenever I need to.
Roxanne – Great point as well. The work/life balance really benefits all parties. Employees are better able to focus on work once long and aggravating commutes are no longer a daily distraction.
organizations which adopt collaboration can gain workforce improvements which can translate to customer satisfaction and improved experience for all.
You are absolutely right about this. I drive about 1 hour to work a day.
Rick — Do you think your team lead or comms team would be open to a pilot like this? Either way, it’s definitely worth proposing — even orgs that would have been opposed to telecommuting a few years ago have to recognize the many recent market shifts that are fueling more flexible work environments today. Video and digitally savvy millennials are driving a great deal of change (and greater acceptance) of things like remote work and web/video conferencing. So give it a shot, and let us know how it goes – it will definitely improve your overall quality of life (just think what you can do with that extra hour each day!).
Living almost two hours away from Cisco’s headquarters, I’m very thankful that collaborative technology, like Cisco WebEx and Cisco Spark, allows me to be on-demand. Instead of sitting through rush hour traffic, I have the flexibility to work at my own pace.
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