Tuesday, October 19

‘The idea of ​​commuting fills me with dread’: workers returning to the office | Coronavirus


With the lifting of coronavirus restrictions in England, probably two weeks from now, the prospect of returning to the offices means the revival of commute.

In an effort to bring more people to urban and urban centers to boost the urban economy, a group of 50 business leaders, including Canary Wharf Chief Executive Sir George Iacobescu, Heathrow and Gatwick Airport Chiefs, Capita Chief Executive Officer Jon Lewis and BT Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen are calling on the government to encourage the return to the office.

The government has already tried to cajole workers into returning to the office once before, before Covid cases spiked again last September. While some companies, particularly banks, have summoned their staff to return to headquarters, others have indicated that remote work or a hybrid system is here to stay. This has implications for previously worked British transport networks.

Official figures from the Department of Transportation show a gradual increase in public transportation use across the country in recent months, with train passengers exceeding half of pre-pandemic levels. However, figures from the London Underground (where 40-50% of passengers have returned) suggest that leisure travel has recovered more quickly than travel to work.

But what do travelers think? Despite the introduction of flexible tickets, in fact a part-time season ticket, the government does not foresee a full return to workplaces. We asked readers to tell us how they felt when they returned to the office.


‘I used to spend just under £ 5,000 a year and never got a seat’

Fatma Mehmet, 39, from Hertfordshire, can't imagine making the commute to London again.
Fatma Mehmet, 39, from Hertfordshire

Fatma Mehmet, a 39-year-old manager working for a local authority, traveled from Hertfordshire to London for work for more than 15 years. “I was going 60 miles a day, five days a week,” he says.

“The time you waste, scrolling 10 [journeys] a week, you’ll never get it back. Since I started working from home 15 months ago, I have been able to invest this time in work, relationships, and hobbies. I am more productive at home, less distracted, and feel well rested each day. I feel less anxious and disappointed by the constant interruptions I used to endure on my journey. “

Mehmet also does not stop spending thousands of pounds a year on his train passage on the Great Northern line. “I used to spend just under £ 5,000 a year and never got a seat so you wonder what you are paying for. Trains are delayed at least once a week, it all seems completely unfair now and a stress that I don’t need in my life.

“Flexible tickets are not necessarily as flexible and useful as train companies say, and the idea of ​​traveling again fills me with fear and dread. Fortunately, my employers have been fantastic and allow for a flexible hybrid model, and in the future, I would probably like to go one day a week, at most, just for my mental health and work friendships.

“But if I was forced to go back to the office five days a week, I would consider quitting my job.”


‘Once it’s safe, I want to travel again, I can’t wait’

As much as Mehmet can’t bear the prospect of getting back on a train to work, 23-year-old Owen Fraser of Aberdeen looks forward to it.

Owen Fraser, 23, from Aberdeen, misses listening to the radio on the bus and visiting the city center after work.
Owen Fraser, 23, from Aberdeen, misses listening to the radio on the bus and visiting the city center after work.

“I used to think that my commute to work was uncomfortable, although now I realize that I was not complaining about anything. Remote work was bad for my mental health and I will be much more grateful for a daily commute that allows me to mentally adjust to the workday, ”he says.

The university student, who postponed a year for an internship, used to travel up to an hour and a half by buses to the city center before the lockdown forced him to work from home.

“The trip gave me the opportunity to catch up on the day’s events on, say, Radio 4. On the way home, I used to stop on the main street of my town, to meet some friends or visit my favorite stores. Some of these, including my local John Lewis, have now closed, and I am concerned that more will follow due to the rise of remote work and the aggressive promotion of tech giants and many apps as a result.

“Don’t get me wrong, I am very concerned about catching Covid on public transport. But once it’s safe, I want to travel again, I can’t wait. “


‘There is no longer social distancing on buses’

Alex, 35, from Manchester.
Alex, 35, from Manchester

The prospect of contracting the virus on a crowded bus is what has kept Alex, 35, an IT test engineer from Manchester, from using public transport to get to work.

“Now there is no social distancing on buses and rarely does anyone wear a mask correctly. Also, in bad weather, all the windows are closed, so there is no ventilation or fresh air.

“I had whooping cough a few years ago, and the only place I can think of I could have caught it at the time is on the bus, where it was packed with coughing and sick people. The pandemic has made me realize what buses with buckets of germs are. Since wearing the mask doesn’t apply in the least, I just don’t feel comfortable taking a bus or tram these days. “

Alex is still working from home, but will have to return from October. “My office is testing a hybrid scheme, 60% remote work and 40% office. I will go two days a week.

“I am a 20 minute walk or 10 minute drive from the office, and I can take a taxi each time, which would cost me around £ 15 a day. It would not be a permanent solution, but as cases are likely to increase again in the fall and winter, in theory I am willing to pay that to be on the safe side.

“I would love to bike to work but given the lack of proper dedicated bike lanes, I don’t feel safe doing it either. I have so many friends who have had accidents while cycling on the roads, and near accidents due to inconsiderate drivers, which terrifies me. “


‘I am concerned about the cost of even occasional trips’

Stephen, 50, a product manager for nearby Cambridge, has been traveling to central London for the past two years.

“When I started working in London, the commute was difficult, but it was exciting to work in the capital, have an infinite variety of lunch options and feel connected to the city. I even believed that I would spend my train journeys reading or watching television.

“However, the truth is that he left home shortly after 6 a.m. Every morning and had to rush out of the office at 4:30 pm. M. To get home just in time to put my young children to bed after everyone except me had had dinner together. .

“My wife was allowed to do all the school runs and frantically rushed home from her own job about 15 miles away. It was very hard for her.

“I was exhausted, only eating with my family on weekends and paying around £ 5,500 for the privilege. In hindsight, the season ticket was an expense I could barely cover and I certainly couldn’t afford to add underground rides, which means a brisk 25 minute walk each way and even more time pressure.

“Aside from the stress of commuting, which is not talked about enough, there were all the times when trains were completely canceled, or when an entire train was unceremoniously thrown into a rural station because it didn’t go any further.

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The father of two has never been a fan of telecommuting, but can’t imagine going back to his old life.

“Very few people I have spoken to return full time. Going just two days a week would cost about the same throughout the year, in terms of regular returns at peak hours, so I’m concerned about the cost of even occasional commutes.

“When I have some kind of presence in the office again, it will be one day a week.”


www.theguardian.com

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