by Kevin Burton
Working from home is one of the virus-era changes that I think is here to stay.
It continues to be a necessity for many and it just makes a lot of sense for employers and employees alike.
But some people are having trouble with one aspect of home as the worksite. Seems they are missing their twice daily work commute.
“For many people commuting to work can be the worst part of their day. There is the chance of sitting in standstill traffic. Or, railway problems might leave you disembarking and on an unexpected journey,” writes Kristen Rogers on cnn.com.
“For others however, commuting may have been a ritual that was critical for their mental health and work-life balance.”
“Enter the rise of the ‘fake commute,’ wherein people replace that daily transition with walks, runs, bike rides and more,” Rogers writes.
A fake commute provides a mental buffer that helps people keep their family and professional identities separate.
“Routines and rituals are very beneficial to us, because they’re things that we understand and know what to expect from them,” Lynn Bufka, the senior director of practice transformation and quality at the American Psychological Association told CNN.
“ “ The routine sets up for us, without having to think about what we’re going to do next, ‘Here is how my day is going to flow,'” Bufka said. “It helps us ease from point A to point B.”
Now that I am working from home at least part of the time, this is something I better check out.
The only fake commute I’ve been a part of so far was playing “stagecoach” with John Whitaker in fourth grade. We pretended we were on our way to Canada. I don’t remember why we wanted to go there, that was John’s deal.
I added a note of realism when I mentioned all the states we would have to go through to get to Canada from Ohio, via New England.
He got tired of hearing about the states, so we stopped paying attention, or pretended to stop paying attention, or stopping paying pretend attention, or something.
We got there, but were interrupted from our Canadian itinerary because it was time for bed.
This new thing isn’t that though. People are having trouble turning off their work persona and turning back into mommy, daddy, friend or whatever.
I don’t see this as a problem for me. I have the basic business agreement wrestled down: part of my time for some of your money. You get the time you pay for. After that I am back to husband/writer/rock and roller.
That work/life toggle is easy for me though. It’s not nearly as easy for people who are dealing with children at least part of the time during the work day.
I have often dealt with professional children dressed in business casual, but again, this is not the same.
“Many individuals are shifting between being a parent/spouse and an employee multiple times during a day,” said Ravi S. Gajendran, an associate professor at Florida International University’s College of Business.
“It’s hard to smoothly hop on to a work-related Zoom call right after dealing with a demanding situation with kids at home. Likewise, it’s hard to leave behind the stresses and mental worries of work-related Zoom call and instantly switch to being a loving and caring partner or spouse.”
My recent work commutes gave me what I call trapped time. Since I am legally blind I rode with a ride service 25 minutes into Wichita and 25 minutes back home again. I was able to do some writing, do some planning and prioritizing, without having to worry about traffic.
Those were very helpful productive times, but I don’t miss them on days when I don’t have them.
If I ever need a fake commute I can probably get help from my wife Jeannette. She likes to walk around the block for the sake of walking around the block.
I am much more interested in a walk if it is tied to a necessary task, such as purchasing the day’s Chili Cheese Fritos from Dollar General.
So I will pass on the fake commutes. In an era when so much of life is fake, this is your humble correspondent, at home, keeping it real.
I worked at home for three and a half years from 1996 through about half of 1999. This was of course before doing so became a new trend because of the pandemic. I came to hate it, not because of children in the home, but because of never being able to get far enough away from my work. Because of the work being so close at hand all of the time, I often would end up working until dinner time, and then going back to work on professional related tasks throughout the evening. I like the idea of the fake commute. Had I used that strategy, it might not have become such drudgery. On the other hand, now that I have mostly retired, I am continuing to spend money to maintain an office downtown just because I have really grown to celebrate having work tasks kept at a distance from where I live.
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