Flexible Working Makes City-Sense

In these times of Covid, as we all adapt to working from home, we might take a moment to think about the positive change that these arrangements have had, and could continue to have on the liveability of our cities and our broader environment.

Why the 9 - 5?
Why is it that we blindly accept the 9 - 5 as our standard working day? How much time is wasted by many of us either sitting in traffic congestion on our way to and from work or packing into a crowded train or bus. Have we ever stopped and asked ourselves why exactly is it that everyone needs to start and finish work at the same time?

“Infrastructure Australia’s updated modelling estimates that road congestion and public transport crowding cost the Australian economy $19.0 billion in 2016. Without continued infrastructure investment in our cities, this report suggests this cost will more than double by 2031 to reach $39.8 billion.”

Who hasn’t sat at their desk at 3pm staring at their screen as they struggle to stay awake and knowing full well that they simply won’t be productive at all for the rest of the day? As parents, who hasn’t had to face the reality of having to juggle school pick up and drop off with one person working part time or not working at all and getting by on a single income?

Flexi Working and Ditching the 9 - 5: The Upside
Keeping people at home and reducing travel such as unnecessary travel to work has environmental benefits, for example as a result of Covid lockdowns “in China, the world’s biggest source of carbon, emissions were down by 18% between early February and mid-March – a cut of 250m tonnes…Europe is forecast to see a reduction of around 390m tonnes. Significant falls can also be expected in the US, where passenger vehicle traffic – its major source of CO2 – has fallen by nearly 40%. Even assuming a bounceback once the lockdown is lifted, the planet is expected to see its first fall in global emissions since the 2008-9 financial crisis.”

The environmental, economic and human cost of our obsession with the 9 - 5 demands a re-think of the reasons why we believe we need to work at the same time and in the same place. The Covid situation has forced us to work remotely and stay efficient. Why can’t we combine that with more flexible working arrangements in the office once restrictions are lifted? It’s a given this isn’t for everyone, but for many professionals this kind of working arrangement makes enormous sense.

We will have less people on our roads and less people crowded into public transport, less congestion at peak times, less carbon emissions, more time with our families and I would argue more productive workforces - working when it suits us and being productive at times that suits our other life commitments and our body clocks. Employers that adopt this quickly will benefit by attracting workers looking for better ways to balance their lives. l

We need to look for ways to work that are more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable. We need managers and business owners to lead the transition to a smarter and more healthy understanding of the role of work in our collective futures.

Author: Stephen Burton


Headline image credit: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-10-13/should-australia-have-a-congestion-charge/11597022

Infrastructure Australia: https://www.infrastructureaustralia.gov.au/publications/urban-transport-crowding-and-congestion

Carbon Emissions Stats: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/09/climate-crisis-amid-coronavirus-lockdown-nature-bounces-back-but-for-how-long

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