Standing room only

Having moved out of London after 18 years of living in the capital I’m now enjoying (enduring?) the delights of commuting to work. Not five days a week fortunately, but two or three times a week I suffer an hour’s journey on a packed train into London with hardly enough elbow room to type on my laptop.

But, because I’m at the start of the line, I’m one of the lucky ones –I always get a seat (even if it is occasionally an aisle seat facing backwards). Yesterday the train was packed by the time it left Brighton and everybody from Preston Park onwards had to stand all the way into London (unless they were lucky or cunning enough to have positioned themselves next to someone with a suitcase who looked like they were getting out at Gatwick Airport). Commuting, I’ve discovered, comes with its own unique games and strategies (an encyclopediac knowledge of train times, and where the doors open to allow you the speediest exit being just some of them)

An industry colleague who regularly commutes from Haywards Heath (which is still a 45 minute trek into London Victoria) never gets a seat. When renewing her ticket she asked the station office for a ‘standing only ticket’ (as they provide in some theatres and concerts) but was told the season ticket entitled her to travel to the destination  and didn’t guarantee the manner in which she would travel. Caring customer service.

So you’ve driven/ walked or ridden to the station, stood in a cramped carriage for an hour nestled up against people you would never say hello to, let alone virtually cuddle, and then rushed by tube, bus or foot to the office the other end. And then your working day begins and you’re expected to be fully productive, add value to clients and your organisation, be friendly, approachable and above all professional for eight-plus hours and then do the return journey with people who haven’t recently had the benefit of a morning wash.

As I said I’m one of the lucky ones. Doing the journey two to three times a week (and often not in the rush hour) is enjoyable, when it’s broken up by time spent in a local office, or working at home. It also helps the ‘life’ side of the equation. When I work from Brighton I can be home by 6pm rather than 7.30pm. But is a five-day commute to a city office really the ideal way to get the best out of people? Or would working from a mixture of settings: offices in big towns, local offices/ hubs and home offices be preferable to allow people to both be productive and also get pleasure from their working (and home) lives?


Cathy Hayward

2 thoughts on “Standing room only”

  1. Cathy, you make some valid points. Travelling can be exhausting and stressful, and it’s no wonder people can be less productive. I agree, it’s time to look at other options – local hubs where peopel can still collaborate face-to-face and spend quality time at work withouth all the stress of commuting!

  2. Cathy, I really like reading your posts. They’re witty, flow well and I can’t help but nod my head in agreement to practically everything you said. I also did the commute from Brighton to London, and had to get the Bakerloo line right up to Kilburn Park, (that was a killer!)

    If we want to work in the city and live in a more reasonably priced, relaxed, coastal city then I guess the commute is just something we have to endure. And the same if we want to work for a big company that branches across the UK, with a usually essential presence in London. At least we get to work in the local office most of the time.

    That encyclopaedic knowledge may come useful in leisure times too, and often impresses friends and family that rarely step foot on trains in rush hour (because who would if they didn’t have to?) It might even develop working skills too, helping you to plan ahead, become more organised and maybe a little regimental (finding a seat is a a little like being a soldier on a mission… maybe.)

    To conclude my short comment, that has somehow turned into a little article of it’s own, I like working in a office, and even though I think working from home, in bed, would of course be very comfortable and suffice for a day or two, I’d personally miss the busy office atmosphere. Looking into local hubs and offices, and working from home is definitely a good idea though, and teamed with going to London (or a bigger city) a few days a week it would provide a very balanced week.

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