Each year, analytics firm INRIX delves into the number of hours commuters in urban areas spend in traffic congestion, and unsurprisingly, the Atlanta metro area is near the top of the list. In 2019, INRIX’s study found that those commuting into and around Atlanta spend an abysmal 99 hours stuck in jams, putting Atlanta as the 10th most traffic-riddled city in the U.S.
But in 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, INRIX data points out that drivers around Atlanta saved a stunning 62 hours of time stuck in traffic — which is almost the same amount of time CBS dedicates to commercials during one Saturday afternoon SEC football game — compared to 2019’s figures.
Now it’s important to note that freight was also somewhat limited during this time, and that study area didn’t include Ga. 400, but what goes for traffic in Atlanta goes for jams in the north metro area.
That study is a major reason why I am going to politely plea for business owners in the metro area to continue letting employees work remotely.
Recently, the news staff here at Appen Media returned to office, so for the first time in 15 months I was exposed to commuter-time traffic now that much of that volume has returned to “normal.”
And thus, my hatred for congestion was reinstated. There is some innate portion of my brain that simply cannot contend with being on a road with a speed limit that can whisk me to and from work in 30 minutes, only for volume to double that time.
Time spent in traffic twiddling my thumbs, or more accurately, cursing at a rate that would make a sailor blush, is time I would much rather spend doing just about anything else. That includes working.
So, Mr. and Mrs. business owner, there is a good chance your employees are actually more productive when working from home. If they don’t have their time wasted in traffic congestion, they are more likely to put in some extra work if they can simply log off and already be at home.
Another benefit is when employees aren’t stuck in traffic for hours each day, they get to spend more time with their families and have added opportunities to enjoy life outside of the daily grind. And a happier employee is always going to be a better employee.
If you still need workers in the office on certain days, consider the strategy my wife’s company is using — a hybrid work week of some days in office and some remotely. That will still keep everybody from being on the roads every day. And that also helps to keep me sane.
But it goes beyond just my own personal interests.
Keeping more commuters off the road is also better for the environment through lessened emissions. It can save taxpayers on road project improvements that would not be warranted if traffic volumes are lighter. Remote work can also improve your bottom-line, helping on overhead and other costs, and aid in recruitment when you don’t have to ensure the best candidates live near your headquarters.
Also, those working remotely are, in many cases, using their own resources, like electricity and internet. Meanwhile, workers get the benefit of saving on gas and added car maintenance that comes along with a 20-mile or so commute.
And finally, I don’t really believe in “work culture” or “office culture” that seems to dictate everyone has to share the same roof while working. For all its impact on the world, COVID-19 has shown us over the last 15 months that work culture is what you make of it. And the world has been shown most companies can reasonably accommodate remote work without much, if any, sacrifice.
Now, some employees will still want to work at an office, and all the power to them, and many jobs will always have to be in-person. Restaurants needs cooks in the kitchen, retailers must have cashiers manning the tills and you can’t exactly do remote landscaping on a customer’s property.
In my case, journalists will still need to be at community events, government meetings and the like. But for the sake of one of the times I have to drive, writing car reviews (shameless plug: appenmedia.com/left_lane/), help me keep my sanity, and keep more cars off the roads.
I, and all others who still have to commute, will thank you.