6.4 kms in 2 hours and 15 minutes. That was my commute to work today. I know I’m not alone. Social media platforms this morning were pulsing with angry, frustrated and irritable drivers. Everyone in Joburg seemed to be stuck on one of our main roads trying desperately to get to the office and do.some.work.
Traffic in J Town is never good – unless it’s December – when for 1 month of the year our prettier sister Cape Town gets to experience what we do for the other 11. Today was made even worse by the torrential downpour which lambasted the whole of GP. Both roads and souls made damper by the grey, wet sky and the inching of wheels, lights on lights.
The irony hit me like burst cloud, when 30 minutes and 500 metres into my drive I laughed at the absurdity of it all. Here I was – trying my damndest to not while away my time on Facebook – while surrounded by my work laptop, personal laptop, smartphone, iPad and 3G dongle. Devices, which I could boot up in seconds (OK, not my Acer, that’s just a piece of crap) and start working on, productively, within minutes. I can bet you I wasn’t the only one experiencing that sweaty tingly feeling under my arms, neck getting clammier knowing there was work to be done, emails to be read and sent and to-do lists to be actioned and crossed off. Anxiety made worse by the never ending line of cars not moving in front of me and the transition from breakfast radio DJ to mid-morning DJ. All of this in 6.4 kilometres.
Why as a society are we so stuck on the idea of an ‘8 to 5’? My never ending drive into work gave me time to reflect on why this approach has never really been adopted in South Africa:
- People assume you are busy, productive, grafting hard if you are at your desk, in your high rental Sandton office block. There’s a false illusion that if you are at the office you must.be.working. Trust me – I’ve sat next to enough people who study Facebook like they’re going to write an exam on it later that day, to know that this isn’t necessarily true.
- People love to feel like they have been served an injustice. It starts as kids – “Moooom, Jimmy got a bigger piece of cake/food/chocolate than I did’. We are no different as grownups. Whispered conversations in office walkways – “Did you see that so-and-so waltzed in here at 9 am?!” Tsk tsks and collective anger will a mob make. I bet these haters never stopped to think about so-and-so’s reason for ‘waltzing;’ in at 9am. Kids, school drop, carpooling, late nanny, they were working until 1 am from home?
- Trust. I get this one. I’m a bit of a martyr when it comes to getting things done. I hate people who take their time doing things – especially when someone else is waiting on them. Perhaps it’s my desire to please, driven by guilt that makes me a bright shiny candidate for flexi time. (Pick me, pick me! I will be so paranoid that you think I’m slacking off that I will work double as hard, no, no, make that triple!). If I cock it up, miss a deadline or turn into a 9 am drinker, then by all means, haul me back to my lumber support chair in my cubicle and never give me a leash again. But until then, let me prove to you that I am grown up adult, one capable of working. from. home. (When I need to)
Flexi time is just that – it’s flexible. On mornings when you wake up to a Mother Nature shit storm, wouldn’t it be nice to know that you can grab a cup of coffee, boot up your laptop and be productive for a few hours while waiting for traffic to subside?
If it took me 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to work today and will take me possible the same time to get home. If I generously slice off an hour or so from that and call it 3 hours commuting, then multiply that by the millions of worker bees trying to get to the office in time then we, my friends, are looking at millions of hours wasted on a daily basis. Millions of Rands lost and an economy with an upside down smile.
Let’s look at trying to change our mind-set and applaud those using this time more effectively. I applaud my friend who worked in bed from 5:30am waiting for the roads to look less congealed than a Mac n Cheese dish after a family meal. I applaud that guy who pulled into the Mugg and Bean to work instead of rising to road rage. I applaud that mom who ensured her child got to school on time and safe and will more than likely work from home tonight, when her family is tucked in bed. I applaud the iPhone hot spots, the Wifi zones and the 3G dongles –because of them we are less bound to our desks, and therefore more productive.
Remember – Busy doesn’t make you productive. Productive makes you productive. Being Busy used to be ‘cool’. You know those people who are always SO BUSY. They just don’t have time for anything. Life for them is exhausting. Busy Busy Busy, Miserable miserable miserable.
Life is too short to be busy and sad. Let’s make life easier, more productive and more happy.