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Work-Life Balance: Little Things Make Big Differences, Part 2: The Commute
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Work-Life Balance: Little Things Make Big Differences, Part 2: The Commute - Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Little Things Make Big Differences, Part 2: The Commute

Executive Leadership Articles

Work-Life Balance: Little Things Make Big Differences, Part 2: The Commute

When we talk about work-life balance, one of the big issues we’re really discussing is stress. So when we talk about helping our employees find work-life balance, it’s important to confront and deal with the sources of stress. Most of the time, we target the big areas, and rightly so: compensation, time off, and flexible schedules to accommodate the demands of the rest of our lives go a long, long way toward helping people find the ever-elusive balance. But as we pointed out in part 1 of this topic, a multitude of little stresses can be as bad a single big stress. Last time, we considered issues related to technology and required time off. Let us now take a look at that very large issue of commuting, and how little adjustments can make a big difference in helping your team find its balance.

On a day-to-day basis, no single issue not directly related to a person’s job is as stressful as the commute. Every variable from the moment the alarm is set the night before until a person steps through the doors into the lobby is calculated in terms of how it affects the commute. Drivers have to think about alternate routes, bad weather, weird traffic anomalies, and whether or not they can count on a safe, convenient place to park. Parking alone is such a big contributor to stress that it’s one of the most cherished perks for higher-ups in the organization.

Riders of public transportation have an entirely different world of commuter stress, and they should not be overlooked when you think about how you might make a difference in their daily balance. Every bus- or train-rider in your office is contributing toward making life a little better for every driver, and this is worth examining. As bad as inclement weather is for drivers, it’s at least ten times worse for a bus-commuter. Variations to a commuter’s routine don’t usually mean just a few minutes’ delay, since they often mean waiting for a next bus or train. The errands some people can run during lunch are often difficult or impossible for the person who doesn’t drive to the office, and the office potluck becomes a logistical issue about what can be comfortably carried on a bus, or picked up and carried on the way from the train station to the office.

It’s probably impractical to offer free, reserved parking to everyone who drives, or free transit for those who ride buses or trains to the office, but as Miami Herald reporter Cindy Krischer Goodman pointed out last year, many people are willing to settle for lower pay and a shorter commute if it means decreased stress and better balance. In an effort to hang onto your good people, what can you do to help them manage the twice-daily hassle of simply getting to and from the office? Assuming the big things have been taken as much care of as possible, perhaps it’s a good time to make smaller adjustments, such as staggered hours to allow for driving in off-peak times. For non-drivers, subsidized bus or rail passes can boost morale, and might inspire others in the office to opt for public transportation.

An interesting characteristic of little stresses is that they can be unique to the person experiencing them, and they might be easy fixes for someone else. Survey your people about their experiences with commuting, and ask them for as complete a list of complaints as they can come up with. There’s a chance many of the supposedly little things can be taken care of with the combined problem-solving power of others in the office and your ability to say yes a few times. If limitations on resources prevent comprehensive, sweeping changes, as they often do, even a partial fix, when combined with other partial fixes, can lighten the load. It’s a concrete jungle out there, and we all need a little bit of help surviving our daily traverses through it.

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Work-Life Balance: Little Things Make Big Differences, Part 2: The Commute - Executive Leadership Articles

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