4 minute read

A 30 minute (one way) commute adds up.

In a week, the 2x 30 minute long commute eats up five hours of your time.
In a month, it’s over twenty hours.
In a year1, the 30 minute commute sums up to almost 10 days.2

I don’t find any joy in commuting. On the contrary, I think commuting is a waste of time and a perfect example of unintentional time, which I wrote more about in a previous post.

The employer/employee imbalance

Most of us trade our time for money (as opposed to piecework pay) and we only get paid when we actively do work for our employer. I.e. we don’t get paid when we’re on lunch, even if we spend lunch time in the on-premise cafeteria and it is unfeasible to leave the premise, have lunch, and be back again to resume work on time. Maybe you don’t think about the relationship between time and money in this way, but it’s there. The relationship becomes even more apparent when you work a job that bills a customer an ongoing hourly rate – e.g. most consultants and carpenters – as opposed to being a teacher or working in a department store with a monthly salary.

For some reason though, it is considered completely normal that: “the compulsory time required to transport oneself to/from one’s place of work in order to be able to carry out one’s work”, should be paid for fully by the employee.

I think it is absolutely crazy that we (as a society) find this to be a reasonable transaction.

What makes me even more baffled is that most companies charge their customers a “call-out-fee” when they leave their “homes” (i.e. their offices). How come that: When I pay a company to come home to me and do something, I need to pay for the time they spend ‘between jobs’, but when I work for a company they only pay me for the exact time I spend producing something for them?

I believe things are the way they are because there is a significant imbalance between the employer and the employee. The worker is in a position of dependency, with respect to their employer, in which the employee stand to lose more than the employer, should their relationship end. The impact on a company loosing one of their 1 000 employees is quite small, but if a person lose their job they will most likely find themselves in a very uncomfortable position. Because of this imbalance, the worker is unwilling to challenge the status quo.

Remote work balances the scales

I think remote work makes the equation a lot more balanced.

When an employee is given the option to work from home, (s)he can decide whether to spend the time and money required to go to the place their employer has chose for them. If they like their commute, have an errand that can be carried out adjacently to their work day, or for any other reason would like to leave their home (or workplace of choice), they can do so.

I believe that:

  1. An employee should be reimbursed for all the time they have to dedicate to their employer in order to fulfil their work duty. This naturally includes commuting, but also things like “taking a course” and “attending a conference”. I hear about so many cases where “the course/conference is free”, as if that was compensation enough for me having to give my employer hours or even days of my time without getting paid.

    If I have the option to work from home, but choose to commute, I am completely fine with “paying” for the commute myself.

  2. We – society – must dare to challenge the status quo when it comes to remote work. I do not believe that we need laws to mandate that: “All jobs that can be done remotely shall be offered as remote positions.”, because the companies who hate remote will find ways around that. Instead, the employees must start to demand remote work.

    If you – as I – believe remote work is the best kind of work, make it clear to current and future employers that you’re not interested in taking an on-premise position. Apply for jobs and make it clear that you’re only interested in the position, if you can do it from wherever you want.

There is always a ‘but’

Lastly, don’t be dogmatic. There are cases when gathering a group of people in one place is beneficial. Naturally I believe the employer should reimburse all attendees for the time they lose due to the gathering, but I still believe there’s value for ‘remote workers’ to meet, occasionally.

Posts to come

I intend to address the following topics in upcoming posts:

  • Utilising remote work to the fullest
  • The social aspects of remote work
  • The modern office environment

And maybe one or two more.

  1. 5 days per week x 52 weeks in a year - 5 weeks of vacation. 

  2. 225 hours / 24 = 9.375 days