Time is not always just money. Time is primarily time – valuable time that never comes back and in which we so often do useless things, such as commuting. How important is remote work?
I wasn’t always good at school. But I was always good at math. Not necessarily mental arithmetic, it was more the logical approaches that excited me and that I never really had to study to understand.
Calculating the area under a curve or reading the slope of a parabola? That was really never a problem for me. And I still like to calculate today. Just for myself and in between. In the meantime, it’s mostly finances that I estimate, or, as in one of my previous jobs, I estimate and assess storage capacities.
Changes due to the pandemic
Recently, over a hot cup of coffee, we discussed how the Covid pandemic has changed the world of work. In addition to all the bad things this crisis brings, we thought about what has changed for the better in the past two years. And we quickly came across our mobility behavior and remote work.
In pre-pandemic times, my partner and I put up with long commutes and a maximum of one or two days working from home. Remote work was not a standard at that time (sounds like it was ages ago 😅).
We never wanted to live in the city as we love nature. That’s why we owned two cars since our commutes would have been nearly impossible with public transportation. Nevertheless, each of us spent at least two hours a day just commuting to work – often longer in winter, when a lot of snow had fallen.
So what exactly is the impact of the Pandemic on my time budget and how much of my lifetime have I actually wasted going to and from work over the last few years? Let’s do the math.
Calculating my work life
I worked 80%, which is four days a week, and have done so since late 2014.
To make it easier, let’s say that before the pandemic, I commuted to the office all four days for five years (from 2015 to 2019). Starting in mid-2017, halfway through, I was able to work one day a week from home.
A working year with a workload of 80% has around 200 working days (at least here in Switzerland). From that still, 20 days of vacations go away and on average 5 holidays, which are sometimes more favorable and sometimes worse. And let’s say that I am absent 5 days per year due to illness (🤞fingers cross that I am not).
A year has 52 weeks, but we don’t work every week, so I calculate an average of 40 home office days if I can work one day a week from home.
Commuting like stupid
Now in my case we assumed 2.5 years without home office and 2.5 years with home office. This makes 750 days of commuting.
750 working days on which I commuted to the office during five years. Every day of that I spent two hours, which in the end adds up to 1500 hours of commuting.
1500 hours – that’s really a lot. I almost couldn’t believe the number myself. When I calculate how many working days alone that would be. Oh yeah, let’s do the math. My workday is 8.5 hours.
During 5 years I spent a total of 176 working days just for commuting.
Earlier we calculated that a year without working from home at an 80% workload has 170 working days. If my commute time over 5 years was 176 working days, it means that I spent the time of one full working year just for commuting.
Wasting precious life time
That’s time I have to fork over from my free time and give to my employer without getting anything in return. And that’s only because companies don’t take remote-first approaches, even though it would be possible in a digital job without much effort.
Free time that I sacrifice without seeing a single penny for it, because no employer wants to pay for the time spent commuting to the office. On the contrary, I even have to pay something on top of it, since I have to bear the costs of a car or public transport myself. In addition, I contribute to increased traffic and environmental pollution.
Desire for remote work
I didn’t want to put up with all that anymore, because I felt bad about it. I took the first step with my partner in 2019 and we replaced our two cars with electric cars. At least this way we were able to reduce our emissions a bit.
Since March 2020, when companies couldn’t do anything against it and had to send their employees to home offices, we both worked fully remote. I can count on one hand the days I’ve been in the office since then. Of course, it was primarily to protect ourselves and each other, but I quickly realized that I didn’t want to go back to the commuting world. I loved the fully remote work from day one.
In my logical mind, after the first six months of Covid, the idea was getting ready to respond to changing conditions. In fall 2020, we returned our second car, which was a leasing car, because we really only needed one for our daily needs. If one of us did want (or need) to go to the office, we could always arrange it.
Besides the fact that we now only have one car to chug around in (and it’s electric, after all), we save a four-digit amount every year that would have been necessary for insurance, maintenance, and energy. It’s impressive what «a little bit of remote work» can change. So if environmental arguments don’t convince you, the money aspect should do it at the latest. 😆
I love meeting people (despite during the pandemic), working and discussing together, and having a cup of coffee. I just don’t like to have long commutes and do this on a regular basis.
When you are one of those who like to go work in an office, feel free to do so. The important thing is: Just because you like it, it does not mean that others like it as well. So don’t force anyone to commute, if it’s not absolutely necessary because you don’t know the reasons behind it.
Instead, we should strive to create an inclusive working environment that meets everyone’s needs. Technically, we are more than capable of making remote work possible; it’s just a question of attitude.
The Covid pandemic has changed a lot of things in our every day (working) lives – regarding the acceptance of remote work definitely for the better.
😅 Fun Fact
I was searching for a new job in 2021 and was only searching for remote work. At the beginning of 2022, I started a new position and the funny thing is that I found a job just right in front of my door. Nevertheless, I’m hardly ever in the office. 👩💻