HR Management & Compliance, Talent

Are We Missing Out Without Our Commutes?

The shift to remote work in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that more people than ever before are working from home offices. Depending on whom you ask, this is a blessing, a curse, or some mixture of both.

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Remote work offers greater flexibility and freedom, while in-office work has more personal collaboration and interaction and greater structure. One thing fans of remote work and die-hard office dwellers can agree on, though, is that nobody misses commuting to and from the office.

Losing the Commute: Good or Bad?

Or do they? Microsoft seems to think employers and employees might be missing out on more than they realize when their commute changes from a half-hour drive or bus ride to a 10-foot walk to the next room.

“Microsoft Corp. is developing an update to its Teams package of workplace collaboration tools to replace one of the less-mourned losses of pandemic living: the commute to and from work,” writes Katie Deighton in an article for The Wall Street Journal.

“The daily commute may have caused its share of headaches, but it at least helped workers define a start and end to their workday while offering a set time to think away from the demands and distractions of the home and office. That positive side of the commute is what Microsoft hopes to re-create,” Deighton adds.

Finding Time for Reflection with a Virtual Commute

Deighton reports that the Teams update, available next year, will allow users to schedule virtual “commutes” at the beginning and end of each shift. “Instead of reliving 8 a.m. or 6 p.m. packed subway rides or highway traffic jams in virtual reality, users will be prompted by the platform to set goals in the morning and reflect on the day in the evening,” she writes.

The 80s rock classic by Cinderella reminds us: “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone).” While millions of Americans dreaded and bemoaned their daily commute, it’s possible there were some subtle benefits to the drudgery just below the surface.

This is just one of many examples of the small but potentially significant elements of everyday life that have been lost—at least for the time being—in the new normal ushered in by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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