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Journal 16 Jul 2021

Mental health and the covid commute

Let’s face it, we’ve all thought at some point that commuting was a stressful, waste of time, damaging the environment and impacting on our mental and physical health. While the commute as we know it may have disappeared as we move into a post-pandemic world, creatives and technologists in particular, who have benefitted from the transition from home into work life, are having to re-invent their commute.

 

THE ACT OF TRANSITIONING TO ‘WORK’ MODE

The commute for many was an essential time to reflect on the day ahead. A study by Cambridge Judge Business School concluded that the commute was essential ‘role transition’ time that moves us from our home environment and into work. Without the 38 minutes (the average commute time) it can be difficult to make the transition to a working day.

The author of the report, Dr Jochen Menges says: “Our study challenges the idea that commuting time is harmful and has a negative impact on workers’ attitudes toward their jobs. The situation actually is far more nuanced: instead of passively enduring what many people see as a drudgery, employees actively shape their commute into a useful period of role transition that will benefit them at work.”

 

A TIME TO REFLECT

As the working from home trend becomes the norm, it’s important to pause and think about how the lack of a daily commute is impacting us. When the line between home and work blur, creating a virtual transition has become a habit for some across the creative industries.

In Stylist Magazine, Hannah Coorg outlines a routine many in the creative industries may recognise:

“I felt I was going in a circle – getting up every morning, going to the other room, doing my work, making food, then going to bed. It felt like a cycle of just walking round my house, so I wanted to break that pattern.”

What Hannah did was create a fake commute, where she would pack her bag and leave her home for a 45 minute ‘commute’ to put herself in work mode before returning to her house. This is clearly an example of what Dr Menges defined as role transition.

 

THE MOZART EFFECT

What you do on your covid commute can also have an impact

Listening to music, whether that be the radio in the car or itunes on your walk, used to be commonplace. The ‘Mozart Effect’ was documented back in 1993, which suggested listening to his music improved cognitive function. The actual effect is more mundane. Listening to music you like places you in a good mood. Your positive mental state enables you to work more efficiently.

 

COMMUTE OR NOT COMMUTE

So, can the simple act of moving from home to work be having an impact on our mental health? If so, surely the commute as a resource must be protected?

In their report ‘Health in a Hurry,’ the RSPH (Royal Society for Public Health) state: “The benefits of active travel such as walking or cycling for our health and wellbeing are well established; conversely, there is a growing evidence base demonstrating the detrimental impact that non-active commuting can have on our health and wellbeing, be it in terms of mental wellbeing, physiological measures such as blood pressure or the time available for activities like healthy food preparation or sleeping.”

IC Creative Business Manager Jon Gould tells us how he has coped with the transition to remote working.

“I have found the transition to working from home to have been fairly smooth, supporting the team with regular team video catch ups and communication via teams etc. I have used the drop off and pick up of my daughter to nursery as a replacement to an office commute, along with getting out for walks (to buy lunch) or online workouts at lunchtime to be beneficial as it breaks up the day in what would otherwise be a fairly sedentary life!”

 

WELCOME TO THE NEW AGE COMMUTE

As creative technology professionals are re-designing their working lives to accommodate the so-called ‘new normal.’ What this means in practice is highly subjective. For some, a brisk walk is all they need. For others, a hybrid commute is needed to re-set their minds before ‘work’ begins. Finding a healthy balance by ‘commuting’ for a few seconds to spare room or garden office or listening to the radio while you enjoy your first coffee of the day, could be the solution to any bereavement felt for the loss of the daily commute.

These ‘pretend commutes’ as a group of academics advised the government that: “Engaging in a ‘pretend commute’ at the beginning and the end of the day not only provides an opportunity to build some physical activity into your daily routine but also provides an opportunity to transition between work and non-work parts of lives.”

The creative technology industry as a whole has been lax with comprehensive support for wellbeing across all creative groups. New recruits into the creative technology industry will need a new approach to ensure they are fully supported as their work changes from the office to home to a hybrid model.

To discuss this topic or for more information, please call Jon Gould on +44(0)118 988 1100 and ask to speak to one of our consultants. You can also email us at hello@ic-creative.co.uk.

 

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