Working in the time of traffic jams5 min read . Updated: 25 Feb 2020, 10:18 PM IST
A growing number of people, especially millennials, are moving houses, even cities, to stay away from gridlock and be closer to their office to get more family- and me-time null null
When software professional Lakshit Bhatnagar, 30, moved to Mumbai from Uttar Pradesh’s Moradabad for work six years ago, he wasn’t prepared for the traffic he would have to wade through to reach office. He would spend at least three hours on the road to cover the 36km distance on his motorbike, both ways.
After five months of suffering from back pain and the traffic, Bhatnagar shifted to a house that was within 20km radius of his then office in Navi Mumbai. The travel time reduced to 45 minutes but it wasn’t enough. A year later, he moved again, this time his rented house was at a walkable distance.
Now working in Pune, Bhatnagar is following a similar pattern to ensure traffic doesn’t rob him of his personal time. But he’s again planning to move to be within 5km of his office. “Being a bachelor, my social life may get affected by this move, but I’ll get more time for myself."
Bhatnagar is not alone. A growing number of people, especially millennials, are ready to move houses, even cities, to stay away from traffic chaos and be closer to their office.
In Gurugram, for instance, Vaishali Sudan, 35, who works with organic baby food company Slurrp Farm, and her husband Akhil, 36, have stuck to an informal pact of taking up jobs that are within 5km radius of their house.
The geographic restriction has meant declining good job offers and sticking on to a job for longer. But Sudan believes the price of choosing that offers better work-life balance is worth it.
“We save time on commute for a better quality of life. Thankfully, Gurugram is a hub of major companies, so it’s not been too much of a problem sticking to this pact," she says.
Yash Garg, 27, who works with POCO India in Bengaluru, shifted from the lively suburb of Indiranagar to the outskirts, as it was 5km away from office. He doesn’t mind the impact it’s had on his social life because he was fed up with the perennial traffic congestion. “I was getting into fights on the street. I thought this can’t continue."
Garg, who travels by bike, says, “It’s such a luxury to reach office within 15 minutes. Besides saving time, I have lot more energy now, which I can expend by going for a run or playing a sport."
A recent traffic index report by Dutch navigation technology company TomTom shows Bengaluru as the world’s most traffic congested city. Of the 416 cities surveyed, the report says that on an average, residents of Bengaluru spend on an average 71% more time stuck in traffic. Mumbai, Pune and Delhi are fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively, in the top 10 list.
To end the daily traffic woes, some people have taken the bold step of relocating to another city.
Pallavi Kher, 28, functional head (talent acquisition) at Bajaj Allianz, decided to move to Pune from Bengaluru as she was frustrated with spending time in traffic jams. “The commute was getting too much for me. You end up working more in the car. It was affecting my lifestyle," she says.
While Pune is also notorious for its traffic, what’s helped is staying just 15 minutes away, which Kher describes as “a luxury". After the move, Kher says she’s much happier and less stressed.
Similarly, Microfinance Institutions Network’s chief executive Harsh Shrivastava, 46, took a flat on rent in Gurugram, which is five-minute auto ride away from work. He owns a house in Greater Noida. When Shrivastava used to live in Noida, he had to commute by metro and cab (six rides in total, every day) to reach his workplace on time.
Now, on weekends, he either goes to visit his family in Noida or they come over to visit him. “I wasn’t able to spend time with my daughter and would sleep through weekend because I was so exhausted. Since it was a job I wanted, and I was hardly contributing at home, I thought why kill myself with the long commute," he says. While he admits spending more money on running two households, the time it this has saved him is worth it.
While shifting closer to work may be a no-brainer, sometimes it can be a gamble as well, as Bengaluru’s Gaurav Goswami, 30, and his wife learnt. Seven months after shifting to their present house, the couple is contemplating moving again as the wife’s office has shifted to a far-off location.
“Every time you vacate a house, you end up paying over a month’s rent. It ends up becoming expensive. Plus, there is hike in rent by 20-25% in areas close to office. But with the time saved, your quality of life improves," he says.
THE CHOICES THEY MAKE
Those who can’t afford to move houses or relocate to another city, experiment with the work time. On most days, Khushbu Lakkad, 35, senior manager (food safety), Kellogg India, finds herself one of the first people to reach office. Every weekday, she drives 23km to reach office by 8:15am, and leaves by 4:30pm to beat peak hour traffic. “Earlier, the work-life balance was completely off. Now, I can do some quality work as the office is nearly empty and peaceful when I reach," she says.
Then there are people, who have given up their vehicles to avoid the stress of driving. Bengaluru’s Kamal Karanth, the co-founder of HR consultancy firm Xpheno, sold his car four years ago because of traffic. He took up an office space just 5km away from home. Karanth now commutes by cabs, which cost him ₹8,000 a month.
“I can’t say I have saved on commute time. But I use this time more productively by reading newspapers, taking work-related calls, and most importantly, speaking to friends and family," he says.
Abhishek Ramesh, 37, who works with NetApp in Bengaluru, meanwhile, cycles 26km to work, twice a week. As his company has a shower facility, Ramesh says he starts work fresh and energized. He’s now thinking of cycling to work thrice a week.
Commute is one of the major factors that affect productivity of people working in major cities, believes Nikhil Jaiswal, regional director of recruitment company Michael Page India.
“There is clear evidence of people preferring to stay closer to their workplace, especially in a city like Bangalore. Often we ask candidates on their preferred areas to work for the next role, as generally they are not open to travel beyond 45 minutes to an hour one way. This has also led to a lot of companies moving complete offices or opening another office in areas where it is easier for them to attract talent," he says.
Candidates are also preferring workplaces that have flexibility, including remote access, flexi-timings, no attendance policies, etc. “Even companies are using it as a differentiator to attract and retain talent," Jaiswal adds.