You’ve spent the past one to three years working from home (WFH), using your time efficiently and keeping productivity high. But now, Safe Management Measures (SMMs) have been mostly lifted, life is returning to relative normalcy and you’re tasked with returning to the office more often.
Hopefully, you’ve been enjoying the experience of working in the office regularly. After all, it has its perks, like finally having a space dedicated solely for work, and comes without distractions, from the blaring TV, the bed calling you for naps and nagging parents. It’s even easier than ever to collaborate with co-workers – you can literally walk up to them and quickly clarify questions without having to set up a meeting online first.
But there’s generally one universal negative about returning to the office – the commute, especially on public transport.
It’s long, boring, crowded and tiring. The easiest way to pass the time is by browsing social media (TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), messaging friends, or watching the latest drama series on Netflix. Although there’s nothing wrong with any of those, why don’t you change your outlook about your office commute by using the travel time more productively?
Here’s how you can do it!
Understanding why your commute makes you wilt
If your morning commute is leaving you down, you're not alone. For many, having to deal with cramped buses and trains, traffic jams and mind-numbing boredom is misery-inducing. Research has even found that most people experience more negative emotions on their morning commutes, with long-term effects even including depression.
But there’s light at the end of this tunnel! Studies have found that creating, and sticking to, a routine can help you manage your negative emotions and boost your mental health. So why not create a routine of activities you can use for your commute? Here are some suggestions you can consider!
1. Know what's going on in the world
Most of us associate travel time with our destination. For instance, if you’re on the way to meet friends for a meal, you might decide to scan through the menu of the restaurant.
In that vein, what better time to update yourself on the latest news than on your commute to work? The best part is that with the connectivity of today’s world, it’s just a simple routine of hopping onto Google and pulling up relevant news articles. You can even curate a list of go-to news sites, and refresh them every morning on the way to work.
2. Do some mental exercises
Just like how you have to physically get moving to limber your body up in the morning, your brain also needs exercise to get ready for the day! So don’t let your travel time go to waste – add some simple brain exercises into your routine. On top of making your travel time productive, there are many benefits, such as sharpening your focus and improving memory.
3. Mentally prepare for the day
The you at home isn’t the same you in the office. At home, you’re perhaps a sibling, caregiver, or roommate. But at work, and especially in the office, you’re a professional. Making it routine to transit mentally and prepare yourself (and get “into the zone”) for the day during your commute will help reduce stress and raise productivity, according to a study by Sage Journals.
One way to do that is to frame your thoughts. If you’re the sort to think out loud, record your thoughts on your phone’s voice recorder, or type them out in your notes app if you’d prefer to write.
4. Catch up on the little things
Whether it’s clearing up your personal email (receipts and notifications from online shopping sprees pile up fast!) or making a dent in that book you’ve been meaning to read, these little things can go a long way. Not only will you be able to check things off your internal to-do list, but getting them done can leave you feeling accomplished and motivated even before you start work!
5. Keep fit on the bus or train (no, really!)
After starting work, you might have noticed that you spend much more time sitting down as compared to being on your feet. Even worse, your commute has cut into your exercise time!
Instead of keeping to your newly sedentary lifestyle, you can do some simple exercises on public transport to keep yourself in shape. If you don’t want to draw attention to yourself, you can keep it subtle, too – like making it a point to stand throughout your commute, rather than sitting down.
Bonus: Unwinding on the way home
Generally, commuting home in the evening is far less stressful than getting to work in the morning – the day is done and you have space for a breather. To unwind, create an evening routine like you do for your morning commute routine.
It doesn’t matter what kind of activities you choose for it – it can be “slower” things like just staring out the window and observing passing scenery (if you’re on a bus) – it’s the act of following the routine that’s the destressor. It can even keep you from burning out!
The time spent on your commute doesn’t have to be disregarded as wasted time. Choosing engaging activities and making them part of your routine can not only keep you motivated and reduce your stress levels, but even help use your free time more productively!