Commentary: The commuter’s paradox - something gained in space between home and work now missing

Jan 26, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership

MELBOURNE: For many of us, one of the upsides of 2020 was being freed from the grind of the daily commute.

For the 40 per cent of the workforce able to “telecommute”, COVID-19 social distancing measures saved us an average of about an hour a day – and much more for those of us living further out from city centres.

Studies show the morning commute is the least favourite part of the day, and the commute home the third-least favourite (working is the second-least favourite).

Congestion, crowding and unpredictability increase stress and dissatisfaction. The longer it takes, and the more we have to do in the company of others, the more we dislike it.

But it’s also possible to miss aspects of that enforced time between work and home. For all its downsides, the daily commute does have some positives, acting as both a starter button and circuit breaker to differentiate work from home life.

As life returns to “normal” and employers ask us to return to the workplace, thinking consciously about those benefits can help make the most of your commute.


Though we think of commuting as a modern phenomenon, spending time getting to and from work is as old as humanity. Hunting and gathering (going back 200,000 years), farming (about 10,000 years), and living in cities (about 5,000 years) all involved leaving and returning home.

These routines seem to have ingrained in us an idea of acceptable travel times.

In 1994 an Italian physicist, Cesare Marchetti, wrote a paper, Anthropological Invariants in Travel Behaviour, on the “quintessential unity of travelling instincts around the world, above culture, race and religion”.

Drawing on the work of Israeli transport analyst Yacov Zahavi, Marchetti proposed humans had always been willing to spend about an hour a day travelling from and to home.

This idea of commuting time being 30 minutes each way has become known as Marchetti’s Constant.

In a 2001 paper, travel researchers Lothlorien Redmond and Patricia Mokhtarian found most people’s ideal commute time was, in fact, less – an average of 16 minutes – but their results also confirmed the dislike of any commute longer than 35 minutes.


The longer the commute times, the more stressed and dissatisfied we feel.

Yet without time between home and work, there’s also a downside. As Marchetti wrote: “Even people in prison for a life sentence, having nothing to do and nowhere to go, walk around for one hour a day, in the open.”

Commuting can be a ritual that helps us psychologically separate home life and work – switching off from personal concerns in the morning, and then detaching from work worries in the evening.'

A huge body of research over the past four decades show this “psychological distance” is crucial to well-being.

Research also shows that switching from our home to work “identities” carries cognitive demands. A buffer between the two can help make this transition.

It is possible to achieve this psychological distancing without a commute, of course – by going for a morning walk and changing into work clothes – but the demands of both family and work responsibilities often mean we don’t make that time.


So we shouldn’t necessarily spurn the return to the daily commute. Yes, there are downsides, but being conscious of the psychological benefits enables you to maximise its benefits.

Rather than thinking of it as dead time, think of it as “me” time.

In the morning, use your commute to plan your day. Research has found this increases satisfaction at work and makes longer commutes more palatable. Maintaining small routines on the way has also been found to help.

In the evening, use the time to unwind with pleasurable activities such as reading, playing mobile games, calling a friend or family member, listening to music or a podcast. These are activities you won’t necessarily have time for once you get home.

Doing nothing is good too. Many of us have little time for idle thoughts. Here’s a chance to let your mind wander. Free thought time helps to solve problems and inspire creativity.

And, of course, switch to walking or cycling if you can. Along with the “alone” time it gives you, physical activity is strongly associated with higher overall happiness.

You can’t necessarily control the amount of time you spend commuting, but you can control what you get out of it.

Can you say no to returning to the office? We posed this question to one HR expert and one CEO in CNA's Heart of the Matter podcast:

Source: CNA/sl

PAP members call on party to embrace diversity and be open to opposing views

Nov 29, 2021 | 🚀 Fathership
Two People’s Action Party (PAP) members have called on the ruling party to embrace diversity and listen to opposing views, with one Member of Parliament (MP), Ms Nadia Ahmad Samdin, going as far as to say that PAP has to fix its "empathy deficit and grow more comfortable with understanding views we disagree with".

The MP for Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency (GRC) was among some party activists who spoke at the annual PAP convention on Sunday (Nov 28). There were about 2,000 party activists as well as members from the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) who attended the event both physically at Suntec Convention and Exhibition Centre and online.

Ms Gho Sze Kee, branch secretary of the party’s Bukit Timah branch, also talked about how the party needed to introduce a diversity of perspectives to avoid the dangers of groupthink and being part of an echo chamber.

Addressing fellow party activists in her speech, Ms Nadia acknowledged that there is a tendency for people to live in “bubbles”, which refer to how individuals are often surrounded by others who look or think the same way as them, and that these “bubbles” have led to social divisions.

And these differences have played out online in the way party members have responded to opposing views as if they were threats.

However, she urged party members to be conscious of their own inherent biases and not view these differences as a threat, but as opportunities to have hard conversations.

“I hope we have them, and in listening, be at least open to the possibility of changing our minds,” she added.

“More than any trait during this time, I call for empathy that goes two ways. Empathy should drive us to amplify voices of others, to join forces for a shared cause, for our future.

“We have always been a party of action, and empathy is how we will continue to stay relevant, and continue to take meaningful action for our fellow Singaporeans.”

Recounting her own experience as a party activist since 2012, Ms Gho, 42, said PAP’s biggest pressing need is to ensure that it renews its members at every level of the party’s hierarchy, and not only in the candidates it fields during a general election.

Citing some branch-level statistics, she said that there are only 12 branch secretaries who are female, compared with 81 who are male.

“We need to ensure our party’s membership at the branch level truly reflects the diversity of Singapore. And we have to make sure that diversity counts when anticipating ground needs, giving inputs to policy formulation, and communicating our messages to our voters,” said Ms Gho.

When asked by reporters later if her point about PAP needing to embrace people from diverse backgrounds extends to people from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, Ms Gho agreed.

Recurring theme

The need to embrace people from diverse backgrounds and different viewpoints was a recurring theme at Sunday’s party convention.

PAP’s secretary-general Lee Hsien Loong, who is also Singapore’s Prime Minister, made similar points in his speech.

He had said that the party must show that it is not afraid of opposing views or being challenged, and that voters today want to see more debate, contestation and questioning of established ideas.

“We welcome good ideas, regardless of who proposed them… We also have to rebut wrong views, if possible gently, but when necessary firmly,” said Mr Lee.

Speaking to reporters after the event, MP for MacPherson ward Tin Pei Ling said that embracing diverse viewpoints would strengthen trust.

“It’s not just me pushing things to you and you have to accept it, or I just say things that you like to listen. But I explain to you so that even if we may not see eye-to-eye 100 per cent on everything, you know where I am coming from, that it’s not self-serving,” she added.

“And so, it comes back to what are we in politics for? It’s about serving people. And if that’s the case, then, having that empathy, bridging those differences, listening to people and to willingly engage and see whether we can have a midpoint perhaps, and letting you know where I come from. I think that’s important.”

Also speaking at Sunday’s convention was Mr Ling Weihong, 40, branch secretary of Sengkang Central, which is currently under the Workers’ Party.

He talked about the difficulties operating in an opposition ward, but said that his team would continue to work to win back Sengkang GRC, though he acknowledged that it would be an uphill task.

Representing the trade unions, Mr Sanjeev Tiwari, general secretary of the Amalgamated Union of Public Employees, talked about the need to reinforce the strong ties between NTUC and PAP.

He said the collaboration between both organisations is mostly happening within the leadership level and that it needs to be extended to all members of both organisations.