Better call Paul: A commuter’s tale

Better call Paul: A commuter's tale (Photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock)

Paul Matthews is 36, works for a London PR company and lives in Royal Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Having married his wife two years ago, they are now expecting their first child in May. It's an exciting time for them and also a point at which they are naturally anticipating a lot of things to change in their life.

While this is all good news for Paul, you may be asking at this point what relevance his story has to you. For a start, his situation is the very embodiment of millions of commuters across the country. These embattled workers regularly face the tricky balancing act of maintaining a healthy home life, while ensuring they fulfil the day-to-day duties they are required to carry out in order to continue paying the bills.

Especially as far as working in the capital is concerned, many employees choose to live outside of London. Whether it's because that's where they've always lived and don't wish to move for their job or it's the other way around and they wish to escape the bustling sprawl of the UK's largest city, it's their choice. As an employer, you often have no say in how or where your workers live.

However, the effect on your staff of those long journeys to and from the office every single day can take its toll on your business. 

Time and money

Paul's day is a long one, getting up in the morning at 5.30am, before getting home at 6.30pm. Unfortunately for him, 13-hour days are just part of the Monday to Friday routine, which after a while can understandably leave him feeling exhausted.

"Its ok to start with, when you first start doing such long hours. It takes a week or two to adjust, but then you get used to it," Paul says. "However, after a while, once you get into six, seven, eight months down the line of early starts and late finishes, it's draining."

While the weekend can never come soon enough for many of us, for Paul, it's a case of literally having to drag himself over the finishing line when it gets to Thursday and Friday.

In a somewhat masochistic fashion, he recently worked out exactly how much he pays annually to make the three-hour-long, daily round trip. What he found just added insult to injury.

"It costs just under £5,000 per year or £400 per month. It's a big investment. What's more, I can't claim that money back from work. I choose to live where I live and I wouldn't change that for my job. It just adds as a financial burden."

With the average rail fare increasing by an average rate of 2.8 per cent in January, Paul's mathematics will not be a standalone tale amongst his fellow commuters. With wages remaining static over the last few years, as a result of the economic downturn, this hapless breed of workers has taken quite the hit to the pocket.

The silver bullet

However, recently, Paul has discovered a secret weapon that has had a massive effect on relieving the pressure on both his week and his job. 

"Working from home," he proclaims. "If I do need to work remotely, I have the ability to do so, using conference calls to consult with clients and other members of my team. Especially when there are deadlines to meet, the fact that I can speak with various people at the same time from home without being negatively impacted has made a huge difference to the way I work."

The approach is something that an increasing number of employers are adopting, with its implementation not only benefiting staff, but also the company they work for.

"My energy levels can recover and I can focus more on my work and do a better job," Paul explains. "Not only that, but if I could work from home just two weeks every month, it would save me nearly £2,500 in travelling fees each year." 

One concern many business owners have before employing this strategy is confronting the issue of trust. If they're not there to crack the whip, then how do they know that work will get done? It's something you're only likely to find the answer to once you've taken the leap.

For Paul, it's something he openly admits has taken him time to get used to. However, it's also a way of working he has now embraced with open arms.

"It does take discipline, but I tend to shut myself away in the kitchen, closing the door to the living room and with my laptop on the table. If the TV is out of sight, then for me, there's no temptation to turn it on, even for five minutes.

"I'm very much in one spot when I'm working and because I don't have distractions of people asking me questions or wanting me to help them out with things they're working on, I'm incredibly productive from home and the calls I make to clients are of a much better quality and more frequent."

What's more, Paul's not alone in feeling the benefits of remote working and many of his colleagues are now following suit. It's a trend being mirrored all over the country.

While we often talk about how free conference calling can make a difference to employers, his account of how the service has changed his life for the better is genuinely inspiring. 

There is no doubt there are elements of Paul's story that are familiar to almost every worker who faces a commute into the office every day and the scope of possibilities that flexible working can offer to the commuting nation excites us at Buzz Conferencing. 

If you aren't already feeling the benefits, maybe it's time you took the leap as well.