With the progress of the Covid vaccination campaign in mind, many organisations have communicated that employees are expected to work from the office again.
However, new research from Wladislaw Rivkin at Trinity Business School, Fabiola Gerpott and Dana Unger demonstrates that commuting reduces productivity at work by draining mental energy, affecting our ability to fully focus on what we’re doing when we finally arrive at work.
According to Wladislaw Rivkin, associate professor in organisational behaviour: ‘Because of its regular occurrence commuting is an automatic habit. However, an unpleasant commuting experience like heavy traffic requires employees’ self-regulation to shift toward controlled cognitive processing. For example, employees may need to adapt daily work plans when arriving later at work or decide during the commute whether to pass on information about potential delays to colleagues. In turn, states of controlled cognitive processing deplete regulatory resources and put employees into resource protection, negatively affecting productivity.’
The researchers recommend businesses implement clever work design (e.g., prevent interruptions during focused work) as well as reducing draining commutes by allowing flexible working arrangements or at least flexible time arrangements to avoid rush hour, to mitigate this.
‘Although commuting is an everyday experience for most people, its dynamic nature and implication for daily life in organisations have been largely overlooked. Our research demonstrates that commuting reduces productivity at work by draining mental energy and thus preventing immersive states of flow. Leaders should focus on satisfying employees’ fundamental needs by assigning work tasks that enhance employees’ competencies and providing employees with decision-making autonomy,’ says Wladislaw Rivkin.