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5 Strategies to Make the Hellish Commute More Bearable

There are a lot of ways to grin and bear it

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BY Lian Kyla Dyogi - 30 May 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Teacher Rizza Felias lives 24-25 kilometers away from her office in Bonifacio Global City, one of Manila’s busiest commercial and business districts. She is exasperated at the inefficiencies of the public transport system, and rightly so, with a commute that lasts two to three and a half hours one way.

Hers is a story familiar to most employees and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia. There’s Bangkok, ranking 12th in a survey of the world’s most congested cities conducted by U.S.-based Global Traffic Scorecard, as reported by the Straits Times. Then Jakarta, the “worst city in the world for traffic jams” wrote Sabrina Toppa in this Time article, according to an index by Castrol.

Here are five tactics to ease those hip-numbing hours:

1. Carpool

With limited public transport options in her area, Niobe Vidal carpools via apps like Wunder instead. While more expensive than taking a bus ride but cheaper than Uber’s PHP 300-400 fare ($6-8), she says it’s more comfortable and effective.

Sam Cinco, whose commute lasts an hour to an hour and a half, also uses Wunder to get to her office. She says the “app matches you to people that are almost the same time and near you. It’s a bit faster but it costs a bit more.” The fare, computed by the app, considers the rider’s gas contributions.

However, for women, apps like Wunder don’t guarantee the creeps are kept at bay.

“I had one that was consistently trying to hit on me. But since chances are these people are professional adults who have work and lives to be busy in, it doesn’t really go farther than that,” says Vidal.

If you don’t feel safe carpooling with strangers, maybe start a carpooling club in your office. It could also be a good way to get to know your officemates.

2. Leave earlier or later

For employees who don’t have flexible work schedules, the solution might be to leave earlier, as Cinco does. Leaving at 5:30, she says this lessens her travel time and there are usually fewer people on the road, which makes her public utility vehicle of choice less crowded. Though Vidal’s previous solution was to leave home earlier, it didn’t work for her because her office would still sometimes be closed.

Though it takes time and lots of experimentation to find the least congested window, sometimes it pays off. For CatchThatBus Malaysian co-founder Ashwin Jeyapalasingam, leaving home a bit later is the key, as he shares in this Inc. Southeast Asia article, ”I actually do begin my day at home, and only leave to head over to the office at around 9:45am-10am. At this time, my commute is not too long, around 20-25 minutes, but leaving earlier would result in a travel time of around 40-45 minutes.”

3. Maximize your smartphone’s app capabilities

Felias says, “[T]o make myself feel better about [the commute], I listen to music/browse the Internet or play video games or angrily tweet at the DOTC-MRT Twitter.” Marchelle Vargas, who works a corporate job roughly 25 kilometers from her home, says she either sleeps on the bus or if not, checks social media, listens to podcasts, audiobooks, or reads e-books.

If you don’t have access to mobile data, you can always download your podcasts offline or save videos offline using the Youtube app. If you’re a Netflix subscriber, some movies and TV shows have offline download options as well.

4. Work on your side hustle

For Vargas, she says she sometimes works on her side hustles including an event singing business, on the bus on her phone. A side hustle, whether it’s an online shop or any passion project, can be a good opportunity for growth and fulfillment.

As John White writes in this article, “Developing a side gig for yourself enables you to become more entrepreneurial and acquire the skills that you may not be able to in your day job because of the limitations of your position.”

5. Request work from home days

There really is no sugar coating it, commuting long hours will suck most of the time. If you can, try requesting work from home days from your employer. As an argument, try explaining how working from home can make employees more productive as this case study from the Harvard Business Review shows.

However, working from home also has its downsides—including the lack of collaboration that the office brings, as Paul Rivera,­­­­ co-founder and CEO of Kalibrr, shares in this Inc. Southeast Asia article. If you’re a start-up founder who’s reluctant to let go of the office’s collaborative nature, you can try implementing a 3-day-in-office, 1-2-day-remote-working policy or implement a few work-from-home days, similar to leave allowances, as they do in CatchThatBus. It’s a compromise that might be worth it in the long run.

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