This morning I left for work at 7.15 am and didn’t arrive until 8.05 am – 55 minutes. If you don’t live in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) you might think that the distance I am covering is pretty significant but it isn’t – 27.29 km to be exact, door to door. Plus, I only live 2 minutes from the major highway and my office is literally 2 minutes from this major highway, so it is should be pretty much a straight line from door to door and smooth sailing but it isn’t. I have altered my drive times 1/2 hour + in either direction of this time and with no benefits, at least with this departure time I can see one child out the door onto her bus. Since we have moved up to our suburban community north of Toronto over seven years ago, the traffic congestion seems to have doubled. Usually in the summer months (July/August) when the kids are off school, there is a considerable difference in traffic on the roads but this past summer I barely noticed an improvement in my commute time. The crazy thing is my commute distance is shorter than most of my working friends which doesn’t say much and they have to endure a lot more. A few friends also work right down town and are able to take the GO train and although taking the train has its benefits, it still eats up over hour of one’s time each way and that is under the assumption one’s office is literally near Union Station which is not always the case.
My husband (and I) have been very fortunate for the past seven years for he has been working under a telecommute arrangement where he goes in as needed, which works out to be an average of 2 times a week. Naturally this has given us great flexibility on the home front but this doesn’t mean he only puts in the standard 8 hours. Given this flexibility though he finds it easier to give extra hours to the company as needed and it more often than not has become a win-win situation all around. Last week though, his company laid off almost 1/3 of the sales group and my husband’s boss was part of the cuts. As a result, my husband and his colleague who are part of a team of 3 (or was) will be assimilated into the Finance department which expects all employees to work in the office and be present from 9 to 4 at a minimum (core coverage). So no telecommute arrangements, no flexibility and also they expect you to work 24/7 as needed. Needless to say this isn’t going to go over well for many reasons, especially when the commute for him is now 1.5 to 2 hours on a good day. The distance is only 40km and again his employer is just off this major highway, straight line into the city. In my mind this constitutes constructive dismissal where his employer is unilaterally changing the terms of employment that has been implicitly agreed upon over the past 7 years. Needless to say my husband will be working for alternate employment if they prove not to be flexible for the idea of spending upwards of 4 hours a day in a car to go 40km does not bode well on the sanity or family front.
A 2010 study was completed by Stats Canada which was published recently and according to the results, Canadian commuters took an average of 26 minutes to travel to work on a typical day in 2010, which includes all modes of transportation. I think most people in my network would give their left arm for that commute time. In the Toronto area, more than one quarter of commuters have travel times of 45 minutes or more, and it is my understanding that Torontonians have the longest commute times across Canada. Moreover, I wouldn’t doubt that these stats only reflect Toronto participants and don’t include suburban commute times from outside the GTA where a considerable amount of the working professional population is coming from which would put the average commute time considerably higher. But yet nothing is being done to address the issue! Many employers are paying lip service to the notion of providing flexibility in the workplace, the government has tight purse strings and is not investing in the longer term infrastructure that was needed yesterday to accommodate the exploding populations in these bedroom communities, and local municipalities are continuing to grant permits for builders to build new sub divisions without the supporting infrastructure or sufficient local businesses to keep the working population at home.
I like to think there is a huge shift happening within my generation rebelling against the traditional notion of what it means to be successful and what we are willing to do to achieve this success. I know my husband and I are trying to redefine it and boy is it hard to not get caught up in what we should be aspiring to but I know that the current line of questioning we are going through is going to get us to a better place and one that we have a hand in defining.
Stats Canada Study: Commuting to work