Occupational stress is not a new phenomenon. Over the last century, workers have faced a number of challenges which have made a big impact on society - from political changes to the acceleration of work by PC and the Internet.
Branch closures lead to long commutes
But ever since the first industrial revolution, there have been so many changes in working practices and society at once, as we are experiencing today. All this gives reason to reconsider certain business strategies. Under increasing pressure on costs comes increased consolidation. In order to reduce personnel costs, some offices will be closed, and larger offices at key locations with flexible jobs will be opened.
This tendency must have adverse effects on many people who must cross the large metropolitan areas or travel long distances to get to their workplace. The consequences are fatigue, irritability, lack of productivity, and growing incompatibility between work and private life.
In London alone, a fifth of all workers must travel for more than 40km to work. In New York, 47% of workers must travel for more than 40 minutes.
Home office is not the answer
The panacea for many industries seemed to be the home office. Digital technologies offer us a wonderful opportunity to leave the rigid confines of time and place. With a table for a laptop and an Internet connection, work can now be done anywhere, even at home. It is true that the home office offers both employers and employees many advantages, not least the ability to reduce job costs and travel times. Moreover, the environment is spared, and people can find a better balance between work and family.
In the long run, however, the home office is not the optimal solution – either for employees or companies. For example, it lacks the social connection that can be found in the office, combined with the appropriate resources and ability to carry out joint brainstorming or interactive activities.
The most sensible idea would be a regionally distributed network of professional, hourly-assignable offices spread around the metropolitan area, which would compliment the central office building. The headquarters should not disappear entirely, but could be used by employees when needed.
Switching to a distributed workplace network with connections to a central headquarters offers companies the opportunity to help their staff enjoy a more liveable life.