Road lag! Yet another addition to the ever-expanding list of woes in modern urban life. Created by the scorching pace of growth in India’s IT/ITES sector, with addition of more and more employees, road lag is a reality today. But first, the questions:
- What is road lag?
- What is creating road lag?
- Is it a problem?
What is Road Lag?
Consider road lag to be a newborn cousin of our familiar foe, jet-lag. Defined as, “a temporary disruption of the body’s normal biological rhythms after high-speed air travel through several time zones”, jet-lag is a necessary evil of modern urban life and has been around for a while.
Road lag is similar in the effects, but with diametrically opposite causes. Remove the jet-set pace and replace it with ” 90 minutes to cover a 4 Km stretch”. Crossing over timezones is not a factor here but stress sets in all the same. India’s growth-rate in the IT/ITES sector has created multiple issues for the organizations and the people working in them. Sitting in the same place, getting worried about reaching your workplace and kickstarting the day, or yearning to get back home to relax, is taking its toll. In a scenario where people encounter this on a daily basis, the effect is multiplied and people begin to dread the commute to and from work.
What is Creating Road Lag?
Space is largely available on the outskirts of major cities and not in the central business district (CBD). Cost of space in the CBDs is formidable, along with a dearth of large spaces required by these companies. For a workforce spread out across the city, organizations provide employee transport to ensure that employees are able to travel both comfortably as well as to be on time without having to depend on an unreliable public transport infrastructure.
As number of employees grows, the employee transport vehicles are getting bigger, in an attempt to accommodate more and more employees in each vehicle. What this implies is that the distances travelled by vehicles increase as the geography required to be covered becomes much larger. As a consequence, employees have to spend a considerable amount of time in travel, sometimes as much as 150 minutes one way, given that major cities like Bangalore, Delhi and Chennai have massive traffic during peak hours.
Is It a Problem?
To answer that question, we need to study the effects of long commutes. Road lag is similar to jet-lag only in the effect that it has on the human mind and body. According to The American Journal of Preventive Medicine, individuals who commute long distances for work everyday are less likely to fall into a routine of regular exercise and therefore, more prone to decreased CRF (cardio-respiratory fitness). Commuting long distances leads to spike in blood pressure, overall higher blood pressure over time, increased anxiety and stress levels and, here’s the scary part, higher cholesterol levels. Due to the sedentary aspect of driving or commuting by any vehicle, the effects on the mind and body are similar to those of a sedentary lifestyle, or even, to an extent, jet-lag. It is natural to feel disoriented in these circumstances, with lesser and lesser balance between personal time and work.
Well, to an extent, yes. In a tongue-in-cheek take on the issue, the author of “Commuting” states that given a choice between a big house in the suburbs and a small or medium sized apartment in the heart of the city, for approximately the same budget, people most often prefer the former. They discount the daily commute as a collateral. This can have cumulative effects over time. While one is not likely to have guests all year round, the commute to work is a daily reality and should be given the attention it deserves as such.
Many organizations are also favoring telecommuting or work-from-home options. This may not be practicable for all jobs but the average percentage is on the rise. According to GlobalWorkplaceAnalytics.com, telecommuting saw an increase of almost 80% between 2005 and 2012. Organizations are beginning to realize the immense benefits of telecommuting employees, through direct cost-savings as well as indirect contribution to the society through reduction in greenhouse gas and emissions.
With that we come to the conclusion that road lag is no more a myth. Given a choice, would you want to live closer to work, telecommute or ignore the drive?
http://www.thefreedictionary.com/, http://www.bangaloremirror.com/bangalore/others/In-Whitefield-BMRCL-to-build-road-before-rail/articleshow/42198682.cms, http://scienceblogs.com/cortex/2010/03/30/commuting/, http://time.com/9912/10-things-your-commute-does-to-your-body/
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