Consulting|Technology|International business

Impact of commuting on productivity – travelonomics!

with 2 comments

I travel 75 kms to work daily. This also involves something like 2 hours one-way travel in a crowded unplanned urban expansion prone city such as Bangalore. The former metric does not sound like much to anyone living outside India (say the United States, Europe, Australia etc.) but the latter figure when correlated to the former does sound alarming.

While a lot has been said about the pathetic traffic situation in Bangalore, what impact does this have on an individual’s productivity? Here is some food for thought:

Productivity is a measure of how much quantity of work can a person do in a fixed unit of time – with good quality (minimal defects). Now, think about what I lose when I travel 75 kms two-way?

The economic theory is explained here:

1. I lose energy. Though reusing energy using techniques that I have mastered such as reading books in moving buses/cars, listening to music and of course, my favorite, sleeping – have limited appeal because one cannot do them at a trot for the 2-hour arduous journey one-way anyway!

2. I lose the motivation to work. It does sap a lot of mental stamina as well as physical to travel such nasty distances in traffic. Its not the distance that tires, its the traffic and the associated pollution. I have traveled great distances in daily commute all my life (once upon a time a decade+ ago, I would travel changing 3-buses from Bangalore North to Bangalore South with a distance of over 40 kms one-way) so its nothing new for me but the key now is that this pollution is increasing exponentially. To do my part to the world to conserve energy and hopefully prevent a few more kms of icesheets from the Antartic from melting away, I participated in the Earth hour scheme last Saturday between 8 PM and 9 PM when I shut off all lights in my house to show I can do my bit for the world as well!

3. The opportunity cost of not working in that 4-hour period. I could have put this to good use in multitude of ways. To cite a few, I could have managed the work/individual tasks of 20-30 team members in the interim. I could have shot off at least 30-40 emails to my co-workers in that period on their task progress! I could have reviewed a lot of stuff. I could have thought and written about 10 blog posts (assuming each post takes me about 10-15 minutes to put down). In all, whether it is for myself or my employer, I could have achieved a lot of things – think about it – 4 hours lost is half of my workday!

People seldom appreciate or acknowledge the hardwork we put in outside of work to just reach our workplaces (here in India) with all the air, noise pollution as also the crazy distances to commute and yet work in a US/Western lifestyle of daily grind at work. They only have to come here and experience it here in India for 1-day to know what it is truly like. I would wager that less than half of them will take the next flight back to where they came from – giving up on this system. I am not saying this by arrogance or being erudite, its a common feedback I receive from people I know who have done this and given up.

Here’s a morale boost for whoever works for global MNC’s and TNC’s in India. Attaboy! We are proud of ourselves. We live the best of both the worlds and maybe this commute might be a small price to pay for this!

I hope I made someone’s day by this refreshingly different post!


Written by Naveen Athresh

April 1, 2008 at 3:16 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Yes! your post didn’t end in the usual way, concluding India is a bad place to be in! Thanks for that! It was refreshing!

    my 2 cents! … in case you dont drive, you can always catch up with some book, meet people talk to them, probably think about world poverty and hunger (:D), pen your blogs (i stress on pen, close your laptop scribble it on paper, meditate if youu can, explore yourself , take that time, its yours, stop worrying about 30-40 emails, 20-30 teammates! what say? Well, I would say anything but work!


    April 2, 2008 at 11:06 am

  2. I carpool to office with 2 of my other colleagues everyday to office. Thereby, we reduce 2 vehicles on the road save a lot of fuel not just for ourselves, but for also the nation. Reduces pollution too. People are still not very open to carpooling in India. A common excuse people give is “Our timings don’t match”. Well, make some sacrifices and see to that your timings match. Make it a rule that you start early together and go home early. But be ready to stretch a little on a few days. It is working for me for the past 3 months. Seeing us, our manager too has started carpooling.
    You can find people going in the same route on

    Nagendra HK

    Nagendra HK

    April 16, 2008 at 5:18 pm

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