Episode 3: Commuting to Work, Mental Health, and Financial Savings

by Yvonne Harris

In this episode of Welcome to the New Normal we ask if the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) going to drive us back from home comforts to the hustle and bustle of the office? What’s certain is that a return to the shared workplace means a return to the commute and whether this has a positive or negative impact on our mental health and creativity.

Tune in to the Welcome to the New Normal audio podcast now and follow along with the script below.


When you’re working from home, do you ever feel like you’re missing out?

That’s what Andy Cohen reckons, he’s the CEO of Gensler, the world’s largest architecture firm by revenue.

There’s even an acronym for it: FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)

That used to be a reference to friends go out without you, or going on holiday that you couldn’t afford to join.

Now, it seems, it applies to work as well!

Cohen told Bloomberg that working from home leaves workers “bereft of useful updates, critical intel, and key connections”

“The person who’s home says, ‘They’re meeting after the meeting. I’ve got to be there,”

He says that Information shared in person contains rich layers of nuance and context that simply cannot be conveyed through a computer screen.

People want and need face-to-face interaction if they are going to excel at their jobs.

Gensler does an annual survey to find how workers divide their time between four activities:

Focus, collaboration, socializing and learning.

Of course, lockdowns put a massive freeze on socializing, despite all the tech available to us…

But just as worrying was the drop in collaboration.

Down from 43% to 27%!

Given that research also shows that the most successful business are the most collaborative, Cohen says this drop is “a red flag” that all companies should be paying attention to.

So while a survey in the US found that 19% of workers wanted to work at home full time, Cohen reckons that number will drop as FOMO sets in.

Working from home is draining, I know it was for me.

Cohen suggests that it’s actually more important for people to work, if not FROM home, at least NEAR home.

So could we see more housing near to offices? Or more offices moving to suburban areas?

And how might this impact things like mobility, and for many, the dreaded commute to work?


That dreaded commute is a big debate:

Is a return to the commute good for innovation… or for our mental health?

Harvard Business School Professor of Business Administration Andy Wu has written a research paper on this,

It’s ominously headlined:

“Commuting Hurts Productivity and Your Best Talent Suffers Most”

Wu finds that companies that prize innovation should keep employees out of soul-crushing transit.

The study was actually conducted before the COVID 19 pandemic, from 2015 to 2017 when commuting was still part of most employees’ daily routine.

In 2018, the vast majority of the American workforce commuted almost an hour round-trip every day, according to the US Census Bureau.

And how did this impact their level of creativity and success?

Just Listen to these numbers!

Based on a sample of 3,445 inventors working at 1,180 US companies, 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of added travel distance resulted in 5% fewer patents for the company hiring the inventor.

The quantity suffered, but so did the quality, which dropped by 7 percent with every 10 km added to the inventors’ commute.

Number crunchers, listen up!


1.6 trillion

Oxford Economics has calculated that over the course of the crisis, U.S. households saved $1.6 trillion more during 2020 than they would have done otherwise.

It’s not far off the cost of the Biden Administration’s massive spending plan: 1.9 trillion dollars…

How does this compare with Europe?

Well, French households saved 200 billion euros (or $240 billion) largely thanks to being locked down, less spending on travel…and perhaps because they couldn’t go to the restaurant as much.

Those famous French two-hour lunch breaks certainly add up!

We miss those days!

In the UK, the number is almost the same: £162 billion (or 224 billion dollars), and while there are the same reasons, I’m sure the closed pubs have had something to do with it.

What’s happening to all this money?

Could this be the reason the stock markets are doing so well? Because people are putting their savings to work?

I wonder what the impact on markets will be, when these savers suddenly want hard cash again, for their summer holidays, a new car, Christmas presents…

Thanks very much for tuning in. You can follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube for the latest news on the podcast, and don’t forget to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast streaming program.

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