London Commuting; Already Badly Broken and Doesn't Seem to Be Getting Any Better
My first experience of Commuting into London was nearly two decades ago. It wasn’t something I’ve ever particularly enjoyed (unlike some who find it’s a great reading opportunity), but it generally did the job of getting me from where I’d chosen to live to where I’d chosen to work. After about 5 years I left that behind and setup a company and, over the next 9-ish years I was free from it.
A little over two and a half years ago I started working at Facebook and needed to commute again. Over the time I was there I found that, if anything, commuting to London had gone significant ly down-hill as an experience. The train operating companies here have tried to redefine the word “late”; if a train leaves <5 minutes after the advertised time it is not late, but if you turn up two or three minutes after the advertised time, well, you’ll find they have a different, more commonly accepted, definition of late for you.
Today I start at Deliveroo, this is my first commute into London for two and a half months and the train I planned to catch is cancelled, the next one going in that Direction is two-thirds of it’s maximum length (8 cars instead of 12), and the train after that is also cancelled. I got on the short train and, with 2 stops and 50 minutes before it reaches London the aisle s are already starting to fill up with people who can’t get seats, and, what concerns me most, is that people consider this in-line with expectations.
In the UK we’ve had train strikes which have been intermittent over the last year, we’ve had prominent politicians raise the issue and get very little changed, so the future doesn’t seem bright.
So if you’re setting up your business in London you need to think hard about your need for staff; will you need people from outside of the city? How will you come with their commuting stress? Is there a reason why you’re asking them to go through it every day? Should you be considering relocating outside of London, or increasing partially or fully remote working?
Personally I’m lucky; Facebook allowed me to work a day each week from home, I’m also in a position where I can walk away if the commute gets too bad, but for many people the commute is an expectation their employers are making of them without possibly understanding the stress it can cause, and being stressed before you even sit at you’re desk isn’t a recepie for success.
[Update; As I posted this my train came to a halt; it’s now in a 5 miles, 9 train queue caused by a single passenger being taken I’ll on a train in London]
[Update 2; The train I caught finally arrived in a London station 35 minutes late. It wasn’t the station I wanted to be at, but, because I’ve experienced UK trains a fair amount over the last few times, it wasn’t late enough to overrun the 1hr time buffer I now add to journeys]