Return to the dreaded commute

Productivity and optimal function at one’s business depends on mental alertness and energetic performance. Imagine a scenario where a large percentage of employees are arriving for work already emotionally exhausted. Recent research is suggesting that increased traffic and stressful commutes prevent workforces from performing at their best.

While remote or hybrid work practices are still in place, research by KPMG indicates there is a steady increase of employees returning to the office and that 72% of CEOs support office-based work. The CEO of MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, says: “As employees return to work, they will again contend with stressful morning commutes. It is estimated South Africans travel an average of 22km to work which takes 22 to 35 minutes, city dependant.

“At the start of the year, traffic is often worse. Students are returning to school and university, employment increases and several other factors make January traffic particularly stressful. It is essential employers are cognisant of the effect of traffic, implementing techniques and improving skills to better handle the commutes and be less susceptible to starting the day drained.”

Driver training is one of the most effective ways to help employees better manage traffic-induced stress. “Defensive driving techniques teach drivers to identify reckless behaviour of other drivers as well as make provisions for it and reduce their own risk. It also teaches drivers that minimising interaction with these drivers will decrease the impact on one’s disposition than what engaging negatively will.

“When someone drives in the yellow lane and tries moving back into the lane in front of you, there are two ways you can react. You can block them, consequently escalating the situation and causing a surge in your stress levels, carrying these negative emotions with you throughout the day. Conversely, if you let them in, you will feel minor annoyance but soon forget about the interaction,” says Herbert.

Other ways driver training can minimise stressful morning commutes:

  • Drive looking 12 seconds ahead: avoid being surprised by dangerous actions of another driver and be proactive in your reaction.
  • Following distances: allows for timely reactions and helps drivers account for the actions of others with minimal inconvenience.
  • Planning: leave with plenty of time to spare in case there is unexpected congestion. Identify less congested routes, especially during loadshedding.
  • Traffic regulations: disregarding rules of the road will only add financial stress of fines and potentially remove your attention from driving as you scan for law enforcement officers.
  • Do not be the offender: understanding why certain driving behaviours are dangerous will dissuade employees from taking risks and coming into conflict with others.
  • Do not be a victim: learn how to minimise risk and respond should something unexpected occur. An accident creates emotional exhaustion for more than one day.

It is not possible to remove all stressful situations in traffic. “It is, however, possible to significantly reduce this stress and better respond to other drivers with driver training. A productive and happy workforce is the strength of all organisations, and the onus is on the leadership to help create such a team,” says Herbert.