Life as a commuter: Not a life for everyone – it takes a lot of planning, sacrifice, and a great amount of job uncertainty, or has it changed in recent times?
According to the CSO 2016 Census, Dublin city and suburbs recorded an 10.9 per cent increase in the number of workers commuting from outside the urban area, rising to 130,447 from 117,764 in 2011. Twenty five per cent of Dublin workers commute from outside the city and suburbs.
Mags De Burca, a Quantity Surveyor with the Building Consultancy Team here in CBRE Ireland speaks out with an honest review on the pros and cons of commuting into work.
"What would make commuting bearable? A supportive partner and a progressive company with flexible working options are, to my mind, essential ingredients in making it work."
CBRE: Tell us a bit of your journey to where you are today?
MDB: In my twenties, I was lucky enough to be able to live no more than walking distance from my place of work, rent was manageable, and my extra time was spent on sports or work. Fast forward to my thirties, after working abroad for a year and about to get married to a dairy farmer in rural Ireland - I realised I had to make a major life choice: to change sector or to continue working as a quantity surveyor and do a 300km round trip commute daily.
CBRE: We’re glad you chose to stay in this sector, what are the pros in your opinion on having a long commute into work?
MDB: Right off, I never have any problem sleeping! I get up at 5am everyday – I do admit it was a struggle but simple things like limiting my social media use after 8pm, no heavy dinners and no caffeine in the afternoon help!
Commuting is all about routine and it will hone your organisational skills. While there might be another bus around the corner, you may have to wait over an hour for the next train – and that’s not something you want to happen on a regular basis. Dinners for the week get planned at the weekend and work nights out are organised in advance.
Another perk of living away from the city is the fresh air - For me there is a sense of comfort when I get home to be able to look out the window at the rolling countryside and leave city life behind me for the day. There are no sirens or flashing lights, no traffic (except the odd tractor or stray cattle) and no smog.
Finally, I appreciate life outside of work (and commute!). With such a long commute I think it is only natural that one becomes more appreciative of the work life balance. The work week is focused on travelling and working so when at home and at the weekends it is important to be present in every sense.
CBRE: Let’s be real and discuss the downsides to commuting.
MDB: It has to be the dependence on public transport! While you can get to the bus or train on time, everything else is out of your control. A fault on the lines or a traffic accident can add hours to your commute.
Being less spontaneous is one downside. A few pints after work are difficult to manage and anything that happens during the work week must be planned in advance. You are at the mercy of the clock when it comes to making the last train or bus. You do find yourself turning down most midweek invites with the early morning wake-up prominent in your mind! It’s a tricky balance to avoid becoming unsociable. Speaking of being sociable, I do miss out on the culture aspects of things – where the theatre, club, restaurant and nightlife is limited in the countryside!
The last downside to the long commute is the poorer food choices I make! While I have prepared my dinner menu in advance it’s hard to plan breakfast and lunch too, and for me almost impossible to be so prepared as to take it with me! It is very easy to fall in to the trap of constantly grabbing something quick on the go. To make the most of the hours spent in the office, I find myself skipping lunch altogether and then over indulging in snacks.
CBRE: How does your team at work manage your schedule?
MDB: I could not be more appreciative of the flexible working arrangements here in CBRE. I work two days from home and have sites in Cork that I visit one day a week usually. The BCD team in particular are amazing for flexibility, I leave the office at 4pm to get the train and work again on the train to make up the hour. They also know I’ll pick it back up when I get home if needs be. If I need to be in Dublin later or earlier there is no question about it - I’m there; so I might stay up a night for an early morning start or get the late train home which is at 7pm.
CBRE: That’s amazing that the team is so accommodating! What advice would you give someone who is on the fence on whether to do the big commute?
MDB: A supportive partner and a progressive company with flexible working options are, to my mind, essential ingredients in making it work. Other factors to consider are the transport options, the cost of the commute and also, if the job in the city is worth it – a longer commute now might be worth it for the experience you will gain.
CBRE: A final question – how do you make the best of the long commute?
MDB: If you can’t change your commute, change the way you think about it. There is no point getting upset over traffic delays and complaining won’t get you anywhere. Own the choice you have made to commute and own your time the best you can. The morning train journey is my quiet time to myself - I turn on a podcast, Desert Island Discs is my current favourite, and prepare myself for the day ahead. I want to focus on the evening leg of the train journey so I turn on a classical music playlist, tune out my fellow passengers and get those emails out to wrap up my working day ready to do it all again tomorrow.
With the ever increasing cost to rent and live within city centres more and more people are choosing to live the life of a commuter – are you convinced?
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