How Return-to-Commuting Could Affect Return-to-Office — and Larger Office Market

Article originally posted on Phoenix Business Journal on July 28, 2021

Returning to office this fall — at least part of the time — for many employees will also mean a return to commuting.

Productivity has been a central topic in the ongoing remote work versus in-office debate. Proponents of a remote-first workplace say not having to drive or take a train for 30 minutes, an hour or longer allows for more work — and personal time — instead.

Others have gone the opposite way, saying commuting is actually good for your health.

The average one-way commute in the United States in 2019, before the pandemic, was 27.6 minutes, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Workers who got to work by bus had an average commute of 46.6 minutes.

“From a longer-term perspective, it’s more of, why do we need to commute, irrespective of the mode of transportation?” said Adam Segal, co-founder and CEO at Washington, D.C., real estate technology company Cove. “That’s lost time. Whether it’s bike, train or car, it’s still potentially time I’m not doing something else.”

Segal said there needs to be a reason for employees to commute into the office multiple days a week, especially since so many have had no commute for more than a year. On average, he said, 60% of an employee’s work is head’s down, individual tasks — things that can be done anywhere.

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