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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

Has Covid changed your career plans?

This opinion piece is almost 3 years old

Gareth Jones looks at how lockdown has changed his views on life in the office

There have been lots of things I have missed the past year – too many to mention – but one of the experiences I do not yearn for is the mad early morning dash to the train station.

With the alarm going off at 6.30am (earlier when there’s ice, which up on the hill we live seems to be present for about five months of the year), my pre-pandemic morning routine involved getting ready in under 20 minutes, to ensure I got to Edinburgh for 8am. Travelling at this time meant that I could be pretty sure of the luxury of getting a seat on the train, and gave me plenty of time to rearrange plans if and when the Scotrail gremlins struck. These gremlins were particularly active in 2018 and early 2019, and seemed to thrive on ruining my morning.

I reckon that I travelled to Edinburgh or Glasgow, which are more or less equi-distant from Falkirk High, around 200 days a year. This equates to 10,400 miles on the rail a year, plus 2,400 miles in the car to get me to and from the station. This equates to 1.08 tonnes of CO2 every year. To offset this, I’d need to plant a minimum of at least one tree for every year that I commute. If you think about the amount of people entering Waverley station on a ‘normal’ weekday morning, that’s a lot of trees.

And the carbon footprint is only one reason that I want to put commuting behind me. An annual ticket from Falkirk to Edinburgh costs £2,316 – if I were to continue to commute for the rest of my career – which I’m hoping will be winding down by the time I’m 60 – I’m looking at spending around £60,000 on train tickets, and that’s before the annual above inflation price rises are accounted for.

But actually one of the biggest impacts of a long daily commute is that on your mental health. If there was even a small delay to my journey, and more often or not delays were longer, then my mood would be more irritable. Pictured above is my worst ever commute, where I was stuck at Polmont for three hours. My short temper was probably down to me spending around 400 hours (16 days in total, and that doesn't include delays) on my commute. There’s no romanticism around a commute – a busy train is not the ideal place to read Dostoyevsky, learn a new language or make pals. If you’re lucky, head down and get some shut eye. But for a light sleeper like me it was a time to analyse the work day.

So I’m hoping, in the post-pandemic world that we all crave, to put the slog of a daily commute behind me. For the good of the planet, my mental health and my wallet. A few days a week on the train will do me nicely.

And I’m not alone in wanting things to change. A survey by Economics Observatory this spring found 20% of Brits would like all working days at home after the pandemic, and 40% would prefer two or three days per week in the office.

If you’re planning on changing your working week: be that reducing your commute, permanently working from home, or changing your career plans as result of Covid, then TFN wants to hear from you. We’re keen to speak to voluntary sector staff and organisations who are planning on working differently as the result of the pandemic. You can get in touch with me via email, and I’m more than happy to share further stories of being stranded on the rails!

The changing world of work is an issue TFN will be exploring over the coming months and we'd love to hear your thoughts.