“Eighty percent of success is showing up”, is a popular quote that is attributed to US filmmaker Woody Allen. Anyone whose job involves commuting or regular business travel will agree that those 80 percent of success are sometimes earned the hard way. Whether it’s a train conductor strike, a volcano eruption that disrupts plane schedules or just the usual traffic jam during rush hour - all of those instances serve as subtle reminders that, while we may feel compelled to plan every step of our career, some things are just beyond our control.
Even as our work is moving more into the virtual world, we still spend a lot of time getting there in the physical world. In the UK, for example, the average employee is stuck in traffic for a total of one and half years of his working life, according to a survey. In the US the average commuter spends 38 hours per month in traffic. Time that adds up - and that you might want to use to get some work done. Therefore, we have compiled a small, totally realistic (if not totally serious) list of transport possibilities and how to fit them into your work routine.
# The Bus and Metro
Let’s be honest, there is not much that you can do on a crowded bus or metro car to prepare for a day’s work - unless you happen to work in a profession where grimly staring into space and stoically ignoring screaming school kids is an asset (so, if you happen to be Justin Bieber’s bodyguard, this mode of transportation is perfect). The best way to spend your time and stay sharp, is to download an audiobook or a lecture onto your smartphone, looking for interesting podcasts, and then practice the art of zoning out the chaos around you. Now that is an asset you can put to use at work.
# The Train
Okay, if you don’t take anything else from this article, please take this: Scheduling work phone calls for train rides is a horrible, horrible idea. Here is why: there is too much background noise and the call will inevitably get interrupted several times by a very bad connection. Hence, you will be repeating everything twice, in a loud voice and chances are that by the end of the call every commuter on the train will know more about your very secret new product lines than your business partner on the other end of the line. Oh, and people will think that you’re a huge douchebag - which, oddly enough, doesn’t seem to keep people from doing it anyway. Instead, train rides are actually perfect for uninterrupted reading or writing sessions. Usually, you have enough space and sometimes even a table to take out your laptop - and if you are working with sensitive information, you can get a privacy filter for your screen.
Air travel has a great reputation for getting work done, mostly due to the easy Wi-Fi connections at airports. If you are a laptop worker, though, you’ll know the other side of this: All the security restrictions (take you laptop out, pack it in, please turn it off now, now you can turn it back on) often keep you from working uninterrupted for more than 20 minutes. Once you’re in the air, space is narrow and even a privacy filter won’t keep your seating neighbor from seeing most of what’s on your screen. If you need to get something done, either resort to a tablet device or even to good old fashioned paper - it may not be as cool, but it does far better at security checkpoints.
# The Car
Driving is the most solitary affair of commuting. Somewhat counterintuitively, the work that you can do in a car often requires you to be a bit of a social person (always assuming that you are the driver). As long as you have a speakerphone installed and keep both hands on the steering wheel, the car is a better place to make and receive phone calls than public transport. However, you should then remember to not yell abuse at other drivers while you’re on the phone (you’d think one shouldn’t need to tell anyone that, but you’d be surprised). As car pooling is becoming more popular, there is also the possibility to share the drive between several colleagues and actually have some work talks while on the way to work. Some bosses nowadays prefer booking minivans for their teams whenever they go on a business trip because it enables them to have team meetings on the road.
# The Boat
Granted, this will only apply if you work in a city where the waterways are a common form of transportation - but there are more of those than you might imagine (and no, it’s not just Venice). Sydney in Australia, Hamburg in Germany or the ferry between Manhattan and Staten Island in New York are just a few examples where crossing water may be part of your daily commuting routine. Now, chances are you might be too dazzled by the view from the ferries or too seasick to care about getting work done. In any case, that’s why you might wanna get some talking done while on the boat - because you’ll still be able to stare at the horizon (which, by the way, really helps with the seasickness).
# The Bike
Yes, of course, you can also take phone calls while biking. There are people who have no trouble transporting an IKEA cupboard and palm tree on their bike while making phone calls and leisurely smoking a cigarette at the same time. However, this may not be in your or anyone else’s best interest. By all means, ride your bike to work as much as you can - but use it as a great way to fit in a little bit of exercise into your daily routine and to mentally prepare yourself for the day ahead. If you are worried about your attire, bring your suit to work and change there. Also remember to have a comb, some deodorant and maybe even a hairdryer (a travel-sized one) in your desk drawer.
# On Foot
Just like biking - minus the helmet hair.