If you follow my Twitter feed, you will know I spend a fair bit of time complaining about the trains. I live in a large City, and commute to another one not all that far away. If you look at the timetable, it should be straightforward. Only it isn’t.
The train station car park cannot cope with the volume of vehicles, meaning that parking spills over into the local streets where cars are sometimes vandalised. The walk from car to platform adds 15 minutes to an already long journey. Sometimes the train is on time, sometimes it is not. When it is on time, it is often over crowded, sometimes dangerously so. I have lost count of the number of times I have travelled much closer to a stranger’s body than I would like. Tempers often fray. Even when the train does leave on time, it rarely arrives the same, congestion on the lines leaving you to queue to get into your chosen station. Often, I do get to work okay. Getting home again can be something else. Often, you will find me standing on a platform wondering when, if, a train will come to get me home at anything like a reasonable hour. And don’t even get me started on the cost of this daily nightmare.
My woes are far from unusual. They are not limited to my train line, my city, my workplace, my life.
My Twitter timeline talks of people who are on warnings at work. Examples of those who have actually lost their jobs due to continued lateness. Parents who cannot collect their children from childcare. Stress.
Only the train that runs an hour or so later, will be mostly empty.
There are some roles that require an individual to be in place at a particular time, and flexibility isn’t an option. For them, the misery will endure, for now at least. But all too often, those who are cramming themselves onto over –priced, over crowed public transport systems, could do something different. I have lost count of the number of stories I have heard where a role can be undertaken with greater flexibility, but there are too many barriers put in the way. Technology isn’t utilised to best effect. Managers just don’t like it – their personal beliefs and opinions overriding possibilities Inflexible working practices. Just doing what we have always done. A refusal to experiment.
In many respects I am lucky. I love my job. I have a degree of flexibility and plenty of trust to work when and where I need to. But there are still days when I stand on the station platform and wonder… how much longer can I do this for?
It is long overdue time for us to consider the impact on our people of so many of us undertaking stressful, expensive commutes. The wellbeing impact, the financial impact, the inclusion impact, the talent and engagement impact.
Work doesn’t have to be this way. And if HR don’t lead the way, who will?
It’s when the poor train service impacts on a person being able to fulfil their personal commitments that we have to call into question the management of their services and the negative societal impact. Carers being late to look after those they’re committed to caring for. An estranged parent who has to have supervised visits with their child and is an hour late. A family-lite child who is going to see their parent in prison and is late. A person with disabilities going to an assessment and is late. A person on benefits and going for a job interview and is an hour late. How can the train company recompense for such consequences? Who’s responsible for that level of service neglect?