Shafik Ahmed is a manager at a private company. His office is just eight kilometres from home. For an office time of 10:00 am to 6:00 pm – Sunday to Thursday– it is painful for him to travel this distance. It takes Shafik approximately three hours to reach his office and three hours to return. In total, he spends nearly six hours travelling each day.
Traffic jams are not new to commuters in this city. Long queues of vehicles, drivers' attempts to pass each other and drivers forcing their way through is a common scene in this mega city. Motorists remain stuck in gridlock for hours. The traffic chaos at all roads and crossings has become routine due to the delayed construction of development projects – with building materials scattered all along the roads.
Dhaka's urban development has not kept up with the city's rapid growth, resulting in a messy and uneven urbanization process, and a lack of adequate planning has led to poor livability. Over the last 10 years, the average traffic speed has dropped from 21 km to seven kilometres per hour, only slightly above the average walking speed. Analysis by the World Bank last year found Dhaka's congestion consumes 3.2 million working hours per day.
The nation's economic losses – due to lost work hours – negatively impacts every stage of production, investment and consumption. This causes the production costs of goods to increase at every stage. This low level of implementation capability reduces competitiveness and foreign investment is widely discouraged.
We do not know whether the government is thinking seriously about solving this national economic issue. However, could we think of a way for individuals to overcome this daily problem? Yes. Those with the opportunity, could work while on the road – thanks to smartphones. One can reply to pending emails or messages while commuting, others can use the time to read. However, most smartphone owners stuck in traffic spend their time on social media.
Everyone needs money, wants a nice house and great holidays. The promise of happiness behind those things is what gets one up for work. But, five to six hours lost on the streets, every day, and cannot make a person happy. People – particularly job holders – spend an inordinate amount of time commuting each week, leaving them frustrated.
For a job-seeker location is a big factor. One has to determine how far one wants to commute. Within that limit, some will naturally be closer than others. Money matters, but happiness matters too. I have seen that reducing my commute by just one hour has significantly positively affected my job satisfaction.
A long commute limits socializing after work and lessens the chance of hanging-out after work. Commuting for hours can add a lot of stress to employees' lives – especially for younger workers. I have seen, in my office, that long hour commutes negatively affect the mood and productivity of the workforce.
Living close to work reduces the chance of getting into an accident as less time is spent on transportation, and there are fewer opportunities to get caught up in an accident. It saves money and one can think about spending that money on something more useful.
Having one's workplace near home minimises stress as long commutes affect one's mental health. If one remains in a better mood when getting to work, one is more likely to think clearly and be productive throughout the day. Shorter and easier commutes improve work-life balance. Living close to the office makes it easier to get home on time to take the kids to extracurricular activities – improving the overall quality of life. Whenever I get a chance, I tell youngsters to choose where they want to live – then to find a job.
Syed Ishtiaque Reza is the editor-in-chief of GTV