This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 06/02/2018.
Why do Croydonians still commute to work?
Every year, 22 million people enter and exit the East Croydon station (that’s over 70,000 daily) and this number is set to grow as more and more people make the welcome decision to move to London’s most exciting borough. As the trend continues, perhaps it’s time for Croydonians to consider alternatives: namely, work locally or work remotely.
In 1975, when personal computers were little more than glorified calculators for geeks and the internet was an obscure project being developed by the United States government, Norman Macrae, a noted journalist for The Economist, who earned a reputation for clairvoyant prophesies, made a radical prediction about how information technology would soon transform our lives.
Macrae foretold the exact path and timeline that computers would take over the business world and then become a fixture of every American (and, by extension, Croydon) home. But he didn’t stop there. The spread of this machine, he argued, would fundamentally change the economics of how most of us work. Once workers could communicate with their colleagues through instant messages and video chat, he reasoned, there would be little coherent purpose to trudge long distances to work side by side in centrally located office spaces. As companies recognised how much cheaper remote employees would be, the computer would, in effect, kill the office — and with that, our whole way of living would change.
Technology hasn’t replace the office – just kept us tethered to it when we’re not there
Unfortunately, Macrae’s powers of prediction weren’t infallible: fast forward forty years and Croydon’s suburban breadwinners still clog the trainlines in a daily trek to central London to make money. Far from the re-ruralisation that Macrae predicted, the metropolis of the computer age has become an even stronger magnet for the physical bodies of human beings. Computers and smartphones haven’t replaced the office — they’ve just kept us tethered to it when we’re not there. This has to change.
Working from home/remotely, doesn’t literally have to mean from home. There are lots of places around Croydon that lend themselves well to those that are fortunate enough to have a ‘laptop lifestyle’. My new favourite spot in Croydon is Crushed Bean on the High Street. However, there are a litany of other coffee shops such as Byte Café, Smoothbean, Matthews Yard, and Yeha Noha around Croydon with rock-solid wifi that you can use as your ‘office away from the office’.
We hate commuting – so why do we still do it?
As Croydon’s reputation as a Tech City grows, so, too, do the amount of workspaces in the area. Places like TMRW, the Sussex Innovation Centre, and the Business Xchange Hub all offer hotdesking options where you can drop in and grab an inexpensive desk amongst other professionals who are working remotely. Or, why not make Croydon’s libraries relevant again and set up shop there with your laptop?
There are many reasons to believe that commuting is stupid. It wastes resources. It’s bad for the environment. It’s unproductive time that we’re not paid for. It costs us money. It’s stressful. It’s associated with higher rates of depression, obesity, cardiovascular disease, divorce and a whole host of other maladies. We report that we hate it more than anything else in our routines and that we’re happier when we get to more regularly work from home. Why, then, do Croydonians still commute to work?