Careers

Do ‘flexi hours’ offer a way out of traffic snarls?

The morning commute: A Ladies Special local train in Mumbai.

The morning commute: A Ladies Special local train in Mumbai.   | Photo Credit: PAUL NORONHA

With their staff struggling to get to work, some organisations consider this option

Last month, the government employees at Vidhana Soudha, the state legislature of Karnataka, sought that their reporting time be pushed by 30 minutes.

Of the 2,500 employees, nearly one-third were found to be clocking in late at work, and the reason was largely Bengaluru’s gridlock of a traffic.

The Secretariat Employees’ Association claimed that employees were under severe stress to reach their office on time as punching late would mean the biometric attendance would log them as absent.

They wanted the current relaxation of 10 minutes to be extended by an additional 20 minutes, which means the reporting time would be from 10 a.m. to 10.30 a.m.

Traffic snarls and rush-hour chaos are not unique to Bengaluru; most other metros grapple with this problem. Staggered work hours and flexi timings are being tried out, but not across industries. Recently, the Odisha government rescheduled its working hours.

Simple changes

In Mumbai, a campaign, ‘WorkToLiveToWork’, launched in January 2018 urges companies to implement staggered office timings.

Started by Nandini Dias, a managing committee member of the India chapter of International Advertising Association, the campaign seeks to raise awareness among CEOs and HR heads and decision makers to make simple changes so that the number of commuting-related accidents on the city’s rail network is brought down.

A note on the website says that the transit system is crowded because most offices open at 9.30 a.m., and companies must bring in small shifts, so that the number of people travelling to office during the morning rush-hour is lower. The campaign has covered some ground. “According to studies, nine to 10 people die commuting to work every day in Mumbai, say studies,” says Nandini, CEO of Lodestar Media.

Nandini believes the campaign is having an impact. She points out that there are now 10 promotional videos from big corporates that show how they have begun to adopt flexi timings more often. Many organisations have started a conversation on this topic and some have tweaked timings on a pilot basis. Nandini says that flexi timings should not be seen just a talent-retention tool, but also as an exercise to decongest rush-hour traffic.

Tweaking rules

Keeping traffic snarls and the difficulties of commuting during rush hour in mind, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation did away with the age-old practice of allowing a two-and-a-half hour lunch break for its junior engineers or ward staff.

The lunch time was reduced to just 30 minutes, so that the staff members could leave early, around 4.30 p.m., to avoid the train rush.

“We have requested flexi timings to be introduced across the organisation, but it has not found favour with everyone,” says Sainath Rajadhyaksha, executive president of BMC Engineers’ Union.

At a few Indian metros, companies have been asked to tweak timings at least during the monsoon, when managing traffic is a mammoth task even for the traffic police personnel. The Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation, for instance, has asked IT companies to stagger their work timings. As per reports, the GHMC commissioner met representatives of Hyderabad Software Enterprises Association, National Association of Software and Services Companies and Cyberabad Security Council to address the traffic issue in Cyberabad.

How much time are you losing on the commute?

On an average, Indians spend roughly two hours on the road, on the daily commute.

This is among the findings from a MoveInSync Technology Solutions survey titled ‘Travel Time Report Q1 2019 vs Q1 2018’ for six cities — Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Chennai, Pune, Mumbai and Delhi-NCR.

Other findings of the report include: On an average, an office-goer in India spends three minutes per kilometre on the road. In Bengaluru, the average one-way commute of 15 km takes 49 minutes. In Chennai, the average one-way commute of 21 km takes 50 minutes; in Delhi-NCR, it takes 60 minutes for a 20-km commute; in Hyderabad, it is 18 km covered in 50 minutes; in Mumbai, 17 km in 55 minutes; and Pune 16 km in 50 minutes.

According to a survey by Dalia research, the time spent by Indians on the daily commute is among the highest in the world. According to the study, Chennai is the “fastest-moving” city with a speed of over 25 km/h, during rush hour; Mumbai and Bangalore were found to be among the “slowest-moving” cities with average speed not more than 19 km/h. Monday was found to be the worst day of the week in all the six cities based on the average travel time. The worst time of the day was 9 a.m. in four cities. According to the release, commuters can reduce the travel time by 20% to 40% (25 to 50 minutes), if their office timings are altered.

The report is based on the data collated from the rides on MoveInSync platform, an office commute platform.

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Printable version | Feb 18, 2020 3:10:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/careers/do-flexi-hours-offer-a-way-out-of-traffic-snarls/article29329892.ece

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