How Could the Future of Work Affect Our Car Use?
Posted by: Lydia on 26/02/2021
The way in which we live and work is changing fast, and the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has sped up many of these changes and made them more visible. However, our daily lives had already been engaging more and more with the digital world, and the industries we work in continue to become more globalized. Businesses around the world are recognising that a shift away from the traditional 9-5 is likely for many industries.
In this dynamic, there are set to be many pros and cons. After all, while no one in a work-from-home (WFH) job will miss being stuck in peak hour traffic, they may miss the easy camaraderie and collaboration on work that comes with a face-to-face office environment. The pros and cons of this new environment are particularly apparent when it comes to cars. So let’s look now at how the future of work could affect our car use.
We’ll Use Our Cars Fewer Days of the Week
At present, it’s unclear what the long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be on all the jobs that were formerly face-to-face. It’s true that many jobs will likely return in some form to the office environment, as they were pre-pandemic.
But even so, it’s unlikely to be a reversion to a 5-day working week, but rather a return to working in the office for a couple of days a week and then the rest in a WFH arrangement. In addition to employees now wanting greater flexibility to WFH, employers recognise there’s the potential to save money on office utilities and other costs when employees WFH.
It’s also clear the change won’t be uniform — while some businesses may come back to something close to a 5-day working week, others will simply close down their offices altogether and operate remotely. So whatever the business landscape ultimately looks like post-pandemic, there’s the expectation that far fewer cars will be on the road Monday to Friday.
Less Frequent but Longer Weekday Commutes
As well as people simply finding it more comfortable to WFH, since the outbreak of the pandemic, many Aussies who want to buy their own home have been able to do so. The WFH revolution has allowed them to move out of capital cities and purchase in provincial areas where property prices are lower. As a result, they’re now resistant to being in a city office each day like they were before the pandemic. Of course, health and safety factors into this too — with a June 2020 survey finding 93% of workers felt it was important that WFH be available to them if they felt unsafe.
But there’s a trade-off to this. Someone who once worked face-to-face in a city office may not need to use their car to get to work every day of the week, but the longer commutes from provincial areas to a CBD office a couple of times a week is set to become a new trend. While many private city car parks are now slashing fees to incentivise drivers to keep using their service — and this’ll see some workers start driving into work when they didn’t before — it seems as though the weekly work commute has been changed forever.
Weekend Driving Will Improve
It’s no secret pre-pandemic daily driving for millions of Aussies was becoming a very stressful exercise. In a country with a strong economy and many cities seeing rapid population growth, the weekday commute could regularly fray the nerves. Unfortunately, the weekend wasn’t much better. Because most Aussies were kept so busy Monday to Friday, the weekend was the time to catch up with family and friends, attend to shopping, and tick other tasks off the to-do list.
It’s true even post-pandemic we’re not going to see traffic in our major population hubs like Sydney and Melbourne be as blissful to drive as the Great Alpine Road. Nonetheless, with the expectations surrounding how the WFH revolution will change the working week, the drop in weekday traffic should extend to the weekend. This is due in part to many people moving out of cities, and also to the fact that the time saved on weekday commutes will allow for many tasks to be done on weekdays when they would have otherwise been handled on weekends.
A Change in Car Risk
Generally speaking, a decrease in car use will bring a number of benefits to cars and their owners. As workers commute less to the office, there will be a reduction in certain wear and tear that can occur with vehicles over time. However, this may also mean that new problems arise instead, as using a car regularly can actually help reduce the degradation of its parts.
Running a car regularly helps prevent a flat battery, and it helps keep all the car’s components properly lubricated. It also diminishes the risk of flat spotting issues occurring with its tyres. Most Aussies will find even with a reduction in car use, they’ll still use it multiple times a week, but if this isn’t the case, it’s very important the car is taken out for a drive at least once every fortnight to minimize the risk of low-use problems arising.
The Road Ahead
We’ll never use our cars the same way again. Yes, there’ll be some back and forth in this new era. Eventually people will go back to the office in some form. But the decisive changes many people have made in their lives means a ‘snap back’ to car use as it was is highly unlikely.
But this isn’t something to lament. No one has a crystal ball, but the pandemic has sped up changes that were already set to occur, especially around the WFH revolution. Instead of getting stuck in peak hour traffic, this new era offers the chance for those who WFH to take drives they really love. The post-pandemic era won’t wave the chequered flags on our car use — it’ll just be the start of a new chapter.
How do you think the future of work will affect our car use? Let us know in the comments below.