The Fake Commute: How It Can Support Employees Who Are New to Virtual Work

A new term is gaining traction in association with the pandemic: The Fake Commute.

For many workers, one of the biggest perks of working from home is not commuting. Yet, there is reason to believe that the act of commuting actually possessed some key benefits after all – and those learnings can be used to support employees who are working virtually for the first time.

As a result of COVID-19, many workers find themselves working from home not by choice but by necessity. For them, the transition may have seemed abrupt and overwhelming, leaving them to crave the routine instilled by office life. Commuting plays an integral aspect of that routine as it creates a clear divide between home life and work, which has psychological benefits. Commute time is often used to process thoughts, both before and after the work day. Essentially, it allows workers to mentally prepare and decompress.

Virtual Work Requires Structure

One of the trickiest adjustments for employees new to remote work is that their home becomes their work environment. While it might seem tempting to grab more sleep and jump straight into a workday, people who do so may actually be doing themselves a disservice. Many employees have also admitted to putting in more hours as a result of virtual work, leaving them at risk of burnout.

In fact, a survey of over 10,000 Americans by the Centre for Economic Policy Research found that 35% of office staff working from home use the time they’ve gained to do more work. This lengthens their workday and makes it harder to transition back to their personal life, minimizing the benefits and maximizing their exhaustion.

If there’s one thing virtual work requires to be successful, it’s structure. So, how do employees create structure in a home environment? Although there are a number of distractions, from children to pets to household interruptions, developing a daily schedule can have a significant impact. And that is where the fake commute comes in.

Developing a Fake Commute

A fake commute is simply a routine which takes place in between waking up and beginning work, much like a regular commute. For those who may not have chosen to work virtually in other circumstances, it can instill a healthy separation between their professional and personal lives while bringing a sense of normalcy into their routine.

The best part? It doesn’t require fighting traffic like a traditional commute. Fake commutes can be any sort of activity at all, as long as virtual workers commit to it as part of their daily routine. It can be as simple as going for a morning dog walk, practicing yoga, or heading out to get a coffee instead of brewing at home.

Committing to Healthy Boundaries

As virtual work continues to gain momentum, it’s essential for teams to create healthy boundaries between work and home which allow them to be productive and successful.

For new virtual workers, it is especially important that managers convey this — and genuinely encourage it.

Additional Resources

If your team is struggling with the transition to remote work, helping them structure their day can go a long way, but it may also be time to look at additional ways to improve engagement. Our programs help you build a high-performance, productive team.