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Working from home has never had more appeal than now

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Don’t Drink And Write

One of the more popular bills to emerge from Congress in recent memory is the one that proposes to allow Filipinos to telecommute or work from home. With motor vehicle traffic not only in Metro Manila but also in other major cities in the country worsening by the day, not having to leave one’s house just to earn one’s keep is sounding more and more appealing with each passing week.

But is telecommuting a legitimate need as well as a realistic solution? Or is it merely the ultimate dream of most workers — to stay home in tattered shirts and with disheveled hair while they beat deadlines and meet quotas?

I used to believe it was the latter. That some people are just too damn lazy to haul their butt to a proper office. I mean, Pinoy employees had been blaming “traffic” for their tardiness long before “Carmageddon” got coined. We’re too spoiled, apparently.

And then I got to chat the other day with a former colleague, who informed me she had just left a good-paying job with a telecommunications company because the daily task of traveling from her house in Laguna to her workplace in Makati (and back) had taken its soul-sapping toll both on her and her young family. To think she had only been with the firm for about a year.

This former colleague, I assure you, has no problem sticking to one organization for a longtime. She had previously worked in the same company for some five years, all while driving her car from Alabang to Mandaluyong on a daily basis. For her recent employment with the telco, she chose to leave her car at home and just take the bus to and from Makati. Sadly, getting relieved of driving duties didn’t make her trips more tolerable — if anything, it only gave her more time to wonder why she was allowing herself to waste a good chunk of her life in traffic, away from her child.

So she quit — significant pay be damned.

Hers wasn’t wishful thinking anymore. She did something about her traffic-related predicament. The mental and emotional torture was as real for her as a full-on gout attack for me after a night of steak and whiskey.

Thankfully, she’s talented enough to score gigs even from the comfort of her bedroom. Not many individuals are as fortunate. How many others out there are feeling the same, suffering in silence and soldiering on because they have no other choice but to do so?

A BusinessWorld infographic recently showed that an average of 247,527 private cars, 20,022 taxicabs, 12,283 buses, 8,830 trucks, 7,229 utility vehicles and 69,438 motorcycles are using EDSA every day. Every single day — on a clogged highway that measures just 24 kilometers from end to end. Think about that.

I have a nagging suspicion that the ongoing sales slump that our local automotive industry is experiencing is not really the result of inflation or rising fuel prices or higher excise taxes. Maybe it’s just the long-overdue manifestation of a congestion-weary population. Maybe people just want to try going carless for once. Or maybe they simply don’t need a personal vehicle anymore.

Because maybe, just like my former colleague, they’ve already turned their backs on a sorry life of sitting idly in traffic.