Traffic jams have been one of the biggest annoyances of Dutch people in traffic for years. Now that most of us are working from home due to the Covid pandemic, traffic jams seem to be a thing of the past. So Covid at least has one advantage: no longer being stuck in traffic. It will take some getting used to when we are all stuck in traffic again after Covid. Or can we also prevent traffic jams in the long term?
Unconscious choices will lead to traffic jams again after Covid
Reducing commuter traffic is the most important thing to do to avoid traffic jams. Working from home more often helps reduce this and could be a good solution, also after the Covid pandemic. But there is a good chance that after Covid, we will quickly fall back into our old habits. Even though we are very aware that this is not always the most efficient to do. We will get back in our car and will get stuck in traffic every day.
That is because people are not always able to make a very conscious, rational decisions. Many of our choices are made more unconsciously. The situation we find ourselves in evokes certain choices on default, on autopilot. Thanks to the Covid pandemic, this situation now evokes us to not get into the car every morning. But this situation will change back quickly after the pandemic, making us get back into our cars every morning on autopilot. The traffic jams will return.
Conscious choices can prevent traffic jams after Covid
As long as the situation does not change in the long term, our behaviour will not change in the long term either. Therefore we will have to take action if we want to encourage people not to drive to work by car during rush hour and be stuck in traffic after Covid. Only this way, we can combat the traffic jam problem.
Of course, this does not mean that everyone should be working from home every day forever after Covid. Sure, the situation sometimes requires us to get into the car and go to work, because for example, we are more productive at work or because we are looking forward to a nice chat with our colleagues. That's okay. But ideally, the situation does not lead us to one thing (working from home every day) or the other (driving to the office everyday) on default. Then we can make a conscious decision about it every day: what is better for me today? Driving to work or working from home?
So we recommend thinking about how to create a situation that prevents traffic jams, also after Covid. For example, make sure that people permanently have the right facilities to make video calls from home. Prevent social pressure to come to the office every day. And make sure that people can easily let colleagues know when they are working from home. On the other hand, also make sure that people can easily come to the office, have a decent workplace, and are able to socialize with colleagues. This way, you help people make a conscious choice every day. What works best for me today? And where do I work best today? This is good for the well-being of employees and good for your organization.