As a working professional, one of the most dreadful parts of the job doesn’t even happen inside the office. For many employees, the commute is often the worst part of working. This is especially true for employees whose workplaces are situated in Metro Manila. According to TomTom’s Traffic Index Ranking Guide for 2022, Metro Manila ranks as having the 9th slowest commute time worldwide. In the Philippines, traveling a 10-kilometer takes an average time of 27 minutes, which means an average speed of 20 kilometers per hour. During rush hour, urban centers such as Cebu City, Davao, and Baguio are also experiencing traffic jams as well. For road-weary workers who just want to get to the office on time and with less stress, is living near the workplace the solution?
The Hassles of Long Commutes
Before we dive into the supposed benefits of living near the workplace, let’s first validate if long commutes are really a bane of the majority of office workers. Like all other major urban centers, Metro Manila enjoys a diverse urban landscape. You have the major business centers of Makati, Ortigas, Bonifacio Global City, and the Bay Area.
Meanwhile, residential areas are more common in the outlying areas of the metro, such as Quezon City, Marikina, Paranaque, and Manila. As a result, many workers will have to commute daily from their residences to their places of work. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the country’s educational system also decreed that school hours synchronize with office hours. Outside of school vacation months, a typical weekday commute involves workers and students competing for the same public transportation and roadways in order to get to their destinations on time.
Daily Traffic Madness
As a result, traffic usually builds up during the morning rush between 6 am to 9 am. It doesn’t matter if you use public transportation or drive your own vehicle. Either way, you’re at the mercy of EDSA, C5, and other congested roads. What should be a 30-minute drive from Cubao, Quezon City can take an hour or more depending on the traffic situation. For commuters, there are always rail networks, but sadly, the current system only favors commuters going to Makati and Ortigas. Plus, you’ll have to exercise patience when waiting for the trains to arrive. After enduring all of that in the morning, employees get to work, then brace themselves for the return trip.
In short, commutes can be a handful for the typical worker. What should be an 8-hour workday can stretch into a 10-12 hour nightmare due to traffic. Unfortunately, this can further take longer hours whenever the rains arrive. Even if the business centers are mostly flood-proof, the roads leading to and from the suburbs usually aren’t. Then, there’s the unexpected overtime, or the impromptu dinner/night out with the staff. By the time a worker arrives home to sleep, they only have a few hours left before starting the work day all over again.
The Benefits of Living Near the Workplace
Given the problems of commuting, many workers choose to take up lodgings near their place of work. Within days of moving in, the benefits become apparent. Instead of enduring hours stuck in traffic jams or jockeying for position with other commuters, the trip to the office takes a few minutes at most. Plus, there are options like riding a bike or walking if the weather permits. Thankfully, major centers like Makati and Ortigas developed pedestrian-friendly walkways, which encouraged employees to skip riding when traveling short distances.
More importantly, you save lots of money on fuel or public transportation costs. Even a P100 peso daily travel expense can build up to P2,500 a month. For car owners, this means savings on gasoline purchases. Instead of loading up gas twice a month for commutes, you can now limit the use for weekend travels or business trips. Yes, the environment thanks you.
Living near the workplace also makes it easier to adjust your schedule due to the demands of work. When asked to stay for extended hours during a workday, the prospect of going home late becomes less of a worry. The same goes when being asked to report on a day off or during weekends.
In addition, with the office located in a business district, lots of commercial, recreational, and entertainment centers are also nearby. This makes it convenient for you to perform routine tasks such as grocery shopping, doing the laundry, and going out to socialize.
Are There Any Drawbacks to Living Near the Workplace?
Of course, convenience comes at a price. In this case, living near the workplace usually costs more money. For one, rent is much higher in or near business districts. A quick glance at rental rates for Makati and Quezon City shows a difference of between 30% to 60%. Many urban professionals make up for the difference by taking up smaller spaces. A Makati CBD studio apartment will usually cost the same as a 1-bedroom unit in Quezon City. While single Filipinos won’t have a problem with this, many married workers or those with small families may not find this arrangement sustainable. Apart from rent, everything else in a business district will be much more expensive compared to back home. While food, clothing, recreation, and entertainment choices are plentiful, expect your budget to go up significantly. But like we said, convenience comes at a higher price.
Speaking of which, living near the workplace can also mean being away from your family for longer periods of time. However, the nearer your place of work, the more likely employees accept requests for overtime (whether paid or not) as well as join office activities outside work hours. So, whatever hours you save on commutes now go to office work instead. But as long as it benefits your job, whether as overtime pay or as career development, this might be a good trade. Then again, it becomes much harder to take the day or weekend off to visit friends or family.
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