Growth & Jobs | Improved commuting time expected to boost productivity
For the past several months, Authorn Chambers, senior compensation and benefits officer with The Jamaica National Group, was at his wits’ end commuting in traffic along the Mandela Highway corridor, where extensive roadworks were being implemented since 2015. He had to endure gruelling traffic daily, spending up to four hours travelling from his home in Spanish Town to work in New Kingston and back, an accumulative distance of approximately 34 miles.
The experience was agonising. He disclosed that many times he had to mentally recharge himself for the journey, and that he would feel drained by the time he arrived at work.
“It created mental and physical discomfort because at times, I would be stuck in one place for as long as half an hour without moving. Sometimes I had no idea what time I would reach work. It also affected my family life, because by the time I got home I would be too tired to participate in family talk,” he disclosed. He added that he was also exposed to the risk of motor vehicle accidents by frustrated motorists.
With the roadwork along the now six-lane, 3.5-kilometre Mandela corridor almost completed, Chamber’s travel time has been reduced almost in half, much to his relief. He is now able to arrive at work earlier and feeling more refreshed.
“When I arrive at work now, I hit the ground running. I’m more customer-receptive, as I’m not feeling tired. Also, going home is easier and more relaxing; therefore, I have more time for my family and more time to sleep.”
However, it’s not only the improved travel time that Chambers is feeling pleased about.
“I don’t have to fork out money to take the toll,” he disclosed, “I have not taken the toll road since the improvement of Mandela Highway. I am also saving funds on gas and although prices are higher, it costs me less because of reduced gas consumption.”
Janice Green, president of the Jamaica Occupational Health and Safety Professionals Association (JOHSPA), and occupational health and safety officer at The Jamaica National Group, points out that when employees arrive at work exhausted due to traffic congestion, it will affect their productivity.
“When employees are stressed, it puts a strain on their relationships at work, causing tension, and they are unable to apply themselves to their tasks positively. Additionally, being stressed can cause workers to be unfocused, resulting in them making poor decisions, which can lead to severe consequences.”
Andrew Dawkins, route to market manager in the Merchandising Division at the Newport West-based Facey Commodity Company Ltd, readily relates to the impact that the traffic congestion has on productivity. Of his 30 team members who offer customer service in the Corporate Area, approximately 16 were affected by traffic woes.
“The traffic woes were negative, with some persons being late to work. They would also be fatigued on arrival; and this was mainly due to waiting for a bus, or sitting in their motor vehicles for an extended period,” he shared.
He pointed out that it was a challenge for some of his co-workers having to leave their home earlier for work.
“It was difficult, especially for the females, because it would be dark and risky for them to walk from their homes to their respective bus stops. The males who could leave out earlier did so; however, they would reach work after 5 a.m., when their designated time for reporting to work is by 7 a.m.”
DELIVERY OF GOODS
Dawkins further explained that the traffic delays also had a direct negative impact on the delivery of goods to retailers.
“We had difficulty meeting our 7:15 drive time, which is the time our trucks are scheduled to leave out. Our trucks would be stuck in traffic; and often, daily deliveries were not completed. I recall that one day, a truck was stuck in traffic for about three hours. It came back to the warehouse after 7 p.m., without completing the daily scheduled deliveries,” he disclosed.
To alleviate the traffic issue, he initiated two solutions.
“Our workers from Old Harbour, Spanish Town and Central Village would participate in a carpool, with pickups as early as 5:15 a.m., to get them to work on time. Our trucks would then use the Portmore toll to make deliveries out of town, which was an additional expense to the company,” he related.
Dawkins also explained that with the widening of the Mandela Highway, he no longer faces the issue of lateness by his team members.
“It’s much easier now. We are not getting that late start anymore, and there are no more complaint about fatigue,” he said.
The JOSHPA president asserts that the improved traffic flow will eliminate the stress which workers had to contend with previously.
“If employees are arriving to work on time, and are less stressed; and, if they are getting more sleep, spending more time with their family, they will be in a better frame of mind to deliver quality work, thus boosting productivity.”
Dennis Chung, a chartered accountant, estimates that recent traffic woes cost the country approximately $200 billion a year in lost production time.
“When completed, these road improvements should actually improve the productive time in the impacted areas of the country. Therefore, the improved roads will lead to greater improvement in the production capacity across the country,” he reasoned.