Going The Distance
Continuing the long-distance commute in a hybrid work environment
Because we have a flexible hybrid work environment here at EPIC, I commute less than I used to—and I love it. Day in and day out for over a decade, I drove back and forth to offices for a smattering of white-collar roles. And well … the commute was always a challenge. So recent shifts in work culture vibe with me, to say the least. After all, I very much consider myself an introvert; being at the office is wonderful, but it drains me. Weekends were my chance to recharge after having a week of conversations around the water cooler and in meetings.
But now that I’m physically in the office less, the more I value that time. I guess it’s true that distance does make the heart grow fonder.
The answer is in clear view, It’s amazing what you’ll find face to face.” — Daft Punk
That’s why most of us at EPIC start our weeks off at the office … even those of us that live further away such as myself. (I live in Madison.) It’s hard to deny the collaborative and social benefits of coming into the office, and we’re always trying to find better ways to find that sweet spot of juggling remote and on-site work.
The commute is still, well … not that fun. However, spending an hour with just your thoughts and keen observational abilities is a wonderful way to entertain yourself. Come along and see how I do it!
The hardest part is saying goodbye
I gotta get up early to get to the office before the meetings start piling up, so I don’t waste much time getting ready. Saying goodbye to the kiddo and partner probably takes the most time ’cause, ya’know, they’re my favorites.
Life is like a sunrise
If it’s fall or winter, this part of the drive is the best because the sun hasn’t risen yet. I bask in the wonder of dawn, its beauty is majestic. Before hopping on the highway, it’s coffee time.
Yeah, my drive to the office is mostly rural, both on highways and country roads. I wouldn’t call it boring, but I wouldn’t call it exciting. It’s a drive that bounces between serene landscapes and unnatural wonders.
Real talk: Having access to a huge library of music (or the infinite halls of streaming apps such as Spotify or Apple Music) and the ever-growing (and quite frankly, overwhelming) world of podcasts is incredibly important for this drive and my sanity. It’s definitely a chance to catch up on albums I’ve missed or podcasts I’ve been meaning to listen to. Here’s the most recent playlist that I’ve been listening to.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
While my ears are busy, I soak up the sights. On the route I take, the views go from natural, scenic beauty to “that looks like a building that should probably be razed,” but it’s definitely a drive that features more of the former. A lot of rolling meadows, farm fields, and forest patches that can take your breath away during golden hour.
Don’t wait for inspiration, seek it
So yeah, it’s a gorgeous drive at times, but what’s more intriguing are the billboards. In a nutshell, the advertising on this drive is anything but typical. From FEMA’s Ready Campaign featuring Ghostbusters: Afterlife to local groceries and adult stores, the billboards offer a weird, subversive type of inspirado that’s as valuable as you want it to be.
Stuck in the middle
The shortest possible route from my house to the office happens to go through a little town called Horicon—home to the Horicon marsh and an annual flock of tourists to see the migration of Canada geese. However, this wonderful, quaint city features a train crossing that can easily set you back 20 minutes. This is the only part of the commute where my patience has been tested.
I’ve seen the future, and it works
For some, wind turbines might look ugly. But not me, I love them. Beyond the ethos of building more sources of renewable energy, they’re massive, gigantic symbols of human ingenuity that I find mesmerizing. When you’re driving and see one in the distance and its rhythmic blocking out of the sun, a shadow blanketing the road ahead of you every couple of seconds? “Magnificent,” I say, as I speed across the shadowed road.
Oh, well, look at that—it’s the office! After an hour and a half, I usually feel a little tired after this drive. Thankfully, I’m walking into a building filled with an incredible bunch of caring and collaborative coworkers that are excited to hear how my week has been. It’s a zap of energy that keeps me going until I leave.
To quote Daft Punk, “The answer is in clear view, It’s amazing what you’ll find face to face.” But I get people’s reservations toward the morning drive; after all, work commutes are known for being routine and boring. But with the right perspective and attitude, there’s the chance that a little nugget of wisdom or inspiration can arise. Just as there are correlations between taking walks and increases in creativity, an hour-long drive offers an opportunity to play around with that idea that’s been bouncing around your head the last few days. Maybe it’ll become something greater.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.