Drive and disconnect, on your way to work

How to disconnect during your commute to work

Why so serious? Sometimes all you need to take a break from work is a bit of humour. And even better if the joke is on work and not you.


I remember it like it was yesterday. Sky News stood outside Bank Tube station saying that there would soon be 4G on the London Underground. It was a disaster. My commute was to be ruined forever.

24/7 connectivity to the web and phone is 24/7 availability to others who want your time. And time is a commodity in short supply these days.

I’d taken the Northern Line for years. There’s a whiff of Dante as you descend into the deepest underground line in London. Well, it’s more Lynx and stale Jägerbomb breath from the night before, but nonetheless when you went that deep on your commute you were guaranteed at least one thing—no phone signal.

And no phone signal means no mission creep by your boss looking to extend your working hours into breakfast. Or trying to discuss a work issue on your way home when your brain is screaming out for the soothing balm of Love Island.

Reality always hit hard when I joined the DLR to continue on to Canary Wharf to the urgent pings of missed voicemails and angry red bubbles from my WhatsApp work group. But nonetheless, for half an hour underground I had my thoughts—and my time—to myself.

This is important because the price of 24/7 connectivity to the web and phone is 24/7 availability to others who want your time. And time is a commodity in short supply these days. It is a key component in stress and stress is a known killer. Stress levels in the workplace have risen by more than 20% in the past three decades and show no sign of abating, according to a recent report by Korn Ferry.

Out of 2,000 professionals, three-quarters said it had corroded personal relationships, two-thirds had lost sleep and 320 survey participants said that they had quit their jobs, all because of stress, the study revealed.

This is why I have taken a leaf from Arianna Huffington’s enough-is-enough playbook and now say no to being always on. But how? As the last 4G “not-spots” fall one by one to the march of technology, here’s what you should be doing instead.

1. Train your brain

Staring at the station map to avoid eye contact is standard operating procedure, but why
not exercise your brain at the same time. Only one Underground station does not contain any letters from the word “mackerel”. Which one? Now look again with purpose…

2. Improve your fitness

Is your smartwatch passive aggressive? Does it remind you “in a fun way” that you didn’t hit your fitness goals? Get ahead and put your AI bully back in its box by getting off one stop earlier than usual and walking the rest of the way.

  • Pro level: Of course, pro-commuters take the bus when they realise how small central London is. Get off two stops earlier and watch your watch glow in satisfaction.
  • Improve your fitness: slacker level: You work in Covent Garden, but get off the Piccadilly Line at Leicester Square instead—the shortest distance between any two stations at only 260 metres—secure in the knowledge that not only have you got a breath of fresh air but have saved the price of a cash fare worth £4.90.

3. Perform a random act of kindness

I know what you’re thinking. Hold your horses, buddy, this is London. You’ll be wanting to say “hello” to fellow commuters next. Instead of striding with purpose past buskers murdering your favourite song, try stopping and listening. And—you may wish to sit down for the next bit—put money. In. The. Hat. That strange feeling you’re experiencing right now? That’s kindness. Remember, buskers commute too.

  • And get lucky: Kindness may be its own reward, but there are bragging rights and cash to be had from selfies with some of the great city’s buskers. Both Sting and Paul McCartney have been caught busking in London while in Dublin both Bono and Glen Hansard are repeat offenders with annual secret busks on Grafton Street. Of course, combining a Random Act of Kindness with Improve Your Fitness Pro Level is a double bonus.

4. Use your airplane mode

You don’t have to be flying to your next vacation spot to turn off those nagging notifications. But if you must, close your eyes, listen to the sound of waves, smell salty sea water and feel the sun on your skin. Your imagination is more powerful than you think.

In short, do anything that allows you to disconnect.

Photo: Shutterstock

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Gary Finn

    Managing director at Branditmedia

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