Before the pandemic, for so many of us, the tens of minutes—and, in some cases, hours—spent commuting was the least pleasurable part of the day.
In my case, my commute took place on the A train, a subway line that whisked me from Brooklyn to Manhattan, then back home again. It was late. It was crowded, and it made me cranky. But, a year later and following my last rush hour ride way back in March 2020, I have a new perspective on my hellish, but surprisingly beneficial commute. It turns out it was the transitional space I needed in order to pivot seamlessly between my work and family life.
Here’s why: When COVID-19 hit, so many office workers—myself included—were left with no other option except to carry our laptops home and work remotely for what has now lasted for more than a year. A privileged position? Yes. But something valuable was lost in the process: The ability to put physical (and more importantly) emotional space between home and work.
In a TED Talk, peak performance researcher, Adam Fraser, has a name for this passageway. He calls it the “third space.” In other words, it’s the place we go to decompress and process our day, but also gear up for whatever comes next. The loss of it has led work to seep into home and home to seep into work and it not only saps our ability to de-stress, but also to be present in our lives. (If you close your laptop and immediately start cooking dinner for your family, you’re likely still ruminating about that email vs. focusing on food prep or conversations taking place around the table.)