The commute back home - even just a short distance - was really really not nice. I went into town by tube at 10ish, missing the rush hour, and it was fine. But I came back shortly after 6, right in the middle of a wad of disgruntled Londoners. And it was dreadful. Angry people feeling downtrodden and space-invaded. Full of bah-humbug. Not one person on the carriage was evil (probably) but the agitation levels were rising brutally fast.
The solution has got to be a fairly simple one, right? It's this: Where possible, encourage the commuting workforce to use working hours that are not rigidly structured 9am to 6pm.
I know it's not very traditional British - not very umbrellas and bowler hats - but in these days of Internet-enabled working and fast-rising populations, well, surely it has to happen anyway. It's the best way. And it's the only way when the city's infrastructure can't really support any other.
There's lots of ways the humble Internet can help with the change London needs:
- Time tracking is easy on decent web-based systems. You don't need to police your workforce by stamping time cards any more.
- Lots of jobs work better on the workers' own time anyway, and they don't need to be in the office to get the stuff they need. You get worse work out of people if you force them to use hours that don't suit them.
- People can work remotely, and still be in easy reach via the Internet. You don't need to see their face to know they're there.
- Always-on Internet means people are far more used to the need to personally manage their work-time versus non-work-time. I'm not saying they're good at it, but the need is there!
- With better and better global collaboration, there is an increasing need to communicate across time zones, and that alone breaks the rigidity of 9-6 GMT.
Maybe it's a New Year's resolution for London. Let's dig ourselves out of the old patterns of working, and simply make better use of the Internet.
Alternatively, let's spend the whole of 2012 ripping up London's transport infrastructure and design a new one. Should be ready shortly after the Olympics.