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Health & Fitness

Commute difficulties lower staff health and productivity

It is in the interest of employers to champion better transport systems. FILE PHOTO | NMG
It is in the interest of employers to champion better transport systems. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

An imposing map depicting road routes into Nairobi’s central business district (CBD) sat on the wall of former iHub offices on Bishop Magua Place which also hosted the Matatu Owners Association (MOA) offices.

Though not covering the entire city, the map showed inbound and outbound traffic.

I am not sure whether it was by chance or if the two were collaborating on transport solutions. What is noted, however, is that efforts to solve the city’s traffic woes are also attracting others.

If the solutions they offered were adopted is another question. The 2009 census placed Nairobi’s population at 3.13 million but current estimates put it at about five million.

The majority of commuters are workers and students with mandatory daily trips. After six years out of the city, my first month back has exposed me to this hectic commute.

As a determinant of one’s quality of work-life productivity, bad commutes contribute to health related productivity losses.

They are also likely psychological and social health risks: early mornings, late evenings plus work pressure may lead to fatigue and relationship issues. Repeated yearly, they will take a toll on people.

Just how important is a “good” commute in preserving one’s psychological health?

Research has shown a link between low productivity and bad commutes.

The former includes poor customer relations, low target-meeting and bad inter-staff interactions among employees.

One study concludes we should consider significant opportunities for organisations pursuing improved workforce well-being, both in terms of employee health, and for improved organisational behaviour and business success.

For this reason, it is in the interest of employers to champion better transport systems.

To solve our transport problems, we need concrete data on the past, the present scenario and future projections.

The burgeoning taxi hailing firms through their apps have successfully shown that technology and data is a crucial tool for efficient and smart commute approaches.

Questions like what the average commute times and costs for these two groups as well as what other options are available are crucial first steps.

Armed with such data we can then measure the impact of the various solutions envisaged and judge. Over the last month, I’ve spent significant time commuting in Eastlands areas.

The proposed rapid bus systems are fraught with traffic jams and we currently lack the road infrastructure and personnel to implement it.

From Moi Avenue down Juja Road and Eastleigh, the number of policemen needed to ensure flowing traffic is too high.

I counted on average a policeman at each intersection in total 25 on a six kilometre stretch. Is this economic efficiency?

While we argue bigger roads will answer the problem, the realities show a light train system is more practical.

A joint investment in the system with matatu owners guarantees a win-win situation.

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