Technology is the most powerful tool on the planet. When used responsibly it breaks down barriers of time and space. The internet has brought people and places closer. Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin have achieved human spaceflights. The smartphone is an inextricable element in modern society. SLAM’s theoretical concept – Mind the Gap: The Next Workplace Platform housed on wheels in the Work From Train – is the next frontier in commuter railway design, bringing the workplace to the train car. COVID-19 has shown us that work-from-home is possible and that work-from-anywhere will be a driver in the evolution of the flexible workplace. Work From Train was a winner in the Work Design Magazine’s Next Work Environment Competition 2021 in the New World Solutions, Flex-Work, Common Shared Amenities categories, and received an honorable mention in the workplace category of Fast Company’s 2022 World Changing Ideas Awards.
Work From Train has all the features of a high-performance workplace, and could be the missing link to making our climate cleaner and working commuters happier.
While there is a strong consensus that ‘Work from Anywhere’ will be a driver in the evolution of the workplace, we have been unable to find any other direct efforts to address working while travelling by rail. Much of the current thought leadership takes for granted that, moving forward, many of us will be splitting our time in some proportion between a newly remodeled home office and a homier, more comfortable office building. Less attention is paid to how we get from one to the other and whether work can happen while traveling to and from home office and office building. Transit hubs and airports often include business centers and travel lounges which have hoteling workstations or even conference centers, but working on an actual train remains an uncomfortable and sub-par option. Our proposal is novel in that it tackles the needs of the working commuter head on.
SLAM’s Workplace Innovation Think Tank, the brainchild of this theoretical project, asks: What if we redesigned a train car with all the features of a high-performance workplace? In certain cities, a sizable percentage of commute times are between 30 minutes and one hour. Working effectively while commuting allows us to claim more personal time to spend connecting with family and friends.
A comfortable journey that allows the workday to begin during the commute can be an incentive encouraging expansion of more sustainable rail travel. Housing affordability has become a greater concern in areas where good paying jobs are clustered. A productive commute might allow for a greater range of choices to live, relative to one’s physical office location. Many of the country’s fastest growing metropolitan areas, with diverse populations do not have access to rail service. The option of a comfortable and productive extended ‘reverse commute’. could be a boon for regional economic development, with companies having the option to locate in small towns farther outside an adjacent metro area while maintaining access to appropriate talent.
I’m on board. I’ll jump on this train!
I love the productivity car in particular and how all the different components made it feel like there was a collective buzz even though you were new or maybe not with others. It feels like a wework on wheels.
This progressive proposal really pushes us to think differently around what the commuting time, should enable us to do, around how we optimize our time during our commutes and to think about creative design and programming solutions that help mitigate that major stressor, (which is commuting) and use it as a time that can feel productive and support our physical and mental health.
It’s interesting to think about how do we get people back into the idea of being effective during their commute. And I think this submission starts to sort of push on that, which is something that I very much appreciate.
What if you could take a zoom meeting, network and have breakfast during your commute? What if it also provided little conveniences that save you time, such as the ability to buy flowers or a bottle of wine for the dinner you are heading to? Work From Train creates a moveable workplace that elevates the daily commute to become an extension of the workday. Flexibility is globally accepted as the future of work, but as companies begin to navigate the hybrid work model, the commute lags behind.
Employees would gain valuable time in their day and explore the possibility to live further from the office, offering more freedom of choice. Employers could solve their labor shortage issues by increasing the area of which to recruit and gain access to a larger talent pool. Companies could also incorporate a train pass as part of their benefits package to encourage more workers back to the office, while still allowing for more choices of where to live, maintain a work-life balance and creating a happier and more productive workforce.