A view from Emily James

My secret work weapon: RKCR/Y&R'S Emily James defends the commute

My daily commute keeps my life in balance.

Emily James

Chief strategy officer, Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R

Hardly a week goes by without another report on the stresses of the daily commute. I’ve seen data that links commuting to higher levels of unhappiness, to increasing rates of divorce and even to reduced life expectancy. 

So what I’m about to say will probably seem absurd to many of you: the daily commute on the Northern line helps keep my life in balance. 

Admittedly, my journey only takes 20 minutes door to door, with most of it spent on a well-run Tube line where I nearly always get a seat. It gives me that precious transition time to help manage the demands of the different worlds I move between. As I head north in the morning, the daily drama of getting the kids up and out for the day recedes into the distance and I can get my head into whatever tasks await me at work. Similarly, as I head south in the evening, I can unwind in time to meet the demands of family life.

My commute is also when ideas start to crystallise. Some people do their best thinking in the shower. For me, it’s nearly always on the Tube. Whether it’s the concentrated period of time, or the switch in pace and environment, I don’t know. But solutions that have evaded me all day (or all night) frequently take shape on the way to or from work.

But most of all, my commute keeps me grounded. There’s nothing like being surrounded by real people – who don’t spend their days pondering a brand’s purpose – to remind us who our ultimate paymasters are. Our job is to create ideas that will make them look up from their daily routines and, hopefully, over time, stimulate their interest and participation. Ideas that live in their world, not in the world of marketing. 

I know that if my circumstances change and I join the unhappy masses on the 18.48 from Waterloo, I will feel quite differently.  But right now, I owe my best thinking and sanity to the Northern line.