In many places in the country, people talk about the distance between two places in weird foreign terms like “miles.” I might ask a person “How far is it to Denver?” and would get an answer like “About 100 miles.” I guess that works in some places because you can make general assumptions such as ‘I can go 60 miles per hour on freeways and 30 miles per hour on other roads...’
For us here in the Bay Area, the traffic is so ridiculous and the roads so crazy that we never talk about distance in term of miles; that is a useless data point. We tell you how far apart things are in terms of time. If you ask me how far it is from Pleasanton to Palo Alto the first thing I will ask you is “When do you want to go?”
This week, that trip took me 1 hour and 48 minutes. There were no accidents or major closures; just slogging through traffic. Most of the route is on a freeway. The trip is only 30 miles yet it feels like 90. My average speed – 16 MPH!
So, aside from being a bitch-session about traffic, there are very serious ramifications for Silicon Valley companies. The simple fact is that many Bay Area commute times have doubled over the past few years. This means that we are spending much more time, money and energy getting to work. It means less time for both family and work. It means less money for fun; increased environmental impact; more stress and many other bad things.
Call me cynical, but I don’t expect government to jump in and provide a solution. We are all going to have to deal.
This is a big problem for our new company, Formation Data Systems. We are looking to more than triple the size of our team this year. We want to attract the best people and require diverse backgrounds. We also have a need for a wide variety of technical skill sets. In order to be successful we must recruit from the across the Bay Area.
Increased commuting times dramatically affect the potential candidate pool for hiring. If you have a company built around a single “campus” location and the acceptable commute “distance” is cut in half; your candidate pool could be reduced by 75% or more!
Not a good thing.
Getting the best people into a company is already tough and long commute times for a new job are a non-starter for many candidates, especially given the number of opportunities.
Like many, I believe that teams (excluding sales and local support) can be most effective when they collaborate from a central location. It speeds communication, makes interactions easier and provides more flexibility. I also believe that group office environments foster an energy that doesn’t exist when everyone works from home. It became clear fairly early on, however, that even as a startup we had a problem with a single-campus strategy. We could not expect to attract people people from San Jose, San Francisco and Danville to a single location. Even if people are willing to spend 3-4 hours per day in a car, long commute times violate our core company cultural value that team members have ample recharge time with their friends and families.
With all of these needs in mind, we have attempted to come up with an innovative solution and that lets people work closer to home and enables most of benefits of a campus setting.
We are revolutionizing the industry; why not revolutionize how we work. Our company is continuing to explore and experiment with these possibilities. I look forward to sharing our updates on my future blogs.