Five minutes. That is all it took for the duration of my journey to work to change from an hour 15 minutes to two hours. I could complain about the inefficient transport system but that is a rant for another day. The reason for the delay is simple; breakfast. I have been working since I graduated from university for the past five years. This is my first time working in an area which is more than 30 minutes away from home even under severe traffic conditions.
As the journey dragged on, my singular thought was “Why I should be late because I wanted to get some breakfast?”. I instantly thought of how hundreds of other commuters were in a similar predicament to mine. In the capital with an ever growing population, people are increasingly living further away from the downtown areas and have to use public transportation to work. This usually means that they have to forfeit breakfast and supper every other day if they want to avoid rush hour.
Take the story of Afua for instance. Afua is a graduate who works at the headquarters of an insurance company. Her workplace is at Accra Central and she lives at Kasoa. Afua often has brunch because she has to leave home at 5am each day to get to work before 8am. Work starts on the clock and she does not have a break until 12:30. She gets home after 8pm each day and usually goes straight to bed.
In a scenario like this, it is not hard to imagine that eating just once a day and not having a proper rest would be detrimental to anyone’s health in the long term. Some workplaces are located in communities with limited access to food or pricey eateries. In comes the reliance on carbonated drinks and pastries, which are sold by hawkers or shops in close proximity. The average Ghanaian employee under these conditions is a walking time bomb for lifestyle related diseases. The picture is even grimmer when you factor in the increasing sedentary cultures at workplaces. People sit for hours on end and do not burn whatever calories they gain from eating.
Everything is contextual and related. As most economic activities are centered in the urban zones of the country, more people will migrate for a chance to access this. The neighbourhoods close to these areas are fast becoming prime real estate and the average employee cannot afford to live there.
All these and the inflated cost of living in the capital and other urban areas contribute somewhat to the lack of a savings and investment culture which seems to be steadily growing. An inefficient road network and a subpar public transport system means workers have to rise earlier and pay more to get to work. They also forgo meals and rely on foods which have “empty” calories. The knock on effect is putting themselves increasingly at risk for illnesses like diabetes and obesity. The standard of living drops and the average employee hardly ever spends time at home and with family and for self-improvement away from his or her profession. Transportation eats up a large chunk of the salary and there is basically little left to save or reinvest after basic living expenses are deducted.
A simple solution on paper would be that people should try to work close to home as much as possible. In the case of companies with multiple branches, employees should be transferred to branches close to home. The reality is that it is very vague and does not take into account the nuances of managing human resources.
Not everyone has the temerity to be an entrepreneur and work from home. Access to resources would even force one to strive to move closer to stand a chance of penetrating the market and become a viable business long term.
Short of an act of God happening in the political and economic climate of this country, I might have to skip breakfast to get to work early or wait five minutes to be late.
Sena Frost “19
Image courtesy ƒonibia.com