If you've ever tried to elbow your way through the mob-like crowds at Guomao subway station, then you know the central business district (CBD) hub is practically pushed past capacity. That crowd  a good portion of which is comprised of office employees hurrying to and from their homes in the suburb of Tongzhou to their workplaces in the CBD  has increased dramatically since Beijing's 2008 Olympic related urban overhaul, due in large part to the CBD's office population nearly doubling between then and now, according to a recent article by research analyst Ian Flanagan. But more alarming still is his ascertain that that office population will continue to swell, increasing by 50 percent by 2025.

In his piece, Flanagan attributes that massive uptick to the municipal government's plans to develop the office buildings in the Guomao area to a "vast superblock known as the CBD Core Expansion Area – a 300,000-square-meter area of land immediately to the east." The project will involve the construction of 2 million-square-meters of office space and 17 office skyscrapers, some of which will be completed by 2020 (diagrams from his article, which illustrate his findings, are shown below).


In an interview with TBJ, Flanagan went on to say that: "Basically, things are already at the limit of capacity. Adding more commuters will add a disproportion about of inconvenience for all users... Right now the culture is to do everything at the same time: start work, eat lunch, finish work."

Troubling as those prospects are, Flanagan suggests one key solution: that offices reconsider their work day start and end times, allowing employees more flexibility for their commute. In his article, Flanagan wrote those "companies move away from a standard 9 to 6 schedule and start to take a serious look at staggered start times for employees. This will help spread the rush hour surge over a longer period of time in the mornings and evenings."

He later told TBJ that some firms are, promisingly enough, already adopting such open schedules, saying: "Anecdotally, some companies are startiing to stagger work times, or give complete flexibility. I notice it more in the VC firms and tech firms, where a smaller proportion of contact is face-to-face."

However, such practices have yet to become mainstream. Flanagan said "the CBD is also heavy in traditional firms that need everyone to be in the same place at the same time to function. So flexible work times will be less common in the CBD than in tech-heavy office zones like Zhongguancun and Wangjing."

Hopefully such a humane scheduling approach will help ease Guomao's rat race at rush hour. Until then, workers will be forced to content with increasingly claustrophobic inducing commutes.

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Photos: China Tour Advisor, news.sina.com, Ian Flanagan


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