We are experiencing a complex economic downturn. We’re seeing changes in spending habits and consumption volume, and on the flipside we’re also seeing how new lifestyle choices are giving birth to new products and services to cater for a growing appetite to maximise personal time and convenience while minimising our working hours.

This has already impacted the retail industry, confounded marketeers and given rise to incredible innovation in technology that has accelerated the market-entry of data-driven AI solutions.

But the rise in automation of logistics and supply chain tasks will not eliminate jobs. It is set to create a new position to manage automated processes – a position which requires not only training and time to master and execute effectively, but also requires companies to design and implement completely new processes and workflows.

In the US already over the past two years 19 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits despite a record number of over seven million job openings. Over the same period there has been a mass displacement of jobs that has led to labour shortage of frontline jobs across industries in developed markets like the UK and US. As a society we are struggling with the speed of technological advance. Yet, paradoxically, it is not moving fast enough for us.

In the white-collar worker market, we’ve seen a seismic shift in jobs moving from urban city centres to outside regions to reduce costs. In parallel we’ve witnessed a post-pandemic awakening for a better work/life balance that has led to mass resignations, refusals to relocate or commute to suburban areas for work, and resulted in remote working being seen as a job expectation rather than a perk creating an even bigger labour gap. What we are experiencing is a jobdemic which is creating side-effects we have not even begun to prepare for.

The mere fact we have a labour shortage despite high unemployment rates suggests a structural issue that has less to do with the supply and demand for jobs, and perhaps much more to do with the reality of our work commutes. Warehouses, retail sites, logistics centres, hospitals and the hospitality sector are struggling to recruit people for work shifts that fall outside the 9-5 desk job pattern.

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But our public transport system in the UK and US is not equipped to cater for off-peak changeable shift schedules which are the norm for 15-25% of the national workforce. And if you can’t get to work for your shift, you can’t accept that job.

One solution would be to have more frequent public transport options. But transport authorities are struggling to commensurate the inevitable low occupancy of these high cost shared transportation solutions at offpeak times. This leaves frontline workers who need to be on-site, and recruiters with remote warehouse locations, quite literally at an impasse.

Whether we like it or not, are ready for it or not, it is time to rethink how we live and work. Remote or even hybrid working is not a solution for all, simply because so many jobs still need to be done on-site. Even if increased automation, such as drones and autonomous robots, better enable a hybrid working model for some frontline tasks, it is not a scalable solution.

Smarter, reliable and affordable commutes to work between towns are one of the most urgent things we need to fix. This is where private bus and shuttle businesses like Zeelo make a real difference with a technology stack that helps to locate available buses, find hotspots to pick up commuters and design efficient, sustainable and cost-effective routes to work.

A modal shift from car transport (which many people cannot afford in any case) to shared transport by bus at these occupancy levels also reduces carbon emissions by 78%. This is even before considering transitioning coach and bus fleets to electric vehicles.

It seems that a simple solution to optimise bus commutes with technology is not only feasible and scalable, but also a much more effective way to address the structural problem of unemployment and labour shortage in a tough economic climate.

Zeelo is a UK based smart bus commutes technology scale-up with operations in the US and South Africa and over three million rides booked on its system. CEO and founder Sam Ryan previously exited his first tech start-up JumpIn to Addison Lee in 2014.