The Workplace Culture Bus, and That Sense of Community.

Guest author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better.

Sometimes you leave your full self – the kind of self that people who know you well and live with or around you see all the time – behind when you go off to work or school.

Sometimes, though, you get to bring not only that full self, but folks from neighborhood that go along with it, to work as well.

It’s not an issue for those of us who work from home, where there is no separation of self and community. For somebody like me, that sense of community is inescapable, even if I wanted to avoid it; I’m on a first name basis with the postal carrier, the lunch places on 18th Street know me well enough to ask about my 10 year-old, and who I am is part and parcel with the fabric of the neighborhood and community around me.

My life is unlike the flip side, people who hop in their car, train or BART and travel – like astronauts rendezvousing with an orbiting space station – to some alien place where your sense of community can be miles away. When I worked as a senior executive at McKesson’s One Post Street headquarters – an office heavily populated with people who hailed from places like Danville, San Mateo, Hayward – it was hard to bump into anyone you worked with once you got more than a half mile away from the ground zero of Post Street’s intersection with Montgomery Street. San Francisco, for many, was where they worked not lived.

In the war for talent that’s fought daily by firms based south of San Francisco such as Google, Apple, Facebook, Genentech, and even start-ups like Evernote, figuring out how to entice people to work in communities regarded as “Dullsville” is part of their competitive business advantage. And even for companies that don’t provide transportation, high-end buses exist to pry them out of their Lexus and take them down the Peninsula.

Every morning the buses roll through San Francisco picking up riders at places like Pacific Heights, NOPA, Noe Valley and the Mission. Every afternoon and into the evening the commute gets reversed with drops-offs throughout the City; here’s one dropping off at the Castro.

These are, to crib a line, not your father’s buses; they are equipped with pleasantries such as comfy seats and Internet access, the types of things that make the 60-minute ride each way more pleasant and more productive. And the buses are not little; they are often double deckers, looming like great white whales amongst the smaller sized cars of an urban city.

The daytime relocation of talent and culture isn’t limited just to tech workers in Silicon Valley: my 10-year old son catches a ride on one of 5 school buses that bring about half of his 540-student grade school’s population over the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco to his school in Marin County every day, adding a mix of ethnic and family diversity to what otherwise would be  a mostly homogenous suburban school community.

The culture buses that take workers to and from Cupertino, Menlo Park and Redwood City do the same; people whose skills and selves are highly sought, and who bring with them talent and diversity that would otherwise never exist in their workplace.

While Dorothy had to tap her heels together three times and repeat “There’s no place like home” to get back to where she belonged, the culture buses that ply the routes from San Francisco to the suburbs make it possible to know that you’ll be back safely in San Francisco where you belong at the end of the day.

Bus image courtesy of Shutterstock

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