Even as the number of telecommuters sharply rises, the long and onerous physical commute is still a reality for many workers. In the U.K., the average commuter spends around 41 minutes commuting. This is bearable, but around 2 million “super-commuters” in the U.K. spend more than 3 hours a day commuting, according to this Randstad report. America is doing a little better, with an average commute time of 25.4 minutes, but around 8 percent of U.S. workers super-commute an hour or more.
So, with about 6-8 percent of workers in the U.K. and U.S. super-commuting, it’s worth asking the question, “How can a long commute affect you, and is it a a bridge too far?”
Loss of Earnings and Opportunities to Earn
You don’t need me to tell you how fuel/transportation costs weigh on your pay packet, but a long commutes also increases your actual working time, reducing your hourly rate dramatically. A long commute also impacts your ability to do a second job or work overtime, which could reduce your real earnings to an unacceptable level.
Research from Umea University in Sweden shows that workers who had been commuting 45 minutes or more for under 5 years were more likely to divorce than people with shorter daily commutes. Long commutes put strain on relationships.
Health and Well-being
Most of you probably know that a long commute is tiring, but you probably haven’t seen the exact effects quantified. Studies show that every minute you add to a commute makes you feel more anxious and less happy. The longer your commute is, the less meaningful you feel your life is.
If you are planning to commute 25-40 minutes a day for a new job, odds are it won’t be a bridge too far, and it won’t have a significantly negative impact on your life, health, relationships, or sense of happiness.
But, as you start heading into super-commuting territory of 60-90 minutes a day, chances are that your commute will negatively impact your actual salary, your productivity at work, and your sense of well-being. For many, this may indeed be a bridge too far.
However, there are many steps you can take to alleviate the pressures of a super-commute and negate its impact on your life.
I think that one of the most useful steps you can take is to prepare your daily to-do list of work tasks, home chores, and fun while actually commuting. The time spent in transit is an excellent opportunity to engage in effective time management, and it will set you up for the day and make you more efficient, as you will be able to maximise the time you have available to you to balance work and life commitments and make your commute more manageable.
I think another key task you can do during your commute is efficiency planning: coming up with new ideas to reduce time spent commuting or improve your commuting experience. You could experiment with different routes, different modes of transport, different departure times. You might request time to work from home, or you may even consider a career change.
If you are considering or already completing a commute over 45 minutes, there’s a chance it may be a bridge too far, but there are plenty of steps you can take to make such a commute more manageable.