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Are you missing your commute?

Article from Behavioural Sassonomics

Commuting is more of a reality than ever for worker bees. According to the US Census Bureau, the number of people commuting more than 90 minutes a day doubled between 1990 and 2000.

Why? Lots of reasons. With home prices (or rent) skyrocketing in city centres, getting more bang for your buck further from the core plays a part.

But the trade-off is a stressful, expensive (if you factor in the cost of a car) commute that ultimately takes time away from being with the family that you set up in the bigger home in the suburbs. Every extra minute of your commute takes away from exercise, activities, or time with family and friends.

Unfortunately, things like exercise, activities, and time with family and friends are the major tools in the toolkit of bolstering mental health. Research out of the UK found that those facing long commutes were 21% more likely to be obese, 33% more likely to have depression, and nearly half get less than 7 hours of sleep each night.

Indeed, a study has found that adding an extra 20 minutes to your commute will decrease your job satisfaction as much as a 19% pay cut.

Commuting happens all around the world.

Yet, for some, not having that commute during COVID-19 is devastating.

You would think that an eliminated commute would be a delightful silver lining during this weird time – and for many, I’m sure that’s the case. But some are saying they miss that dreaded commute.

What Psychological Factors Explain Why Some Are Missing the Dreaded Commute?


Recent research from Harvard Business School has found that the commute can offer benefits as a transitional buffer between home and work.

Jon Jachimowicz and Team’s study looked at the impact of the commute on specifically work-related outcomes, rather than the typical mental health and home-life outcomes. They found that employees who use the time on the commute to engage in boundary management strategies, like using their time to think about their upcoming role, are less likely to be negatively impacted by the commute itself. This can reduce the conflict between your home-related identity and your work-related identity. Having time for that shift can be beneficial.


For some, but not all, the commute delineates being ‘on’ in the work day to being ‘off’. Having that separation is important for recovery. Being online 24/7 has been linked to anxiety and burnout. Though we are more accessible than ever, the commute (especially if you take the subway!) provides a limitation to being accessible that helps transition to home life. Working from home though, with its benefits of flexibility, has challenged the ability to limit the workday. Some are finding it particularly difficult to resist the pressure to be ‘on’ during the evenings of the pandemic, especially if bosses acknowledge that we don’t have anywhere else to go. Indeed, it could be the only bit of ‘alone’ time some might have (obviously not really alone on a packed train) to sit and reflect before a slew of meetings or going home to a busy family.


Many embrace the boredom of the commute as time to explore other interests, like listening to music or a podcast, or reading or listening to a book. Indeed, boredom has been shown as linked to creativity, original thoughts, and problem-solving. I, for one, am horribly behind on my podcast listening!

So, if you are missing your commute, and feeling weird about it – don’t worry. Many signs point to how commuting is bad for you, but it does have some benefits. I invite you to think about how you can carve out time for boundaries, transition time, and creativity in our new normal. Maybe we can have the best of both worlds from our home office.