Extreme Commuting and the Employee Experience

Angry Driver

Having been unemployed now for about a month, I’ve not been doing much of anything lately except submitting resumes and trying to improve my brand image.

Thankfully I’m part of the minority of unemployed who are actually getting phone and face-to-face interviews as a result of my efforts, but as yet I have not found a job that will truly satisfy me, though it’s certainly helping me to keep positive!

One job for which I recently interviewed would have required me to travel upwards of 60, even 70% of the time. To me, this is not conducive to a pleasurable working experience. I know many people are lovers of business travel, and I’ll of course do it to some extent – after all, I did love going to trade shows and such when I was with my former companies – but being away from home that often really doesn’t make for a great work-life balance, wouldn’t you think?

Angry DriverSimilarly, I have received calls from companies that are over sixty miles from my house. I was, at my last job, what the U.S. Census Bureau calls an “extreme commuter.” By definition, that includes the 3% of Americans that drive more than ninety minutes each way to get to work. My commute was 152 miles round-trip, a three-hour journey that usually ended up being upwards of four to four-and-a-half hours each day due to construction, summer traffic, or accidents. It was, in all honesty, brutal. Do I think it affected the way I worked? Absolutely. I would have to get up exceptionally early to even make it to work on time, and by the time I got home at night, I had little to no time to focus on everyday things that needed to be done, such as household chores, much less any of my hobbies or personal activities.

And for those of you who wish to stress the concept of using public transport: don’t get me wrong, I would absolutely have done that. Except the job in question was in an area of New Jersey that would have required a train, then a bus, then a walk, which would have added an additional hour to my trip, so that was out of the question.

Let’s face it: according to Alois Stutzer of the Institute for Empirical Research in Economics at the University of Zurich, “Commuting is a stress that doesn’t pay off.” Let’s look at the drawbacks to a long commute:

  • One must earn considerably more money to make up for the wear and tear on one’s car, not to mention the constantly escalating gas prices.
  • The human body is susceptible to aches, pains, and trauma from sitting in the same position for a long period of time, including high blood pressure … and of course contributes to weight gain.
  • Traveling for so long is tiring, and the commuting experience is rarely pleasurable for anyone, so employees arrive at work tired and/or irritable. Employee morale suffers, and when that is affected, so is productivity.

Was telecommuting an option? It was at first, for at least a day a week, but my contract was altered two weeks in to the job. The benefits of telecommuting are numerous to both employees and employers, but I will focus on that in a future post.

What are the other downfalls to a long commute? Are there any benefits? At what point would you say a commute is too long?

Categories: Career and Office
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