You think your commute is bad? Moscow commuters lost nearly nine days a year sitting in city traffic in 2018. According to one study, workers in Rio de Janeiro, Istanbul, Toronto and London had average daily commute times of over 80 minutes. In the U.S., 8.9 percent of workers spent at least one hour, each way, commuting for work in 2017.
The problem is only expected to worsen as rising incomes around the world result in more vehicles. In some emerging countries, roads have already reached their maximum capacity. A Washington Post article points out that in countries like Iran, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, there are approximately 200 registered vehicles for every kilometer of road. That is compared to countries like U.S., France, Russia and Brazil where there are approximately 40 registered vehicles per kilometer.
Some countries are encouraging residents to use public transportation by charging fees to enter into the city center or implementing programs that only permit driving on certain days based on last names or license numbers. In Paris, government officials are encouraging cycling to work by subsidizing the rental of e-bikes
In addition to eating away at our personal time, long commutes can trigger stress, sleep deprivation and relationship problems. A study by UWE Bristol found that every extra minute of commute time reduces job satisfaction, leisure time satisfaction, and mental health. A Swedish study found couples were 40 percent more likely to get a divorce if one spouse’s commute exceeded 45 minutes.
In the workplace, lengthy commutes have been associated with increased absenteeism and reduced productivity, as well as turnover. A survey by Robert Half found that 23 percent of workers surveyed had quit a job because of a bad commute.
A growing number of companies are taking steps to help employees resolve their problem commutes. Telecommuting, flexible schedules and staggered workdays work well for some companies. Others are incentivizing walking or biking to work or utilizing public transportation. In the UK, some companies now offer free shuttle service from transit stations.
Some employees are turning their commute into a workout with active commuting, which offers both physical and emotional benefits. A University of Glasgow study found that those who cycled to work had a 52 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and 46 percent lower risk of developing heart disease. Walkers in the study had a 37 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease and 27 percent lower risk of developing heart disease.
If there aren’t any reasonable options available to reduce your commute time, you might as well try to reframe your commute to promote wellbeing and help minimize stress. Below are some tips to help employees make the most of their commute.*
Get started on the right foot. Running late can make a difficult commute even more stressful. Make preparations the night before to minimize early morning decision-making. This includes setting out clothes, planning breakfast and making lunches. To avoid last minute frantic searches, put everything you need to walk out the door in one location, including keys, glasses, briefcases, children’s diaper bags, etc…
Embrace the transition. Your commute offers a natural, and potentially helpful, transition between personal time and work time. Use this gap to help you mentally shift into work-mode or home-mode. For example, as you drive to work set the tone by considering your professional goals for that day. What are your priority projects? What would make it a successful day? On the drive home, focus on what you are looking forward to once you walk through your front door. Commit to being fully present to enjoy your personal time or family time.
Develop a commute routine. An article in Harvard Business Review suggests commute rituals like checking the news or getting a coffee from the same barrista can help decrease anxiety and may even increase enjoyment of the activity itself. The article’s author conducted a study in which he found, “Those who maintained small routines on the way to work… felt more excited about the day ahead, more satisfied with their jobs, and less stressed-out than those who had no set routine.”
Listen to music, audio books or educational/inspirational podcasts. As a captive audience, what better time to devote to education or entertainment? Enjoy singing? Regardless of whether or not you can carry a tune, singing can have a positive impact on your emotional wellbeing.
*When driving, always remain attentive and follow local traffic laws.
Workplace Options helps employees balance their work, family and personal needs to become healthier, happier and more productive, both personally and professionally. The company’s world-class employee support, effectiveness and wellbeing services provide information, resources, referrals and consultation on a variety of issues ranging from dependent care and stress management to clinical services and wellness programs. To learn more visit www.workplaceoptions.com.