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Effects of Long Commutes to Work

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 30 Jun 2016 | comments*Discuss
Long Distance Commutes Commuting Work

Whenever we tend to consider a new job very few of us give too much thought to the length of time it might take to travel to our place of work each day, if it’s not too far away and we drive or have good, accessible public transport.

However, there are many people who travel unbelievably long distances to and from work each day. In fact, take London, for example. There are even workers who will fly in and out from France and Belgium and even further afield every day!

But why do they choose to do this, what is the cost and do they have any alternative solutions?

Reasons for Commuting Long Distances to Work

The daily commute to work is familiar to many of us but for those who travel long distances, the decision to do so is usually a difficult one and often involves Balancing Work and Personal Life.

For example, many people who work, say, in a city office environment will tell you that they have to work in the city to pursue their chosen career and/or to earn the kind of income that supports their lifestyle. Many will place the emphasis on money, prestige, better holidays, fancier car, more material goods etc and tend to neglect other factors of key importance which tend to suffer such as their health, personal relationships, social connections, time for hobbies etc.

Some might say that it’s necessary to make a long distance journey as they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of housing etc, if they were closer to the city in which they work.

Then, there are others who’d tell you that they choose to live far from work as they prefer the more tranquil lifestyle of, perhaps, a rural environment in which they live, often citing their choice of home location as more suitable for their family, e.g. children’s schools, cleaner air, peaceful lifestyle etc.

The Effects and Costs of Long Commutes to Work?

The biggest effects on long commutes to work tend to relate to stress-related health issues, the impact upon personal relationships and performance at work.

Long hours of commuting, especially if you’re driving, is associated with high blood pressure, musculoskeletal disorders, increased anger and resentment at work, absenteeism, lateness, and an ability to concentrate and perform to the same standards as those who live in much closer proximity to the workplace. Long commutes can also increase the risk of heart attacks, flu, depression etc.

On a global scale, the effects of commuting are only too plain to see, contributing to air pollution, global warming, urban sprawl and traffic congestion.

Coping With the Effects

Many companies, especially those in which Information Technology and computers are used heavily have begun to realise the damage that long commutes can have and have become more open to accepting flexible working patterns which might allow employees to work from home now and again, or even completely, which can reduce the impact caused by the daily grind of getting to and from work. For example, you can produce a document at home and send it via e-mail to the office instantly. You can even hold a meeting with other staff members and clients now that we have teleconferencing.

However, for some jobs, there is no escaping the daily commute. So, how do you cope?

Preparation the night before can help. Sorting out clothes and lunches for both the worker who has to commute and any children they might have can often prevent a ‘panic stations’ scenario first thing in the morning. Finding even a little time for a family breakfast ‘get together’ has been shown to help a lot in Relieving Stress, although, for many, that’s not always possible.

Many companies are installing gyms or handing out free gym memberships which have been popular with those who face stiffness after a long commute to work and a quick workout not only reduces that but also stimulates and refreshes the brain as well as the body.

Others will be able to get their boss to agree to Flexible Working practices. Although you might not be able to work from home, your boss may be willing to consider you coming to work in the morning after the rush hour is over and leaving after it begins again in the evening. For many, a change to say, a shift of 10am – 6pm or 11am – 7pm can cut many minutes, even hours, of the equivalent 9-5 day in terms of commuting time.

Car pooling is also being taken up. If you only have to drive once a week instead of 5, if there are 5 passengers that is, you’ll be able to relax and read the paper maybe on 4 of the 5 days and only have the stress of driving through the city on one day each week. Alternatively, you might consider ditching the car altogether and taking the train if appropriate.

We’re never going to live in a society where commuting becomes a thing of the past. However, both employers and workers should work towards alternative arrangements, wherever possible, to lessen the social and physical and mental impacts that long commutes to and from work can cause.

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[Add a Comment]
Hi I see a client 4 days a week with 3 of those days requiring me to drive out to her twice a day. The first visit is at 7:55am, the other is at 5:05pm. This client lives 7 miles away from me and I have no other shifts on these days; my concern is that whichever way I go I encounter traffic because it's such a busy area at whatever time of day, secondly the amount of time I spend driving to her in the car is hurting my back and has affected my mood and energy levels and thirdly because I have a break in between my visits to her I stay at home to rest and I feel resentful in my company asking me to do any extra visits with this client because of how early I have to get up, how long it takes to get to her and how it has affected my mood etc. Would my manager be the best person to speak to?
Jaydee - 30-Jun-16 @ 2:14 PM
Hi my work had a fire and now they are saying we have to travel 70miles away to another site and still do our 12 hour shift, making it a 15 hour day. Is this legal?
T - 10-Mar-16 @ 5:47 AM
Johnboy - Your Question:
Hi I have to travel 100 miles to work work for 10 hrs and travel home it is 3hrs a day and I don't get paid travel I work in construction so I am out on site all day is this legal.

Our Response:
Has you job been moved or did you take on this role knowing where your place of work would be?
SafeWorkers - 11-Dec-15 @ 2:28 PM
Hi I have to travel 100 miles to work work for 10 hrs and travel home it is 3hrs a day and I don't get paid travel I work in construction so I am out on site all day is this legal.
Johnboy - 10-Dec-15 @ 8:40 PM
I agree with the "one-day-at-a-time", its all I can do.I was happy to find a vanpool since I am not good at driving, so I only drive to the pick up locations at 4a.m.but 6-hours a day when the traffic is good is not how I plan to spend my 30's.And the 15 other people in the van all being married and at the end of their career, makes me feel like I'm going to be doing this forever and know one will offer me a better position.There is no comfort to being a passenger either, so as my rap myself up with a blanket and cram small pillows behind me, the pain in my back, legs and neck make me want to quit.So far I've put on 22-pounds because I'm too tired to exercise in the weekends and its too late to eat by the time I get home.But all I can do is keep adding to my resume and applying to positions in my filed that are closer to home or in an affordable state.(One day at a time)
Rose - 17-Nov-15 @ 10:56 PM
I joined in a Multinational company with good salary by attending campus interview. My carrier will get improve by continuing this job but I don't like this job because I have to wake up at 4.30 am and sleep after 10.30 pm because I am spending 6 hours for to and fro travelling in bus. Next point office job making me increase in weight no time to go at gym. I am feeling very tired and stressed. I don't want to continue but my family, relations, and my colleagues advising me to don't leave this good job. Is it good for me. Please help me to overcome this. My dream is to become a entrepreneur but no time to improve myself and plan about it. Please help me.
Munna Devil - 14-Oct-15 @ 3:23 PM
I had gone through (3) aquisitions and/or plant closings , all within the same large corporation, but each being different Division segments. This company ranks at the top, in terms of almost every employment benefit category. I have (30) years now, with a pension close at hand. For the past decade I commuted (80) miles each way to hopefully "cap off" my career with the same company, while carpooling or flying solo for a few months at a time. Two kids are now through college. I always take it one day at a time.
Berkshire Beast - 9-Oct-15 @ 7:09 PM
Annie - Your Question:
In my contract it states that my place of work can be anywhere in UK altough they do try to put us sales people near to home. After working 30 mins everyday I have been told I now have to go to another place of work which is 45 miles (one way) which takes - one way coming home will be at peak time. I have severe back problems so travelling in a car for long periods will not help is there anything I can do

Our Response:
If you contract states that your place of work can be anywhere in the UK, there's not a great deal you can do. Speak with your employer, giving details of your back problems (with medical evidence) and see if they are willing to accommodate this in any way.
SafeWorkers - 25-Sep-15 @ 2:13 PM
In my contract it states that my place of work can be anywhere in UK altough they do try to put us sales people near to home.After working 30 mins everyday I have been told I now have to go to another place of workwhich is45 miles (one way) which takes - one way coming home will be at peak time.I have severe back problems so travelling in a car for long periods will not help is there anything I can do
Annie - 25-Sep-15 @ 8:26 AM
Hi My boss is ordering me and my work partner to be on site at jobs at 8am however does not pay us travel time and our jobs are not in one set place they could be 20 miles away one day 40 the next so on, I want to know by law the commuting time is between leaving home and arriving at work, bearing in mind we leave at 7 sometimes and don't arrive on site until 9:30 in London at times due to traffic, I wouldn't want to be leaving my house at 6 or early, so by law what's the legal time I have to leave if being paid from 8? Thanks
John - 24-Jun-15 @ 3:38 PM
@jaycow. This really depends on the details of your contract which of course we have not seen. Is this a one off situation?
SafeWorkers - 17-Mar-15 @ 10:52 AM
i recently have been told I have to provide weekend cover for my employer . This could entail up to 3 x 40 mile round trips in a 24 hour period .Although I will be paid an hourly rate once I arrive at work they are not prepared to pay me travelling time and or mileage . My argument is that if they are not prepared to pay me travelling I will have to cycle the distance to cut my costs . I am happy to do this as I am a keen cyclist but obviously this would make the response time longer .There is nothing in my contract stating I have to own a car or drive to work .Can they stop me from cycling to work or discipline me for not using my car .
jaycow - 13-Mar-15 @ 10:22 PM
@Nate Drake. No there's no shame in it all, better to admit it now than a couple of months down the line. Check the terms of the contract first. You may also want to find out what notice they want - e.g. they might ask you to work until the end of the week etc.
SafeWorkers - 27-Jan-15 @ 12:14 PM
I've recently accepted a temporary job assignment but didn't really bargain for the fact I'll be commuting 30 miles each way (getting home late ironically, is the issue). I've tried it 3 times this week but if I continue, the strain may start to take its toll and no more life/work balance. Is there any shame in ringing my recruitment consultant in the morning and telling her this? I feel bad because all the paperwork is complete (the contract is only for 6 months due to maternity cover) and renting a place there is out of the question; too expensive. Also, the boss of that dept chose my personality over my ability to do the job (involving millions of pounds and I have no financial experience!) I've realised I've bitten off more than I can chew. Anyone been a similar situation?
Nate Drake - 25-Jan-15 @ 10:14 AM
@mick. You should leave earlier to allow for the roadworks.
SafeWorkers - 24-Oct-14 @ 2:12 PM
my boss is threatening to discipline me for being late after my daily commute. the commute is mainly motorways, there are roadworks on a minor road too. i set off 1 hour before my start time to travel the 26 miles to work but i have arrived 15 minutes late. what can i do?
Mick - 23-Oct-14 @ 1:04 PM
I have just receiveda RejectionLetter for flexibleworkinghours.They want me to do night shifts but thereis no transporthome. I need to write an appeal letter can you help
cat - 11-Sep-14 @ 3:19 AM
In my line of work, although we work for a company we travel from home to our places of work, and wherever we are in the country our working day is 06:30-17:00, the company say they will try and keep us within 100 miles of our homes, however this isn't always the case, for instance on Monday I worked 1hr from home so I was out the house for 05:15, I then did s full shift and had to drive 6hrs to Scotland for the next days work, also our job can involve a lot of driving. Are there laws on time spent travelling to work, the hours spent at work, and the travelling after work. And also there is no break. Please help.
stan - 4-Sep-13 @ 12:58 PM
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