Effects of Long Commutes to 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.

Last Updated on 25 May 2021

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