Why Commuting Makes Workers Miserable (And What To Do About It)

Why Commuting Makes Workers Miserable (And What To Do About It)

Your commute to and from work can often be the worst part of your day. You might find yourself stuck in traffic to the joyful tune of blaring horns, or cramped in a bus with 60 other people and no room to sit. Unfortunately, commuting is something that most workers have to go through five days a week. How bad can commuting be? Here is some information to take into consideration:

How Long Is The Average Commute?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average commute time for an American worker is 25.4 minutes, although the number varies from city to city. For example, San Francisco commuters have to drive or ride slightly longer than most American workers, as their average commute time is anywhere between 26 and 32 minutes.

Certain areas in Colorado, Louisiana, Washington, and Southern California seem to be the most affected by long commute times, according to the study.

Citi’s ThankYou Premier Commuter Index put the average commute time for Americans at 45 minutes per day. The report says that New York residents spend an average of 73 minutes a day on their commute; Chicago residents spend 64 minutes a day; San Francisco residents, 56 minutes; and Los Angeles residents, an average of 55 minutes a day.

Commute Time Adversely Effects Happiness

Your commute time can have an adverse effect on your happiness, especially if you are spending an hour driving to a job that pays minimum wage. However, you might be more satisfied with the commute time if you were working for a company such as Facebook or Google and earning a high-paying salary.

A study from University of Waterloo in Canada discovered that long commutes can have a negative impact on happiness. A different study that was co-authored by Alois Stutzer, economics professor at the University of Basel in Switzerland, discovered that employees who commute at least an hour or more each way have to make at least 40 percent more money than those who commute less, in order to be satisfied with life.

According to the American Journal of Preventative Medicine, part of the reason commuters often feel unhappy is that they do not have time to exercise while spending an hour or more sitting in the car each day. This contributes to raised blood pressure, higher risk of obesity, stress, and other negative side effects. Many of them feel physically trapped, something that takes its toll on the commuters’ mindsets over time.

Commuting Has A Negative Impact On Finances

Commuting also puts a strain on people’s wallets. According to Citi’s commuter index, about $2,600 is spent every year on commuting costs. That equates to about $10 a day; people in Los Angeles have it especially tough, as they spend about $16 a day.

With all these things in mind, how can you reduce the time, expense, and stress of your daily commute? You can make small changes to help make your ride to and from work more bearable.

First, take a look at your options.

Should You Drive to Work?

Taking your own car is usually the quickest way to get to your destination, but it can carry a lot of stressful side effects. Rising gas prices can end up costing you a lot of money, especially if you do not have a fuel-efficient car. You also have to take into account the pressure of being in traffic, merging in busy lanes, and trying to find parking, which usually costs a lot of money. If you do have to take a car, perhaps you should try carpooling with a co-worker or someone else in the area.

Keep Your Vehicle Maintained Properly

If you decide to drive to work every day, be sure to keep up with car maintenance. Keep your gas tank relatively full so that you do not have to worry about running out of gas. Use an app like GasBuddy to find the cheapest gas prices in your area, and try buying gas either early in the morning or late at night, when the cooler weather makes the gas thicker. Keep your car serviced regularly to check the brakes, engine, tires, and other components.

It wouldn’t hurt to keep the car clean, just to make it look nice and give you peace of mind. Throw out all those empty containers, chip bags, and other trash, and take out any unnecessary items that could be left at home.

Choose The Right Tunes

You should be selective about what you listen to while driving. Pop music, soft rock, classical, acoustic, and smooth jazz are all good for reducing anxiety. On the other hand, a Populus study of 2,000 drivers found that those who listen to hard rock and heavy metal are more prone to road rage.

Perhaps it is no surprise that those who choose to listen to Norah Jones and Dido are usually a lot calmer than those who prefer jamming out to Judas Priest and Cannibal Corpse. It is also worth noting that Miles Davis might not be the best choice either, as jazz fans are more likely to pick up fines.

Switching To Public Transportation

Perhaps you have decided that public transportation is the way to go. It certainly takes off the stress of driving, but it does carry its own set of burdens. For example, you might often feel cramped in a trains overcrowded with other commuters, some of whom might be coughing and sneezing.

That being said, public transportation has its benefits. You have the chance to read, study, or play video games. It is also a lot more mentally relaxing, as you do not have to pay attention to the road.

You can use the commute to be productive. According to the book Rich Habits: The Daily Success Habits of Wealthy Individuals by Tom Corley, 63 percent of rich people (those with an income of over $160,000 a year) listen to audio books on the way to work, while only 5 percent of poor people (those with an income of less than $35,000 a year) do the same.

Additionally, 86 percent of rich people and 26 percent of poor people say they love to read, and 88 percent of rich people and only 2 percent of poor people read for at least half an hour a day for educational or career purposes. In other words, if you want to be rich, try reading or listening to informative audio books on your way to and from work.

Is a Higher Salary Worth a Longer Commute?

Fine, you might be getting a high salary anyway so why be bothered by the long hours spent commuting. 

The question is, is this high salary worth a longer commute?

Have you considered the psychological, emotional, and physical toll of longer travel times?

How about the actual costs of commuting long distances in terms of hours invested and travel costs like insurance premiums, gas, and car maintenance? So what if you’re getting extra twelve dollars a day in exchange for commuting longer if you’re spending around half of it for traveling expenses?

Although this study is based on a sample of workers in England, this is a good example that illustrates how adding 20 minutes per day to your commute has the same effect on your job satisfaction as taking a 19% pay cut. Interesting, right? And that’s only 20 minutes per day! Imagine how it would be for those who travel around an hour to work and another hour going home.

So, if you have a choice of working far from where you live, take into consideration the costs of a long commute, and think carefully if it’s worth it. 

Sometimes, taking a pay cut to work closer to home can provide a more healthy lifestyle that can end up giving you more savings in the long run. 

Why? Just think about the psychological and physical strains of a long commute and how it affects your well-being. Those extra time spent traveling means extra hours of rest and relaxation.

How To Save Even More Money With Public Transportation

Look for ways to save money on the public transportation system. For example, your train might charge $3 per trip, but offer a monthly pass for $70. Paying $3 per trip can cost you about $120 a month, whereas the $70 pass would save you $50. Always be on the lookout for good deals.

Make the most of your commute by using the time efficiently. Perhaps you can study for an upcoming test or go over work documents. You could also stop by the grocery store on the way home in order to save yourself a later trip.

Overall, commuting to and from work is a necessary evil that most of people have to deal with every day. While it might be nice to find a job that is within walking distance of where you live, it is not always a feasible option. Following the aforementioned tips could make your daily commute more bearable, if not fun and productive.

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