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Shorter Commutes Make Happier Workers

Topics: Data & Research

When you’re considering a new job — or a new place to live — you should spend a moment thinking about how your commute might impact your quality of life. It turns out that long commutes can not only make you really unhappy, but can also affect your health, too. See why keeping your work commute to a minimum can really help you in the long-term.

Commuting and Stress = A Dangerous Combination

A new study from the University of the West of England, Commuting and Wellbeing, details how a long commute can negatively impact your satisfaction with life.

Some people (and I’m not sure exactly who those people are) might prefer a long commute in order to have time to themselves and their thoughts. But for the rest of us, long travel times often just make us feel worse, physically and mentally. Sitting for long periods has been shown to adversely affect health, as well as increasing mortality rates in adults.

People who sit for less than 30 minutes at a time have a lower risk of death, according to a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. At CNN, Susan Scutti notes that “as total sedentary time increased, so did early death by any cause, the results indicated.” And when you’re stuck in a car or bus or train for an hour or more and unable to get up and move around, as more and more U.S. commuters are, you’re not doing your body any favors.

To make matters worse, a growing number of “extreme commuters” spend upwards of 90 minutes per day traveling to work — each way. Pew reports that the number of these super commuters increased sharply in all but 10 states between 2010 and 2015. In California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, North Dakota and Rhode Island, long-distance commuters increased by more than 40 percent.

office space commute

No Time for the Gym?

Commuters who spend hours on the road often have to make sacrifices at home to make up that time. And often what falls by the wayside is getting that workout in before or after that super long drive to the office park.

Before you give up on exercise altogether, there are ways to make your commute work work for you — by getting your exercise at the same time. According to analysis by Tanza Loudenback at Business Insider, the commuting study “found commuters who walk or bike to work don’t report the same dissatisfaction with their leisure time as those who commute by bus or train.”

Equating Commuting Time and Job Satisfaction

Get that commute under control, and you could be just as happy as if you got a raise. The study showed a direct correlation between being happy with your job and being happy with your (short) commute.

“Ultimately, an additional 20 minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19% pay cut. That is to say, spending more time standing on a crowded train or sitting in mind-numbing traffic can make you feel just as bad as earning less money, even if you aren’t,” writes Loudenback.

It’s About Cost of Living

Cities with high cost of living mean that you may have to suffer a long commute to get from where you can afford to live to your job. Make sure you’re not taking on more than you can handle. Check the cost of living for your area, or the city where you want to move, and see how far your salary could get you. Use PayScale’s Cost of Living Calculator to crunch the numbers.

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