Commuting by the numbers . . . dollars, time, health and sanity

By Sharon Morrison, CEO – ESRP

You’d be hard pressed to find someone who enjoys commuting. For most of us, it represents a significant investment in time, money and productivity. For example, a friend of mine commutes by car 42 miles per day, spends $40 a week on tolls, $50 a week on gasoline, $100 a month on parking and two-and-a-half hours of time in traffic each and every day. This equals nearly $500 a month getting to and from work. That’s a significant portion of pay and a big chunk of sanity.

If a job with a longer commute equals an extra 30 minutes each way that equals one hour per day (and that’s conservative). If an average person works 300 days a year that’s 300 hours divided by 24 hours in a day which is 12.5 days. So, people are spending almost 2 weeks of their life every year in a car when they could be with their family, working out, at the office, on vacation, etc.  That would make me grumpy!

Not all this time alone is negative. Everyone needs some time alone each day to decompress. But added time per day – 40 minutes or more (according to research) — means a lot of frustration and lost productivity. And this lack of control impacts everyone at all levels — from support staff to the chairman.

Some people have access to mass transportation that allows them to get to work faster and more economically and to multitask or do something enjoyable during the commute. But a large percentage of people either don’t have access to trains and buses or don’t want to give up the freedom they have by having their cars at work.

For some in jobs where it is appropriate, telecommuting may be the answer. Researchers find that commuters are more likely to be anxious, dissatisfied and have the sense that their daily activities lack meaning than those who don’t have to travel to work, even if they are paid more.

What’s the answer? You can live closer to work. You can avoid working in the city. Or you can choose an employer that allows you to work on a flexible schedule.

I wish I had all the answers on how to improve your commute. Five hundred dollars a month is a lot of money to invest in something that can be so miserable.

It all comes down to a matter of balance.

In the end, a shorter commute or the lack of a commute can equal a happier, saner and more effective workforce, and this could translate into better performance for your company.