Is A Long Commute Destroying Your Job Satisfaction?

For many of us, commuting to work is routine and causes little concern.  Others, however, consider it a waste of time and a source of stress and frustration.  This is especially true for workers whose commutes seem to take an eternity and are made even slower by traffic congestion.

Rising gas prices have become an effective pay cut for commuters, and many are starting to think about leaving their job for something closer to home.  In a perfect world, we would all work much closer to home (or even from our homes), but that’s not the reality we live in.

A Long Commute for Canadians

Canadians spent an average of 26 minutes commuting to work in 2010, according to Statistics Canada.

The average commuting time was longest for commuters in Toronto (33 minutes), Montréal (31 minutes), and Vancouver (30 minutes).

In both Toronto and Montréal, more than one-quarter of commuters had travel times of 45 minutes or more, which was much greater than in any other metropolitan area.

Satisfied With Commuting Times?

Some people may consider a commute to work of 45 minutes or more acceptable, while others may find this hard to bear.  In general, satisfaction with commuting times is pretty high.  According to the study, 85% of commuters said they were satisfied or very satisfied with the amount of time it took to get to work, while only 15% were dissatisfied.

Dissatisfaction was more common in larger urban centres, where commuters had more frequent encounters with traffic congestion.

The connection between commuting times and stress was clear.  Of the full-time workers who took 45 minutes or more to travel to work, 36% said that most days were quite or extremely stressful.  This was only the case for 23% of workers whose commuting time was less than 15 minutes.

Considering a Job Opportunity with a Long Commute

A number of factors come into play when choosing a place to work.  One of them is the distance from where you live.  For those of you considering job opportunities that require extensive travel time, here are some things to consider before signing up:

  • Remember your budget.  If you’ve been offered a job that requires a long commute of 45 minutes or more, make sure you factor what it will cost to get you there.  If you drive, there’s gas, frequency of routine car maintenance (oil changes, tune-ups), and tolls.  If you’re thinking about taking public transportation, calculate ticket expenses, travel to and from the public transit station, and parking at the station.  Many employers now offer transit discounts and other commuting perks, so make sure to ask your future employer about the programs they offer to help offset travel costs.
  • Prepare for traffic.  It’s hard not to jump at a job offer in this economy, but think carefully about taking a position that has the drawback of a long commute.  While it might take 30 minutes to get to work with no traffic, the same drive might take 45 to 60 minutes in traffic.  Make sure that the commute is something you are prepared to take on, day-in and day-out.  Jobs will have their ups and downs, but the commute will always be there.
  • Consider a non-traditional schedule.  Some companies no longer require employees to be in the office for the traditional 9 to 5, Monday through Friday.  Check if your new employer is open to a flexible work schedule, like coming in later to help you avoid peak travel times.  Find out if you can work from home for part of the week.  You may need to prove your productivity to your boss, but there are many benefits to having this flexibility.
  • Join a carpool.  Many offices and communities have carpools that you may be able to join.  Check out eRideShare.com to find other commuters in your area.  Another option is to simply check in with new colleagues to find out if anyone lives in your neighborhood. Carpooling is a great way to cut back on the mileage and wear and tear on your vehicle.

When deciding whether a job opportunity is right for you, it’s common to just focus on the salary, benefits and other perks.  Don’t overlook what it will take to get you to the office every day.  You need to understand your real hourly wage.  Evaluate your commute options and times when considering a job offer.  It will go a long way towards improving your job satisfaction down the road.


12 Responses to Is A Long Commute Destroying Your Job Satisfaction?

  1. Great points Echo.
    We wrote about the health and financial benefits of walking/biking to work a while back, and reasons we bought the home we bought. Location was key. Gas prices, increased insurance, lack of activity, being in the core of our city, reduced emissions – the list goes on.

    I have read that people can catch up on reading, emails, work, writing, being silent and meditating. Sure. I’ll take my 15 minute WALK to work (5 minute bike ride) over your personal time spending 30 minutes on transit systems.

    • Echo says:

      @SPF – It takes me about 7-8 minutes to drive to work from our new place. I could probably bike or walk to work, but Lethbridge is notorious for strong winds and it’s unbearable at times.

  2. Country Girl says:

    My commute is about 30 minutes, and I’m ok with it. What helps is that it’s country roads, so the closest I’ve ever come to experiencing a traffic jam is when a couple cars get stuck behind a tractor for a bit. While I don’t have to deal with traffic, I do have to deal with bad winters, so the cost of my commute has to include snow tires, the possiblility of a tow out of a ditch and some challenging driving conditions.

  3. Jamey says:

    Long commutes definitely destroy job satisfaction.

    My commute has varied over my life so far from 45-60min down to it taking my less than 3min. The 3 min commute was awesome because i could sleep in that much longer and not have to worry about what music or radio I would listen to.

    In the 45min situation I used to arrive at work pissed off. And only for the reason that it took me 45 min just to get to a job I didnt even want.

    I reckon flex time would be a good mitigator in a long commute situation to allow for the workers to commute during off peak times. Would help out alot with job satisfaction.

  4. I like the idea of commuting but having a “quality” commute, like being on a bus or a skytrain and having the time to read.

    Sitting behind the wheel and getting road range is not quality to me.

    Anything more than 30 minutes and I start to go batty.

    Great post!

    • MLISunderstanding says:

      I appreciate the extra reading time — it’s helpful to relax a little after work, or catch up on grad school assignments — but a public transit commute isn’t all quality. I worry nearly every day about whether the bus will be on time, and what other route(s) I can take if I miss it. If it’s late or overcrowded enough that it doesn’t stop, I’m out of luck — and if it’s a few minutes early and I’m running behind on that day, the same. For some people, the backup plan involves driving to work on those days, but that’s not an option for me. Rush hour is still rush hour, even on a bus or train!

  5. Jean says:

    For me, a smooth commute without too many stops and perhaps nice scenery to look at on the side, would be ok even if it were an hour or longer. But even a half hour’s drive through congested and heavy traffic feels like it lasts forever. One of my past jobs involved a commute like that and I would be more exhausted from the journey alone than working all day!

    -Jean

  6. Very good points.I have a short 7 mins commute. I enjoy my little drive. But I am a renter. And the houses in this place are way costlier. A few serious decision to make for buying our first home.

    • Echo says:

      @SB – Thanks for your comment. I also have a short 7 minute commute to work. As a bonus, I get off work at 4:30pm. There’s something satisfying about getting home before 5pm.

      For some, renting close to work is a great alternative to owning an expensive home in the suburbs.

  7. Mitch says:

    My commute is currently 1 1/2 hour to get to work and another 1 1/2 hour to get back. I find it to be a complete waste of time seeing as I am a carpenter and see jobs all around where I live. If my job continues with this awful commute I will quit.

  8. Janice says:

    I work in the hi-tech industry and it takes me at least one hour at rush hours(8-9AM) and 30 minutes an hour after that (10AM). My job is flexible, so I can come whenever I want, but coming late means going home late….
    Its not only the time to get to work. Its frustrating to drive to work in traffic jams. Imagine how much time is being
    wasted on driving… and I waste $500 on gas each month…

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