Before the onset of the pandemic work commutes were getting substantially longer. In fact, they had been getting longer for quite some time. The amount of so-called “super commuters,” or people with commutes equal to 90 minutes or more one way, was increasing exponentially year over year. But even average commute times were steadily ticking upwards. Simply put, this trend meant that more and more people were sacrificing their own time for jobs they deemed worthy enough to commute that long distance away. The pandemic certainly served to give people a lot of renewed perspective on long commutes when the need for remote work erupted. However, with many companies now heavily vying for more people to return to the office, it serves to beg the question: How long of a commute is too long? And is there an optimal time that one should strive for when traveling to work?
Journalist Jared Shelly decided to determine that for himself after he’d been strapped with a long commute for nearly half a decade. Shelly detailed, via the publication Convene, that embarking on a harrowing hour-plus long commute (one way) in time began to weigh so heavy on his mental state that he was left with no other recourse but to find work closer to home. “Since then, I’ve been living and working within a 20-minute radius and couldn’t be happier,” wrote Shelly.
For Shelly, the happy medium was that 20-minute radius. That was his sweet spot. But is that the answer? Is ensuring your commute stays around 20 minutes actually the optimal commute to have? The short answer is no. The longer answer is that everyone is different and has a different threshold for commute tolerance. Ultimately, determining how long of a commute is too long for you should be determined by how you are feeling and the effects you are experiencing from the said commute.
That being said, there are signs that you can look for to examine whether or not you are currently strapped with a commute that is too long for you. First and foremost you should keep keenly aware of the effects your traveling time is having on your mental state and personal life. For instance, Shelly pointed that that one study conducted in the UK found that people who traveled substantial distances for work were 33% more likely to be diagnosed with depression. The same study found that a whopping 46% of people got remarkably less sleep than those with far shorter distances to travel to get to work.
Ultimately, in trying to determine whether your commute is too long consider the impact that your commute is having on you. Be honest with yourself. Ask hard questions like, do I feel depressed? Am I getting enough sleep? And do I see my loved ones enough? Evaluate your priorities and see if your long commute fits in with them. If the answer ends up being “No” across the board, it’s likely a good idea to start weighing your options and looking elsewhere. When it comes down to it, no job is worth sacrificing your health, sanity, or home life.