How Reducing Your Commute Increases Your Happiness

If there were an app to measure the national mood (there’s an idea!), it would be sure to take a huge dip for an hour or so each morning and evening. Let’s be honest, very few of us want to work for a living. However, even fewer of us enjoy the journey that takes us back and forth.

For 5 days a week most of us leave our cushy home lives behind and find ourselves in total limbo until we get to work. For the lucky ones, this might entail a 15-minute trip, for some it may take an hour, maybe two. For the rising population of super commuters it’s even longer and involves an extended time away from family and friends. Apparently London’s Metropolitan Police once had a police officer who commuted from New Zealand – 19,312 km (12,000 miles) away – working two months on and two months off. What’s wrong with working for the police force in New Zealand?! Budget airline Easyjet now report that a growing number of their 12 million business travellers are now commuters.

Ignoring the obvious financial implications – the average Londoner spends £66,000 on commuting – there are also links between a shorter commute time leading to increased well being.

Living in London my commute lasted an hour – which is pretty standard – but it wasn’t a relaxed hour of working or reading on a train. I would walk to the bus stop, take a bus to the train station…..walk…..take a train to the tube (subway)…..walk…..take the tube for 2 stops…..walk…..change onto another subway line for 5 stops and walk to work at the other end. The cognitive load in dealing with 5 different crowds of rush hour traffic meant that I’d lost my morning spark by the time I’d got to work each day. It just wasn’t working for me.

Ok, that’s London’s public transport system for you, but if you get in the car and sit in traffic things aren’t much better, in fact recent studies suggest that this could be worse for you. Walking or cycling to work (for at least part of the journey), according to new research by health economists at the University of East Anglia and the Centre for Diet and Activity Research (CEDAR). The research team studied 18 years of data on almost 18,000 18-65-year-old commuters in Britain.

In the study people who stopped driving and started walking or cycling to work benefited from improved wellbeing. In particular, active commuters felt better able to concentrate and were less under strain than if they travelled by car. This includes those who travelled by train and then walked for a part of the commute. Trains give people time to relax, read, socialise, and as there is usually an associated walk to the bus stop or railway station; it appears to cheer people up. Their commutes may have been slightly longer, but on the whole they were happier. Is it time for you to change your commute?

There has been much discussion about how mobile working is going to bring huge benefits for our wellbeing so you could encourage your company to adopt remote working at least for part of the week. The obvious solution is to join a company closer to home. This is why we created a feature where our users can search for their favourite companies by commute time on Talent Rocket. If the office is in cycling, running or walking distance then you could turn this time into a mini workout. We spend so long at our desks that this extra activity in our days adds that little extra bit of energy to our lives.

This is great, but at the end of the day, commuting is still about choice. Technology has made this journey more efficient (Citymapper) productive (Evernote) and a little more enjoyable (SpotifyPodcastsPocket), but when we are trying to live our lives to the full, for many of us this is still unavoidably wasted time.


Supplementary information: Data from the 2011 Census (England and Wales) shows that 67.1 per cent of commuters use cars or vans as their usual main commute mode compared to 17.8 per cent who use public transport, 10.9 per cent who walk and just 3.1 per cent who cycle.

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