Stopping short of saying it’s a “major” trend, extreme commuting – or at least extended commuting – is becoming an established feature of the American workplace.
About 21 percent of workers commute more than 60 minutes each way to their jobs. More than half of these drive the whole distance alone.
Extreme commuters – defined as people who spend 90 minutes or longer getting to work each way – are still rare, making up only about 3 percent of the work force. But the numbers are rising.
By coincidence, many companies today are bringing telecommuting workers back to the office, demanding more collaboration and contact with customers. U.S. workers who performed all or some of their work at home fell from 24 to 22 percent between 2015 and 2016.
With soaring prices, many commuters say they are willing to sacrifice the convenience of living near the workplace to heed the old real estate adage: “Drive until you qualify.”
Along with lower cost of living, these buyers take on the commute for a better quality of life – larger lots, low crime rates and fewer people in general.
Commuters lose time at home with family, particularly children. Ironic, because the happiness of their children is most often cited as the reason for living far from the city.
Long commutes can also mean higher maintenance costs for automobiles, an effect that can be mitigated by choosing public transportation. But in many parts of the country, living further out limits those choices as well.
Multiple studies suggest commuting is more stressful than working. The longer your commute, the less satisfied you may be with your job and life in general.
But Harvard researchers found a phenomenon called “commuter bias,” where people initially underestimate just how much they hate commuting. Nearly 84 percent of workers surveyed said they’d rather have a salary of $67,000 and a 50-minute commute than $64,000 and 20 minutes.
Research suggests that the damaging effects of commuting could be limited by reaching out to communicate with other commuters on public transportation – impractical and dangerous for drivers. A Canadian study found the happiest long-distance commuters rode to work on bicycles.
Beyond the psychological, physical and mechanical toll, people who choose long commutes sometimes fall into a real estate trap. Instead of adjusting their budget downward so they can buy the same size home they would have purchased closer in – they tend to amp up the size and amenities, leaving themselves a long commute, and no savings on housing at all.