Americans spend an average of 52.2 minutes commuting to their workplace every day. Have you ever wondered how many years of your entire working life you will lose to commuting? Read on and discover the astonishing numbers on this reality (and what you can do about it).
Longer Commutes Are an Increasing Trend
Approximately 86% of workers in America drive to work. At least 3 out of 4 workers are alone in their car as they drive. These statistics alone show you that traffic congestion will keep getting worse since the population is growing each year and more people are joining the workforce (and driving to their places of work).
Just think back to the time you tried to rent an apartment or buy a home close to your workplace. Weren’t you shocked by the cost of accommodation in big cities? Many people opt to stay further away from their places of work simply because they cannot afford the high rents or expensive homes close to metropolitan centers.
That decision to stay further away from cities has given birth to a large group of workers who spend more than 90 minutes (one way) commuting to work.
The Massive Cost of Commutes
A 2014 study by a team of Canadian researchers discovered that reducing your commute by just one hour each day could be equivalent to earning $40,000 more every year!
Commuting costs you at least 19 gallons of fuel each year when you are stuck in traffic jams. You are more likely to develop high blood pressure if you spend much time commuting since your emotions will be on edge all the time while you are stuck in traffic.
That prolonged physical inactivity is also bad for your heart and overall health. And your relationships? They are likely to suffer since you will be too tired and emotionally drained to have any meaningful interactions with your family, friends and other members of your community. All those costs add up and reduce the overall quality of your life.
These effects are worse for those on longer commutes. For example, people who commute for more than 90 minutes to work and another 90 minutes from work each day will spend about 31.3 days each year in traffic. Multiply that by the 40 years they will spend working before they retire and the numbers get terrifying.
Those who spend 60 minutes to and another 60 minutes from work will be in traffic for nearly 21 days in total each year. Those are many days that you could have devoted to the things that matter to you, such as putting in more hours in your work or spending more time with family.
What Can You Do About It?
Telecommute: You can save a lot of time if you take conscious steps to find an employer who allows you to work from home as often as you can. Of course, this option is only available to people whose nature of work can be done remotely, such as programmers/coders, call center employees, and those in consulting businesses. Hard luck if you’re a surgeon!
Switch Cities: Not all cities are created equal in terms of how bad commutes are. Do your homework and move to a city with shorter commutes. This is particularly easier if you are just starting out in your career and are not yet tied down by family and other commitments. People who need a new start, such as those who have just gone through a divorce, can also consider moving to a city where the commute to work will be shorter. Remember, just an hour of commuting saved each day might equate to earning an extra $40,000 a year.
Use Public Transit: You can also consider switching to public transport as you commute to work. How will this help you? Sitting on a bus or a train allows you to do some work (responding to emails or reading through reports, for example). You can also take a nap during the trip (as long as you don’t overdo it and miss your stop!). Another way to use that travel time is to plan or brainstorm ideas for your meetings for the day.
Get into Carpooling: In some areas, the public transit system is so bad that commuters would rather drive themselves. In such a case, you can create a carpool team with your neighbors so that you take turns using your cars to commute to work. This will reduce the wear and tear on each of your cars while reducing the cost of gas. The trips will also be more enjoyable since you will have some people to chat with as you commute.
Make Drive Time Productive: You can also make the time when you are commuting alone in your car productive. How? Listen to an audiobook or podcast as you are stuck in traffic. The amount of information that you will soak up in this way can transform your life.
Negotiate Wisely When Accepting Job Offers: It is wise for you to think about the direct and indirect costs of commuting (the cost of gas, for example) when you are negotiating your salary and other benefits before you accept a job offer. Of course, your demands should not differ widely from industry averages for that position you are accepting. Instead, ask for other non-monetary concessions, such as flex time, so that you reduce the impact of commuting on your life.
The statistics above on how much time people spend each day commuting are only averages. For example, the time you spend commuting can double or even triple in case it rains or snows.
The purpose of this article is to open your mind to the bigger picture of how much time you are likely to lose as you commute to work for your entire working life of approximately 40 years (most people start working at about 18 or 20 years of age and retire when they are 60+). Don’t use this information as an excuse to get into road rage mode. Instead, think of creative ways to cut down that commute, or make use of the commute to better yourself in any way possible.
Over to you. How long do you spend commuting each day? What measures have you taken to reduce the direct and indirect costs of commuting?