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5 months ago by Helen Doughty

Why you may be missing your daily commute

Commute

Pre-coronavirus, chances are you saw your daily commute as nothing but a frustration.

Whether it be sitting in traffic, squeezed on a tube train into Central London or cycling along busy roads, weaving around pedestrians and sleep-deprived drivers, the 58:54 minutes of the average daily commute (according to the TUC) was nothing more than a frustration to most.

However, since lockdown has changed the way that the nation works, so too has it effectively done away with the commute for the vast majority who are currently based at home for the foreseeable. Whereas the average 8.8 miles distance from home to work was once the norm, the distance is now measured between your bed and your computer – and sometimes, admittedly, the two intertwine a little more than most people may state.

So how has this affected the workforce? You may imagine that cutting commute times to essentially zero has had a purely positive effect on the workforce. Less time travelling means more time at home, more personal time and more time with the ones you love, and whilst wellbeing has risen due to this, a report from the BBC found that many are discovering just how essential their commute was for their own health.

For example, one of the key notable discoveries for workers is that the period between being at home and being in the office acted as a buffer between work and home life. This was a chance to either prepare mentally for the day, or to clear your head after it. Many workers are now finding that without this clear definition between work and home life, the lines between the two are blurring.

Meg Loughney, Owner of a business management consultancy told the BBC that her two-hour round trip from her residence to her office seemed like an inconvenience before lockdown, but that now she’s discovered that she’s unable to stop working outside of office hours without this routine.

“It’s pitifully sad to say that, but it’s true,” she said. “Working from home – for those of us fortunate enough to be still working – has brought an added layer of stress. [The] need to always be on, to always be working. You’re working through dinner; you’re working after dinner; you’re working after you put your kids down to bed. There is no separation, and the commute provided that mental separation.”

“You can’t disentangle home and work anymore, and that’s not always easy,” added Jon Jachimowicz, an Assistant Professor in the Organisational Behaviour Unit at Harvard Business School, and the author of a study on the benefits of commuting and what he calls the ‘psychological boundaries between home and work’.  

Jachimowicz stated that this isn’t just about physical space, it’s about the identity that you bring with you into the office – which defines your mindset. “It’s not as easy as switching from one role to the next,” he said. “When you go into work and you’re still in your home role, you often have conflict between the home-related identities and your work-related identities. When this happens the demands in one domain may deplete mental resources (such as time, energy and mood) and reduce accomplishments in the other.”