Is Commuting to Work Bad for your Health?

commutes can be stressful
Many employees are returning back to the office. But, are commutes bad for your health? Learn how to make your commute less stressful!

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Over the past couple of years, employees have been commuting less and remote working more. Now, some companies are hoping to have employees return to the office. Yet, research shows that commuting can have negative impacts on well-being. What should you watch out for if you have to return to the office? Recent research provides some useful guidance. Read for more tips below!

What types of commutes are there?

First, we should mention that all commutes are not the same. Some people commute by car, train, or bus. Others commute by bicycle or by walking. While decreasing the number of vehicles on the road is good for sustainability, each form of commute does have pros and cons for employees. We are focused on the downsides of commutes in this article, so you can make your commute less stressful, if you return to the office.

In all of these instances, you can encounter commutes that are more or less hectic. Hectic commutes are those that are more crowded or that have more traffic. They might also be those that are less predictable or that subject you to stressful situations (e.g., danger or uncleanliness). Whether or not a commute is hectic can determine whether or not it is stressful. For example, a commute by car with lots of traffic might be hectic. Commuting by train might also be hectic, if schedules shift frequently. Even commuting by bike or walking can be stressful, if you are exposed to dangerous conditions. So, it’s less about the mode of transportation and more about the experience!

Not all commutes are easy riding. Do you have a stressful commute?
Not all commutes are easy riding. Do you have a stressful commute?

What happens when commutes are hectic?

When commutes are hectic, they can cause problems for you at work. Recent research shows that having a more hectic commute can make it less likely that you’ll get into a “flow” at work. Flow occurs when you are more motivated by and absorbed in your work. It usually also means you enjoy your work. When you are out of flow, your engagement and performance can decrease. This means that your commute can actually make you less enthusiastic and underperforming on the job.

So, it’s important that you enter your workday fresh, instead of depleted by your commute. When you have more energy at the start of the workday, you’re more likely to get into a flow. Then, you’re more likely to perform at your best! For that reason, it’s important to try to ensure that your journey to work is as stress-free as possible.

commutes can knock you out of flow
Finding your flow is important! Don’t let your journey to work get in your way.

What can you do about it?

You might not have any choice about whether or not you have to commute to work. We have talked about the benefits of remote work before. Yet, there are some things that you can do to try to help decrease how hectic your commute is. First, it’s important to explicitly consider the aspects of your commute that make it stressful or not. If you’re deciding between whether to take the train or bike, for example, you might review the features of each. Which one is less dangerous? Is one more predictable than the other? Are you more or less likely to get delayed on either? These are important questions to ask as you’re planning your return to work. Picking a commute with less stressful features can help.

Second, if you can’t select your commute mode, you can do some things on the job to improve the likelihood that you’ll still find your flow. Research also shows that having a job with less daily frustrations can help. Are you able to delegate or decrease work frustrations somehow? Try talking to your manager about tasks, processes, or people who are stressful. Also, jobs that make you feel competent, autonomous, and part of a team can also help. If you are lacking recognition, flexibility in how you do your work, or social support, you can flag that up as well. And, of course, if you’re a manager, make sure to remove hassles and fulfill these basic needs for your employees as you return to work!

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