I cringe whenever I think about commuting to work. The time spent thinking about actually getting work done. The bumper-to-bumper traffic and pollution. It is depressing to think that millions of people endure so many wasted hours each day. Wasted hours, because too many businesses -- even technology companies -- think strategic work can only be done in a maze of cubes.
Did you know that average commuter spends 105 hours each year sitting in traffic? Some have it worse than others. I live in the Bay Area, where my neighbors are logging close to an hour a day in the car. Then there are the 600,000 U.S. residents who have "megacommutes" -- one-way commutes that are at least 90 minutes or 50 miles long.
If you are a part of this daily grind, you have to wonder -- why are you doing this to yourself? Or more likely, why is it cruelly being done to you?
Commuting wears on your nerves and robs you of valuable time -- all for the sake of getting to an office and logging onto a computer. This seems like a lot of effort for something you could easily do from home.
That is the thought we had when we started building our team. We knew there was a better way, so we founded our company on the premise and promise of remote work. We wanted our employees to be able to work from anywhere and be happy doing it.
Now, instead of enduring rush hour, I spend my mornings cycling through the Woodside and Portola Valley foothills. Other team members use the time to coach sports, explore new hobbies, or prepare meals for the week.
I realize that not everyone has the option to lose their commute. However, if you have the opportunity to join a distributed team and leave your commuting life in the past, I would encourage you to explore it.
Here is what you could accomplish:
Sitting in the car feels so frustrating because it is inefficient. Podcasts and phone calls aside, you are achieving next to nothing. You can put that time to better use. A recent study found that productivity actually increased by one-third when people were able to work from home. Researchers attribute this to a few things -- a quieter environment, fewer distractions, and, you guessed it, no commute.
After joining our distributed team at Aha!, many people discovered a big perk -- they had more time to spend with their families. I know I would rather be sitting down for dinner with my family than stuck in traffic. When you lose the commute, you gain flexibility. You can finally attend your kids' soccer games. Or make your anniversary dinner on time. Whatever matters most to you, it all leads to sustainable happiness.
Commuting, especially long ones, can wreak havoc on your health. One study found that as commuting distances increased, so did blood pressure, body weight, and metabolic risks. That is a lot of damage. But what if you put that time to healthier use? Think about it -- the average travel time to work is 26 minutes, which is roughly the same amount it takes most people to run three miles.
Commuting can trap you in a cycle of boredom. It is the same drive, every single day. Is there a skill or hobby you have always wanted to master? Maybe you have put it off because you get home too late or feel too tired. Without the commute, there are no more excuses. You need roughly 20 hours to start to develop a new skill -- that is only 45 minutes a day. (About the length of that morning commute.)
Peace of mind
Your mental health is also at risk on the road. And here is a scary statistic to prove it -- nearly 80 percent of drivers expressed significant anger, aggression, or road rage behind the wheel. That is a lot of tailgating and honking. And a lot of unnecessary mental angst. When you replace that road rage with a positive mental attitude, who knows what you could achieve?
Time is our most precious and finite resource. You can not buy more of it. If you are spending it commuting, consider what it is costing you. And then think about what you could gain by casting it aside.
I love that I start my days outside on my bike instead of in my car. It leaves me feeling energized and ready to get to work -- not physically and mentally spent from an (ironically) motionless drive. You deserve to experience this too.
What would you do without a commute?