Adding Extra Commute Time Could be Hazardous to Your Career

John Krautzel
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Extra commute time can affect your job satisfaction and your career, according to a 2017 study conducted by the University of the West in England. Every minute added to your commute can increase strain and mental health maladies while reducing your professional and personal satisfaction. Fortunately, there are things you can do about this issue to prevent problems.


The study surveyed 26,000 people over the span of five years. The average round-trip commute in England is 60 minutes, with one in seven people spending as much as two hours in a commute. In the United States, the average round-trip commute is 50 minutes. An additional 20 minutes of extra commute time per day has the same effect as a decrease in your income of 19 percent, which means the mental funk that your commute puts you in has a negative impact on your earnings due to less engagement at your job and perhaps not motivating yourself to seek better job opportunities.

Commute Versus Pay

The study bears out whether an increase in pay is worth extra commute time. Your pay increase may jump 10 percent, but you might actually lose money due to your long commute that leads to anxiety, stress and mental strain. Health care costs could rise, and the strain may affect your personal and professional relationships.

Factoring commute time into your workday may lessen your hourly pay and increase your expenses. For example, you make $20 per hour working a 9-to-5 shift. Your commute time adds to time away from home and it's due to your work. Suppose you drive one hour to and from the office. Your $20 hourly rate turns into $16 per hour because your workday is 10 hours rather than eight.

When you drive, you spend money on gas, which also lowers your take-home pay. Your car insurance rates may also increase when you have a longer commute and you spend more time driving. Long commutes can add stress to your mind, but also lessen your take-home pay, depending on how you commute.

A study conducted in early 2017 by Harvard Business Review shows that people are willing to take higher pay with a longer commute. Up to 84 percent of participants said they would rather have a job that pays $67,000 per year with 50-minute commute rather than $64,000 per year and a 20-minute commute. This led Harvard researchers to coin the term "commuter's bias," a phenomenon that means commuters are willing to endure extra commute time to earn more money.

Solutions to Extra Commute Time

Survey respondents who walked or biked to work did not show the same dissatisfaction compared to those who drove or took public transportation. Active commuters seem to turn their commutes into enjoyable experiences. If you cannot change your commute, find an enjoyable activity to do during your commute, such as listening to an audiobook, playing your favorite music or chatting with a fellow commuter.

Longer-term solutions include moving closer to your job or changing jobs. There are thousands of telecommuting options that let you spend more time at home.

Extra commute time doesn't have to dampen your career. Sometimes, a change of perspective with a new job, new responsibilities, or a new way to commute can refresh your mind.

Photo courtesy of Alper Çugun at


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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Katharina Rochon thanks for your comment. So very true. Sometimes the money is just not worth it.


    It's time to find a job closer to home and more appealing. It's not always about the money.

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