The average U.S. commute to work of 26.1 minutes each way looks like a quick trip around the block compared to the travel times posted by extreme commuters. The U.S. Census Bureau defines extreme commuters as workers who travel 90 minutes or more each way to work.
And the number of extreme commuters has gone up during the 21st century: roughly 4 million workers fit this classification in 2016, compared to only 3.1 million in 2005. That’s 1 in 36 workers with extreme commutes today.
Such an arrangement clearly isn’t for everyone. But for 2.8% of all commuters, extreme commuting is simply business as usual. Here’s a closer look at extreme commuting.
The Reasons Behind Extreme Commuting
The first question most of us would ask upon meeting an extreme commuter is “Why do you do it?” Someone spending at least 180 minutes a day on travel wouldn’t do so without justification, right?
Housing issues rest at the root for numerous extreme commuters. People who work in busy downtown areas often find it difficult to secure an affordable place to live that’s near their employer. Residing farther away offers greater choices and more “bang for the buck.”
Unsurprisingly, workplaces in New York, San Francisco, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC, see the largest share of extreme commuters.
Some extreme commuters find themselves in the situation by default. For example, their workplace might have been closer at one time but moved to a different location. Or, perhaps, they cannot find jobs nearer to their house that use their talents or pay a sufficient wage.
Personal or Family Reasons
Personal circumstances also often play a role. Some people extreme commute so that a spouse can be closer to his or her job. Others want to live in certain areas where they can enjoy nature or their kids can attend desirable schools.
Igor Mitic, co-founder of Fortunly.com, considers his daily 90-minute drive each way worth the trouble.
“I decided to move from the city to the countryside about two years ago, and since then my commuting route takes that long,” he says. “I just decided I need to take some time off from the city and spend my free time close to nature. The life on countryside simply leaves me more space to cool down, and since I moved I got less anxious. I sleep better, and I think my overall life quality became much better than it was before.”
The Challenges of Extreme Commuting
Traffic jams, late buses, unfavorable weather conditions, and other hassles that disrupt regular commuters cause even greater headaches for extreme commuters. When you’re already traveling at least three hours round trip each day, tacking on more minutes decreases already precious free time.
Extreme commuting also can be quite expensive. Think about the price of filling a gas tank so often and the wear and tear such drives put on a car. People using public transportation often must take multiple methods to reach their destination from their remote location, necessitating the purchase of bus passes, train tickets, and the like.
And the lack of time and energy caused from a draining commute can lead extreme commuters to depend regularly on costly measures such as ordering in food or hiring a maid service.
Reduced Time for Self and Family
Extreme commuting can be hard on both the individual and the family. Little time exists for self-care activities such as exercise and unwinding with a hobby. Eating dinner as a family may be relegated to only the weekend, and trying to catch a child’s soccer game or recital may be impossible.
Reduced Job Retention
Extreme commuters generally try to make the best of the situation. Some listen to music, podcasts, or audio books while driving. Others report getting work done or catching up on reading while sitting on public transportation.
Sometimes, however, extreme commuters decide they simply cannot continue the long hours. They move closer to their workplace or switch jobs. Some decide to pursue flex work.
Craig Anderson used to commute 90 minutes each way to an 8-to-5 civil engineering job “that would never finish at 5 p.m.” after he moved in with his girlfriend on the other side of the city following his landlord’s sudden decision to sell his flat.
After two months of the couple “forcing ourselves to go to the gym after work, eating around 8:30 p.m., and collapsing until the next day,” Anderson decided to quit. He’s now self-employed as the editor of ApplianceAnalysts.com.
Flexible Work Can Help with Extreme Commuting
Flexible and remote work is a positive solution to long commutes. If you work remotely just part-time, you’ll gain back 11 days each year that would have been spent commuting, according to the “State of Telecommuting in the U.S. Employee Workforce” report. If you’re an extreme commuter, that time savings is even more.
FlexJobs has interesting, flexible openings that could give you back hundreds of hours each year by ditching the long commute. Our jobs are categorized by industry, flexible work type, schedule, and professional level to help you find the perfect role.
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Tags: work-life balance
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