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How Do Americans Feel About Their Morning Commutes?

By Daniel B. Kline – May 7, 2019 at 7:36AM

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It's about what you would imagine.

Very few people enjoy commuting. It's time spent in a car, maybe in traffic, accomplishing nothing. In fact, commutes not only cost us time, but they also cost us money: The average commuter wastes 42 hours each year sitting in traffic, which costs $1,400 in gas, according to data provided by Driving-tests.org. There's a physical and mental health cost as well, with people who spend more time commuting at a greater risk for obesity and depression.

In big cities, however, the problems can be amplified. It's not just difficult to get to work -- sometimes it can be downright miserable, and nearly half (48.6%) of commuters in big cities "hate" their commutes according to a Driving-tests.org survey.

A traffic jam.

Being stuck in traffic can be miserable. Image source: Getty Images.

Who's the most miserable?

Boston may boast the reigning Super Bowl and World Series champions, but it also carries another crown -- it's the city where people are most likely to hate their commutes. More than half (56%) of Bostonians felt that way, beating San Francisco (55.4%) and Chicago (54.5%). Houston scored 50%, while New York City came in just below at 49%

"For some drivers, dread for the commute isn't as much about the time spent sitting in traffic -- it's about the daily activities missed out on instead," according to the Driving-tests.org report. "Seventy percent of women and 68% of men in busy cities said they sacrificed their free time as a result of having to drive back and forth from work."

People hate their commutes enough that they would be willing to make sacrifices if they could eliminate having to drive to work. Almost 35% were willing to give up social media for a year, while 18.4% would give up all television (including streaming services).

Of course, the severity of the sacrifice varies based on a person's existing habits. The 21.6% who were willing to be single for a year in exchange for not having to commute would only be making a major sacrifice if they're currently in relationships.

What can you do?

Allowing workers the flexibility to work from home can benefit both a company and its employees. A smart employer thinks about the needs of its workers, and offer flexibility when possible. Even letting people work from home a day or two a week can make a major difference in their happiness level.

For employees, it's important to ask, or even to seek out another job that allows remote work. If you can make that happen, it's then important to make sure you do the best job possible -- in part for you, and in part for anyone else who comes after you.

In some cases it's not possible for a company to allow remote work. In those cases, the employer should consider other measures that make commutes easier. Allowing flexible hours can give workers the ability to come in early or late in order to avoid rush hour.

That doesn't eliminate the commute, but it can lessen the pain. This is an area where employers and employees should consider every option and see what provides the greatest benefit.

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