The hidden benefits of abandoning the commute

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From reducing CO2 emissions, to addressing the gender pay gap, here are four compelling reasons why the world is better without a long journey to work

Whether you’re squashed into a crowded train or stuck in rush-hour traffic, there’s little to love about commuting. Yet, pre-pandemic, many of us were spending literally hundreds of hours getting to and from our place of employment each year.

Now, with flexible and remote working allowing more employees than ever the option to choose where and when they work, reducing the amount of time spent commuting is no longer just a pipe dream. But, apart from improving health and wellbeing, what other compelling reasons are there for cutting out the commute?

1. Closing the gender pay gap
Could saying goodbye to commuting and embracing other options, such as local coworking spaces or working from home, close the gender pay gap? It appears that taking a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities means that many women are more likely to choose jobs in locations that are within a short 15-minute commute, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The constraint on commuting longer distances is thought by economists to be one of multiple contributing factors to the gender pay gap, as women are limited in their choice of higher-paid work. “If mothers consider jobs within a smaller locality than fathers, then employers will face less competition from other employers when hiring mothers than when hiring fathers,” say IFS researchers Robert Joyce and Agnes Norris Keiller. “This may give employers bargaining power and enable them to hold down the wages of mothers more than the wages of fathers.”

2. Reducing our carbon footprint
Not only can a shorter journey to work save money and boost wellbeing, but it can also help to reduce commuters’ carbon footprint. The average person in the US drives more than 2,000 miles to and from work, according to the 2009 National Household Travel Survey. Unsurprisingly, that has a big impact on the climate – every gallon of fuel burned creates about 9kg of CO2, so reducing the miles your vehicle travels can lead to significant emissions reductions.

Moreover, a study by Regus found that US workers could save 960 million hours per year in commuting time by 2030 if they turned to flexible working options. That is a saving of more than 100 million tonnes of CO2. UK commuters, on the other hand, could save 115 million hours, reducing their carbon footprint by 7.8 million tonnes per year by 2030.

3. More ‘me’ time
Spending less time commuting and more time engaging in activities that enrich our lives not only makes us happier, but it can improve both mental and physical health and even make us better at our jobs. For example, studies show that exercising more in our free time can not only boost our memory, but also improve concentration – not to mention reduce stress.

And, although one of the advantages of a long commute on the bus or train may have been being able to take a quick power nap, research shows that spending too much time travelling to and from work has a negative impact on sleep. A study of 21,000 workers in Sweden and a study of commuters on the Long Island Rail Road found that people with long commutes sleep less overall.

4. More satisfying relationships
Your relationship may be more likely to suffer if you have a long commute. According to at least one study, if one spouse commutes longer than 45 minutes, a couple is 40% more likely to get divorced.

Perhaps this is due to the limited time commuting leaves couples with to spend together each day. A 2001 study by Norbert Schneider, a sociology professor at the University of Mainz in Germany, found that the majority of long-distance commuters (60%) and their partners surveyed complained they often had insufficient time for spouses and children. Quality time together was reserved for the weekend or holidays only.

Find out how Regus flexible office space can help you ditch your commute