Long commutes and the effect on the employee, company, and others

What a difference  a month makeslong commutes

I haven’t made my ritualistic three-hour daily round trip commute to Seattle and back to Poulsbo, WA in one month.  I came to realize that this commute over almost thirteen years was starting to wear me down, mentally, physically, and emotionally.  I have got to say, since I haven’t been making that trek, I am a much happier person.  My wife has noticed it.  My youngest son, who still lives at home with us has noticed it.  I never realized before that there is plenty of hardcore data to support what I thought was just an anecdotal measure of happiness.


40 minutes per commute trip, door-to-door, resulting from a 10-year commitment to buying a specific home equates to 375 8-hour days of work-life time commuting over the 10 years.

In truth, there have been a plethora of research and studies conducted on the ill effects that long commutes have on employees.

More Commute – Chronic Health Mechanisms

  • Worse sleep (25 – 30 minutes less per day)
  • Less exercise (20% less time)
  • Worse diet (5.6% less home cooking; caloric shift to fats, sugars, and fast food)

Chronic Health Consequences                

  • Weight gain acceleration
  • Hypertension
  • Obesity

More Commute – Acute Health Consequences

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Cancers

Performance Consequences

  • Reduced collaboration & decision-making
  • On-the-job, civic, and social withdrawal
  • Injuries from obesity and sleep loss

Of course, these effects are detrimental to employees.   But these human factors and issues cost companies millions of dollars a year in lost revenue, attrition, employee engagement, insurance, and medical costs, etc.  Why isn’t more being done about this?  What can be done?

What’s happening in the Puget Sound region

A lot is being done in the Puget Sound region, where I live, to lower commuters’ burdens actually, like increasing transportation options, capacity, and access, and educating commuters to use all forms of shared transportation. A lot of commute innovation actually happens here. Local companies produce traffic, transit, parking apps, even apps to predict when the next bus will arrive. While it seems like commutes only get worse, local commuter capacity has been rising, just not fast enough. Our region creates jobs, and jobs, just create commuters. Every increase in capacity, variety, and access is quickly and fully being consumed.

What else could be done?

long commutesSo what else could be done? Jim Bilbao, CEO at Turnover Intelligence, a local workforce analytics firm, suggests employers start by getting a quantitative assessment of their workforce commute burdens. Burdens are never distributed evenly across departments. Second, some employer performance, health and environmental consequences of workers’ commute-life structure are quite predictable, like a worker starting a 10-year cheeseburger-a-day or a pack-a-day cigarette habit.

Consider these statements

  • An apartment choice over 2-3 years may define a particular commute lifestyle for 1,300 trips.
  • A home choice may lock in a worker’s commute lifestyle over as many as 4,500 trips.


  • 40 minutes per commute trip, door-to-door, resulting from a 10-year commitment to buying a specific home equates to 375 8-hour days of work-life time commuting over the 10 years.

Turnover Intelligence also offers employee education on the long-term consequences of residential choices to encourage work-life proximity. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

(c) 2016, Darin Hartley and guest blogger Jim Bilbao

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