The popular wisdom is that commuting makes workers unhappy and unhealthy — even unproductive. But knowing that a shorter commute would make your working life better isn’t really helpful if you don’t have the option to work closer to home. So how can you make the best of a bad situation?
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1. Get some work done.
When is multitasking not the productivity killer it usually is? When you’re commuting. In fact, research from the University of the West of England shows that working or studying during your commute can make it feel more worthwhile — not to mention, get you a head start on your workday.
2. Do something for yourself.
Want to learn a language, catch up on your Netflix, or find time to read (or at least, listen to books on tape)? Your commute is a great time to do it. (Just skip the movie-watching if you’re driving a car, please.)
There’s a reason a busy colleague of mine once referred to her commute as “my ‘me’ time.” For working parents, especially, commuting offers a rare chance to do spend time on themselves. Sure, they’re doing it while sitting practically in other commuters’ lap, but beggers can’t be choosers.
“Simply adding ten minutes of walking time to your commute, the study concludes, is associated with a boost in well-being,” writes Sam Sturgis at City Lab. “Importantly, the scientific definition of ‘well-being’ is influenced by work-related traits like problem solving and completing tasks. Therefore, the researchers believe improved well-being also correlates to a more productive worker. The psychological benefits of an active commute appear so significant that driving should be a last resort. Even if you can drive to work in 10 minutes, the study suggests, an hour-long walk may be better for your well-being.”
4. Plan ahead.
There’s an app for almost anything you could need that’s related to your commute, from the weather to the traffic report to the train schedule. Use technology to get ahead of minor snafus that would send your blood pressure rising. Knowledge is the power not to lose your mind in front of a bunch of strangers on the train platform.
5. Investigate your options.
Even the hairiest commute is easier to take if you don’t have to do it five days a week. Ask the boss if it’s possible for you to work at home a day a week. If that’s out of the question, you can also investigate the possibility of shifting your schedule around so that you’re not traveling during the worst of rush hour. It’ll save you time and frustration, and make you better able to do your job once you sit down at your desk.
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