“Location, Location, Location.” The old adage is as true for workers as it is for real estate agents. The location of an employer—and length of the commute to that employer from your home—is one of the top factors for people considering whether or not to take a job. And for good reason.
The average commute in America is nearly 26 minutes each way (about 52 minutes a day, and over 200 hours a year). The vast majority of Americans drive to work and commute by themselves—to the detriment of their health, relationships, and even their own sanity.
Fortunately, all this is changing. Younger workers are pushing for alternative commute options, and the rising trend in telecommuting and remote work is reducing, and even eliminating, the need to regularly commute for many in the modern workforce.
Although just getting to work in the past meant suffering through long drives and crowded public transportation, the future of commuting is much more promising. Just don’t hold your breath for a seat on Elon Musk’s Hyperloop any time soon…
How We Commute Now
Americans love their cars, so it’s no surprise we rely on them as our primary way to get to and from work. According to the 2013 Census Data (released in August of 2015), just over 76% of workers commute by car, alone, while 9.4% carpool and 5.2% take public transportation.
As the Census Bureau goes on to note, carpooling has decreased steadily since 1980. Meanwhile, the length of the drive has increased during that time. This is not a good thing. Long, sedentary commutes are associated with higher blood sugar levels, increased anxiety, greater risk of depression, higher blood pressure, back pain, decreased fitness, and more.
The longer the commute, the greater the health risk, but those commuting 45 minutes or more each way also get a bonus—a 40% increased chance of breaking up with their significant others. That’s just one more thing to keep in mind when applying for your next job.
Young Workers are Changing the Commute
While the lives of the youth in American Graffiti revolved around their cars, George Lucas would likely focus on glowing cell phones if he shot a similar film today. The focal point of the young has changed from four wheels and an engine to reliable WiFi and a small screen.
Travel by automobile has fallen among young workers according to the Census data. In fact, Millennials are turning away from cars in general. They drive less frequently in their personal lives than older generations, and more often walk and bike.
According to research cited in The Washington Post, they use public transit twice as often as older generations. They take these habits with them into their professional lives: the numbers of workers commuting by bike has nearly doubled since 2000. This is particularly true in the urban areas young workers favor: 18% of DC residents, for example, bike or walk to work.
Why Commute at All?
If current trends continue, commuting methods may become a moot point (or at least a less frequent headache). The technology that has digitized our modern office has also allowed employees to complete work remotely more effectively than ever before. Telework has increased by over 100% in the last decade alone. As many as 34 million U.S. employees work from home occasionally. It is estimated that up to half of U.S. workers could potentially work remotely every now and then with little to no effect on productivity.
This not only alleviates the strain of a daily commute, but benefits workers and employers financially. Employees who spend over half their time telecommuting save employers an estimated $11,000 annually per employee, and save themselves $2,000-$7,000 at the same time.
Commuting in the Future
While we may not be getting to work by Hyperloop any time soon (Sorry, Elon Musk), commuting will be a much different experience in the future. Americans overwhelmingly commute by car now, but younger workers are choosing to use public transportation, bikes, and their own two feet to get to work instead.
Meanwhile, advances in technology are making telecommuting a viable option for an increasing number of workers with each passing year. Commuting in the future might not involve jetpacks, but it will be radically different from the highway-heavy bump-and-grind of yesterday. Commuting will involve less cars, more public transportation, and could mercifully happen less frequently. As any of today’s super-commuters can tell you, these are all very good things.