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Work Commutes: How to Make the Most of a Long Drive to Work

Updated on June 17, 2017

The work commute is a reality most of us face everyday.

While many employees benefit from telecommuting and modified work schedules, most employees still find themselves spending a significant part of their work day driving their car to the work site. Regular travel to and from work is a part of the work day required to receive that needed paycheck. It is a sobering reality when one considers the amount of time spent during such commutes over time. Consideration of this important fact can lead an employee to make important decisions about choosing a job and what the future holds for them professionally.

The View of the Morning Commute

Having a reliable car with good gas mileage will make the daily commute a smoother ride each day.
Having a reliable car with good gas mileage will make the daily commute a smoother ride each day. | Source

Confessions of a Professional Work Commuter

Speaking from experience, a long commute is a hectic part of the work routine. For some time, the drive to and from work subtracts approximately an hour and thirty minutes from my day which is, of course, time lost forever. There are the occasional traffic jams, road construction delays, and bad weather that add time to an already long day. There are also occasional calls from home for a request to pick up a particular item for a school project or some special food to complete the menu for the nightly meal. Such occurrences can seem more like the norm than an anomaly based on the old phrase, "stuff happens." An employee who chooses to make the most of a long commute to work will achieve success in their jobs despite the burden of a long drive each day.

Precious Moments

Attending a child's sporting event are memorable moments parents cherish.
Attending a child's sporting event are memorable moments parents cherish. | Source

Time Away from Four-legged Friends

A long commute to and from work will affect those loved ones who need you at home.  Pets home alone for extended periods of time should be a consideration when taking a job with a long commute.
A long commute to and from work will affect those loved ones who need you at home. Pets home alone for extended periods of time should be a consideration when taking a job with a long commute. | Source

Typical Challenges of the Driving Commute

As mentioned above, there is much to consider before accepting a job which requires a long commute to the new place of employment. Typical issues employees face are:

  • Cost for Gas and Maintenance - Employees with long commutes to work must have reliable transportation. The cost of gas and general upkeep of the car are necessities for getting to and from work throughout the week. These costs must be calculated into the household budget as they will be higher due to the longer driving distance required of the car.
  • Personal Appointments - Working in a different city or of some distance from home requires changes to how the employee attends medical appointments, runs personal errands, etc. Since the job requires more travel time to get to the work site, it is important to remember that medical appointments occuring during working hours may also require more time off from the job. Rethinking how and where appointments are scheduled is necessary. As many medical practitioners have offices at different locations, the employee can explore making the appointments at a more convenient office. Another option is to make appointments at the start or end of the workday to cut down on the time away from the office.
  • School and Athletic Events - Employees with school age kids must consider that working far from home makes attending special events at school much more challenging. While most employers strive to encourage a "family is first" philosophy, employees who work far from home will have to better plan their time off to attend those precious moments for their kids that occur during the work day. An important baseball game for the district title or annual dance recital should be scheduled as early as possible with management to assure the approved time away from the workplace.
  • Childcare - Employees with young children, in particular, must consider that they will also be farther from their child's school or daycare. Getting that dreaded call to pick up a sick child may require a designated family member or trusted friend who is closer in proximity to your child during the work day to help in these situation.
  • Commute Route - It is useful to consider what type of a drive is necessary on the route to work. For example, is much of the travel time spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic? Or, is the travel time spent primarily on an interstate or highway? Some commuters prefer the traffic with lots of stop lights versus the high speed rush of interstate driving. Making decisions about the travel route is an important consideration for a commuter.
  • Fatigue - In addition to the wear and tear on a vehicle, a long commute is exhausting to an employee who has had a rough day at work. Employees driving late at night must be aware of their ability to safely make the drive. Proper rest and exercise assists such an employee with the daily commute.

Employees who decide to take a job that requires a driving commute must consider how such a change will affect their households. With careful planning and communication with management, employees can still be successful when making the decision to accept a job with a long driving commute.

How to Make a Long Commute Work

Knowing the downfalls and challenges of a long commute will help an employee make an educated decision about accepting a job that requires such a drive. While most folks agree that a long commute is not an ideal situation for an employee, there are some things that make the commute more acceptable. Consider the following:

  • Plan ahead. Being ready for any event makes for success. The same concept applies to a daily work commute. Gas up the car on the weekend or day before the workweek begins to avoid a stop during the commute. Fighting other commuters on a Monday morning at a gas station can further aggravate an employee trying to get to work. Also,listen to the radio and watch local news to receive traffic alerts for accidents and road construction delays. Many smart phones have apps which provide alerts about issues on the interstates and highways. It will always be helpful to have an alternate route to work planned out ahead of time in the event of such unavoidable happenings.
  • Select music for the commute. Sitting in the car for a long time can be rather dull for most commuters. Listening to music can be entertaining and offer a boost after a long day. Certain music has been known to have positive effects on people who may recall memories of times passed or enjoy singing along with their favorite songs. An employee who wants to unwind after a long day can benefit from listening to music that makes them happy.
  • Play an audio book. Many commuters catch up on some of the best novels by listening to audio books. The stories can be very engaging and help pass the time spent in the car. There are also many meditative books available that can prepare one for a challenging day or help recover from a difficult work situation at the end of the day. Online services, libraries as well as some travel outlets provide audible book options for a commuter. Listening to an interesting book is a great way to refocus after a long day at work.
  • Listen to talk radio and Satellite radio. An excellent way to pass the time during a commute is to listen to a favorite radio show or satellite channel. The commute offers a block of time to catch the latest news, sporting events and favorite radio shows that keep listeners entertained. As laughter is one of the best ways to battle the stress of a long day at work, many radio stations offer comedy through their programming that will have a commuter laughing out loud during the commute. The cost of a subscription to satellite radio may be a worthwhile investment for some who will enjoy the variety of channels it offers.
  • Bring a travel mug of coffee, bottle of water or favorite beverage. While eating is not advised due to the sedentary position required for a long commute, some may enjoy having their favorite beverage. Bringing the beverage from home will avoid the need to stop during the commute and the need to spend money for a purchase. Commuters will have to be aware of the quantity they drink which may cause a necessary restroom break on the commute.
  • Run errands during lunch breaks. To avoid having to stop on the way home from work, many commuters run errands to grocery stores, banks, post office, etc., near their jobs during their lunch breaks. When possible, an experienced commuter will utilize the lunch break for such errands to keep from having to prolong the commute home with such stops.
  • Create a menu of quick and healthy meals. Since there is nothing more important than a healthy meal, planning ahead for quick, satisfying meals will alleviate the last minute decision making that goes with cooking a meal after a long commute. There are many cookbooks and online options which offer ideas for healthy meals for the working moms and dads. Shopping and/or ordering the necessary groceries ahead of the meal will make the preparation much easier for the cook after a long commute home.
  • Provide advance notice for appointments and events away from the job. All employees will have a personal need which takes them away from the workplace during working hours. A commuter will have the same challenges but sometimes need to leave earlier than others due to the distance they have to drive to an event. Working with the employer to help with scheduling and maintaining adequate staffing provides the necessary notice.
  • Get plenty of rest. Driving fatigued is a safety hazard for the driver and all others on the road with the commuter. Understanding the demands that driving places on a commuter will remind them of the importance of proper sleep. Commuters must recognize the signs of fatigue for staying alert and driving in a safe manner.

A Long Commute is Doable

Long commutes to and from a job offer opportunities to unwind after a long day at work. Whether the time in the car is spent listening to music, a best-seller or a favorite comedian, commuters learn to adapt to this time by engaging in something that refreshes and allows for a moment to refocus on family, friends and activities non work related. Proper planning for the challenges that may face the travel time will prepare the commuter for unexpected events during the drive. Understanding the importance of rest and taking care of oneself will make the commuter equipped for the long drives and help get them off to a better work day.

Are Long Commutes Worth It?

Would you accept a job which requires a commute of 45 minutes to an hour each day?

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