With the unemployment rate still hovering around 8 percent, many Americans have started to compromise on what they need from their job. And one of the most common compromises is the amount of time they’re willing to commute. It’s not unheard of these days for employees to drive hours back and forth every day, sometimes through heavy traffic, just to get to work. Studies have shown than 1 in 10 people live at least 2 hours away from their job. Whether you just need the steady employment, or whether you’ve moved out of the city to the suburbs and don’t want to quit, there are all kinds of reasons for a long commute time. But how long is too long? The answer is ultimately up to you, but there are many different things you need to consider if you’re thinking about taking a position far from home, or if you’re worried about the impact your current morning drive is having on your life.
1. What are you Giving Up to Commute?
You might be really passionate about your job, but that doesn’t mean you’re not surrendering important aspects of your health and well-being if you’re spending too long in the car getting there. Commuters get an average of 30 percent less sleep than people who live within 10 miles of their work, and a lack of sleep can do major damage over time. You also have less time to exercise or eat dinner with your family, which means you’re more likely to consume junk food. Commuters are more likely to be overweight than the average worker, and all that time spent in traffic is bad for your heart, too. The pollutants from cars on the freeway can restrict your blood vessels, not to mention the added stress that comes from driving. You should also calculate the cost in time and money. Think about this – a 45-minute commute to work equals an extra work day a week spent in the car. Factor in the high cost of gasoline, and you can see why commuting can take its toll.
2. Shortening Your Commute
If you’re not in a position to leave your job or relocate, just finding ways to shorten your commute can seriously reduce the health risks posed by lengthy drive times. One of the best ways to shorten your commute is by changing your shift. If your supervisor is open to the idea, changing your hours so that you leave either before or after rush hour traffic can make a huge impact on your commute time. In many cities, you can take advantage of a park and drive commuter train system, but if public transportation is too inconvenient, carpooling can also reduce your drive time. Not only will you be able to share gas costs with someone, you can also take advantage of carpool lanes. Make sure you research all possible routes to and from work, especially if you’re considering taking a job with a long commute. Back roads and toll roads can potentially be a lot faster than a crowded highway.
3. Alternatives to Commuting
You might prefer not to have a long commute, but sometimes it’s unavoidable for a variety of reasons. But it’s not always as unavoidable as you think. You should seriously consider moving closer to your job. You can save at least $1,500 a year on gas, depending on the car you drive and how much of your commute is spent in traffic. You can also ask your supervisor about telecommuting. These days, it’s much easier for employees to work from home than ever before, and even one or two days a week spent in your home office will significantly improve your quality of life. If your commute is simply draining the life out of you, the time may come where you need to look for other employment. This is especially true if you’re commuting for a higher salary – the costs involved in your long drive can make it so you’re not actually earning as much as you think you are, and a smaller salary closer to home can afford you comparable finances and much less stress.
If you’re considering taking a job with a long commute, there are several questions to ask yourself. How high is your tolerance for traffic? Does your commute time seriously take away from the rest of your day? Can you afford the gas? Some people actually enjoy being in the car and use the time to mentally prepare for the work day, but for most people, commutes over 30 minutes eventually will eventually wear you down. It’s no secret that times are hard and sometimes just having a stable job makes commuting worth it, but it’s also worth it to consider the price you might pay.
Carsharing and carpooling can save you money, here are 7 iPhone apps (via @@MotherNatureNet) that can help save money and reduce your carbon footprint when you use one of these apps to organize a carpool or book a carshare ride.
Image: Losevsky Pavel/Shutterstock
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