What to consider when committing to a job that involves a long commute.

What to consider

1. How important is the job to you?

Weigh up how much you would enjoy the job, and how good a career move it is for you, against the amount of spare time you’ll be giving up.

2. Can you afford it?

This is a huge consideration - research the costs of public transport and petrol.

3. Stress

If you don’t cope well in situations beyond your control – traffic jams, train delays - would you begin to dread work every day?

A few commuting positives

  • You live where you want, for example in a family home in a commuter-belt town, rather than in a heavily-populated area closer to your job.
  • You may pay cheaper rent living outside a main city, possibly pocketing more income.
  • Commuting allows you time alone every day – plan for meetings/presentations, send emails, read, listen to the radio/music/audiobooks.
  • Train travel and cycling are environmentally-friendly.
  • Cycling has health benefits.

And a few negatives…

  • Longer hours eat into your family time/social life.
  • Expense of car and train travel.
  • Increased stress.
  • Marital inequality – one parent may become over-burdened by childcare or other domestic responsibilities, the other by work.
  • Inflexibility – being constrained by train timetables.
  • Long periods spent in a car or train can exacerbate back problems or contribute towards obesity.
  • Impact to personal hygiene – if cycling, check whether your company offers shower and changing facilities.

David travels by train from the south coast to London every day, a three-hour round trip:

My commute allows me valuable time in my own head away from work and the kids, and to catch up on TV shows I missed. I get time to read a book. It can actually be bliss! Plus I get to spend my weekends at the seaside.

Jennifer drives from Bristol to Swindon every day, a two-hour round trip:

I was initially dreading the long drive to my new job, but now I find it calming. I listen to audiobooks and the news, during winter I watch the sun rise and by the time I get home, I have left my work head behind.

Car pooling

Sharing your journey with fellow colleagues reduces costs, carbon emissions, traffic congestion and the need for parking spaces. If you find driving to and from work alone a struggle every day, ask around to find out if anyone would be interested in pooling with you. Does your company have a car sharing policy as part of its environmental impact programme?

You may find listening to Prospect's (trade union for professionals) free podcasts on 'Work/life balance' or 'Transitions in action' useful starting points to your consideration of this matter.