Designing the future


Why Remote Work Could Mean the End of Commuting

What would you do if you had an extra hour in your day outside of work? Would you read a book by your favorite author, try a new workout routine, or prep healthier meals for yourself? What if I told you this extra time was possible and it could be yours if we eliminated commuting? According to the US Census Bureau, the average American commute is 25.4 minutes. That’s almost an hour a day spent traveling to and from work. Some people might look at this and think it’s a necessary evil that is required for the job, but it's not. We need to question this belief and work towards changing it.

Commuting comes at a cost

The woes of commuting are progressively getting worse. Commuting times are steadily increasing year over year, exacerbating the problem of congestion and its impact on wasted time, money, and fuel.

As the number of commuters rises, the impact on the environment becomes even more dire. In 2011, urban congestion was responsible for dispersing 59 billion pounds of carbon dioxide into the environment. That number might make your eyes glaze over as you wonder what that size actually resembles. Is that number comparative to 10 million elephants or 100 thousand football fields? Look at it this way, according to the EPA, that’s the same as the annual energy use of 2.5 million homes.

It should come as no surprise that commuting isn’t only affecting the environment, it’s also negatively impacting people’s health. A report published in The American Journal of Preventive Medicine examined the effects of a lengthy commute on health over the course of seven years. The findings showed that driving more than 10 miles one way, to and from work, significantly increases the risk of developing high blood sugar and high cholesterol. The researchers also linked longer commutes to an increased risk in anxiety, depression, and feelings of isolation.  

These findings might disturb us, but this will not change some people's feelings that they have to commute to work. Major urban centers are hotbeds for sought after companies that we aspire to work for. Choosing to live in these cities versus commuting comes at a premium for office workers. We can either sacrifice our paychecks on skyrocketing rents to live close to work or drudge through a daily congested commute.

Between the health, environmental, and financial impacts of driving to work, the whole foundation of commuting is unsustainable. That’s where remote working comes in.

Shifting to a remote work environment

You wake up in the morning, warm up water for tea, and settle down to read through the news. You’re not worried about running to catch the bus or leaving the house before rush hour hits. In fact, rush hour is a thing of the past. You work from home now, where you can spend less time stressing about making it to work and more time on projects you care about.

This is the reality of remote work and what it would mean to no longer have to deal with daily commutes. If you’ve felt the negative effects of commuting on your life, consider the following tactics for shifting to remote work:

  1. Talk to your company. See if remote work is a possibility at your company and talk openly about your boss about the benefits it would provide your team (Hint: Increased productivity and focus).

  2. Start small. If you’re not sure how you’ll fare working remotely, start by working from home once or twice a week. As you and your manager get comfortable to the change, you can progressively begin to work from home more until you’re completely remote.

  3. Find a fully remote company. There are tons of companies who understand the benefits of remote work. Search through this list made by Rodolphe Dutel and see if any of these 200+ remote startups are hiring.

  4. Work on freelancing or a side hustle. Start a few side projects outside of work and see what they turn into. You might find that you can transform one of them into a full time gig and start working anywhere while you run your side hustle.

Are you unable to shift to remote work due to your current circumstances? Try to find ways to diversify your commute. If you’re in a city that is bike friendly, consider riding to work a few times a week. Whatever you choose to do, a shift is coming. It starts with changing the perception of remote work and advocating for workers to improve their quality of life.

What would you do with your extra hours if you didn’t have to spend time commuting?