Highway to Hell: How Important is the Length of Your Commute?

Woman appearing to be in traffic frustrated.

Commutes are a hot topic once you enter the workforce full-time. Seriously – people love to talk about their commute. While there are stats galore about the average commute, the healthy commute, the best way to commute, and so on, it’s all subjective. But, it is also an important factor to consider when looking for a new job.

I’ve been told the maximum commute while maintaining happiness is 30 minutes, yet I drive at least 55 minutes each way to and from work. I’m happy to report that I’ve maintained my happiness though. I’ll take 55 minutes in my own car over 45 minutes on the NYC subway any day. I have a friend who prefers it the opposite. So, with all this variation in personal preference, can we trust the stats? Should you turn down your dream job because it’s 15 minutes further than you’d like? According to some studies, you should.

This article cites a study that asked subjects to choose between a higher paying job with a 50-minute commute and a lower paying job with a 20-minute commute. 85% chose the higher paying job. However, the same article states that adding 20 minutes to your commute comes with the same dissatisfaction as a 19% pay cut.

Then, there are super-commuters – people who travel four hours a day, or fly cross-country to work every week. One example is a man, Ian, who leaves Minneapolis every Monday and flies to NYC to work for the week. He flies back home every Friday, to get some time with his family. While this example is extreme, it goes to show that a long commute doesn’t necessarily equate to unhappiness, especially if it’s your dream job. 

To help you navigate all of this scary commute confusion, LinkedIn has added a feature that will let you know how long your commute to certain companies will be. This could help you weed out potential employers if you’re a strong believer in the 30-minute commute stat. Or, it could help you decide if that offer is really worth it. While tools like this can help you nail down some logistics, the reality is that the commute you can handle is really up to you.

So, don’t let stats or super-commuters scare you one way or the other. Just like salary, insurance, and PTO are things you consider when accepting an offer, commute should be too. Think about what 30, 40, 50 minutes means for your morning routine or your nightly gym classes. In the end, the commute is what you make it, and I for one, make it my evening karaoke time.

One comment

  1. The attitude of preferring to drive solo is PART of the reason it takes so long! I either ride my bike or take a commuter train/bus to get to work. Both take more than an hour. If I drove and left really early it would take 20 minutes. If I left at a more normal time it could take 45 – 60 minutes but part of the point is the general refusal for people and companies to carpool or take alternate options at least some days.
    Is it really necessary for everyone to drive their large suvs solo and clog the freeway???
    It’s not worth it to me yet most companies that I’ve worked for don’t offer carpool assistance or incentives or allow remote work, which I was able to do for 5 years and is the best option

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