How Your Commute Affects Your Work Performance

Andy Hab
3 min readNov 22, 2021
Photo 27991242 / Commuting © Brett Critchley | Dreamstime.com

Ah, commuting — bad for work I believe?!
Well not quite — it depends…

I thought the research was consistent that commuting is our most miserable time of day…
Not really. Yes, there is a lot of research to say that commuting is not pleasurable but this can also be offset by nicer living locations which lower stress at other times.

Also there is a lot of research that measures stress and mood while commuting but not workplace performance or outcomes. This is why this research by Shayan Mirjafari et al. from Dartmouth College is interesting.

What did they measure?
They collected data using wearable technology (fitness trackers and smartphones) from 274 people over a 1-year period (pre pandemic). They also analysed data this for 30 minutes before and after commuting.

Also importantly they collected two measures in the workplace namely counterproductive work behaviour (bad behaviour) and organizational citizenship behaviour (good behaviour). These tend to lower or improve job performance respectively.

OK and what did they find?
A bunch of interesting things:

  • High performers tend to have physiological indicators that show physical fitness and stress resilience
  • Low performers have higher stress levels in the times before, during, and after commutes
  • Low performers use their phone more during their commutes

But also interestingly high performers have greater consistency on when they arrived and left work.

But what about types of commutes?
This study was conducted in the USA and so the majority of commutes were by car but they did also see that active commutes (walking or cycling) were correlated with increased productivity at work. This supports other research that has shown that shorter active commutes are generally beneficial.

So what advice do you have for commutes?
-
Plan well and be consistent
- Be active where possible or add an active element
- Use the time to mentally prepare for work (
this has been shown to improve performance also)
- Keep fit and healthy (not

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Andy Hab

Sharing fascinating, fun, and important knowledge on the brain and human behaviour - most days. And masters track athlete - still going strong!