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Your Commute May Be Burning You Out

Researchers say the duration, mode of transportation, and destination, all factor into how much commuting a person can take before they begin to burn out and resent their jobs.

Commuting is a pain. That’s one of the many reasons why I became a freelancer. The trip to my coffee maker from my upstairs office is the hardest journey I have to make during the day. But before I started leading this lavish lifestyle, I was walking a mile to the train station, taking a packed subway into Manhattan, where I would have to walk a quarter-mile to my office. Some days I would wake up, hoping to be sick or see a snowpocalypse outside my window just so I could justify working from home or taking a day.

Researcher Annie Barreck of the University of Montreal’s School of Industrial Relations would say I was burned out, like many other commuters. She explains that there’s a connection “between commuting stress factors and the likelihood of suffering from burnout. But their importance varies according to the individual, the conditions in which their trips take place, and the place where the individual works.”

In Barreck’s recent study, she compared commuting patterns among rural and urban regions of Quebec, including car, subway, bus, bike, and so on, trying to link them with various kinds of burnout. Researchers followed 1,942 people between the ages of 17 and 69.

Barreck reported on the results:

“People commuting towards rural areas, or even suburban areas, feel less stressed out.”

Not terribly surprising, however, she did find that rural commuters who use public transit are more likely to suffer from burnout.

She explains:

“Public transit implies bus or train connections, and as rural regions are less well served, the risk of unforeseeable and uncontrollable delays is increased, causing stress that is carried over into the workplace.”

However, urban commuters are less likely to suffer from such feelings of burnout because of such frequent services. But how you choose to commute isn’t the only factor to consider; the duration can also weigh on a person’s mental health. The risk of burnout increases when a commute lasts more than 20 minutes. A person’s cynicism toward their job increases when the commute lasts more than 35 minutes.

As a way for employers to temper this progression toward burnout, Barreck suggests:

“Managing employee commuting flexibly would increase employee efficiency and moreover enable organizations to attract or retain workers. In the current context of skill shortages, employers have everything to gain from facilitating the mental health of their employees.”

Read more about the study on EurekAlert!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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