According to the Census, there were a little over 139 million workers commuting in 2014. At an average of 26 minutes each way to work, five days a week, 50 weeks a year, that works out to something like a total of 1.8 trillion minutes Americans spent commuting in 2014. Or, if you prefer, call it 29.6 billion hours, 1.2 billion days, or a collective 3.4 million years. With that amount of time, we could have built nearly 300 Wikipedias, or built the Great Pyramid of Giza 26 times — all in 2014 alone.Instead, we spent those hours sitting in cars and waiting for the bus. Of course, not all of us have 26-minute commutes. Roughly a quarter of American commutes are less than 15 minutes one way. On the other hand, nearly 17 percent of us have commutes that are 45 minutes or longer. And the prevalence of these long commutes — and of really, really long commutes — is growing.
With today’s 21st century information and communications technology, it no longer makes sense for knowledge workers to waste so much time traveling to and from centralized commute-in offices as they did in previous century’s Industrial Age. This article does a great job assigning a personal time cost to the commute.
Organizations have long regarded commuting expense as a cost borne by the employee and not the organization. But there is a significant organizational cost in the adverse impact on employee health and wellness given time spent commuting is time taken away from health promoting behaviors such as exercise, adequate sleep and meals prepared at home rather than take out food. Over time, that can manifest in higher employee health benefit costs, a top cost concern among most employer organizations.
I recently completed a white paper on an alternative workplace wellness concept that utilizes ICT to enable knowledge workers to work in their home communities where they have greater access to these health promoting activities rather than commuting out each workday. I am seeking sponsors for the paper; interested parties can contact me by clicking on the mail button at the top right hand of the site.