Commuter Mental Health

Have you ever been stuck in traffic? Crammed yourself onto a train that already looked like it was over capacity? Arrived half an hour late to work despite leaving half an hour early? Unfortunately, these are all issues that many of us can relate to.

It would be ideal if we could all bike, or walk to work and be there within half an hour, but this is not the reality. An hour-long (or more) commute to work is not uncommon in many cities. We commute for various reasons: changing work locations, financial reasons, residential location preferences, etc. Many commuters debate the idea of moving closer to work, but for a variety of factors do not act on this idea, and as a result commuting becomes a necessary part of our daily lives.

There is no doubt that there is a connection between commuting and increased stress. Unsurprisingly, this stress affects us at work. Not only do long commutes lead to a poor sense of well-being (Stutzer & Frey, 2008) and have a negative impact on our health (Hoehner, Barlow, Allen, & Schootman, 2012) research has found that they also reduce productivity in the workplace (Ross & Zenou, 2008). Some employers have even gone to such lengths as to not hire outside a geographical area that would require a reasonable commute (Zenou, 2002) in efforts to reduce workplace stress. Studies have found that the longer your commute is, the more stress you will experience as a result of it (Evans & Wener, 2006).

Although we cannot always reduce our commute time, there are things we can do to make commuting a little less stressful:

For individuals who are taking the train/bus:

  • Listen to music of your choice or an audiobook
  • Read a book/magazine, or material that you need to read for work
  • Meditate/tune out: take this time to unplug and put away your smart phone

For those who are driving:

  • Listen to music or an audiobook of your choice
  • Leave early if that helps you beat the rush
  • Call family/friends on hands-free devices
  • Carpool and spend time with others in the car

For employers of employees who commute:

  • Flexible work hours: permit employees to start and end work 15-30 minutes earlier OR later: running into traffic can be lessened by leaving before it starts or after the peak period
  • Be understanding: be cognizant of any major transit delays-these are not foreseeable or under anyone’s control
  • If possible, allow employees to work from home during major events happening in your city that may contribute to congestion on the roads

What’s your favourite thing to do during your commute? How do you make commuting less stressful for your employees? Let us know in the comments!


Evans, G. W. & Wener, R. E. (2006). Rail commuting duration and passenger stress. Health Psychology, 25(3), 408-412. doi: 10.1037/0278-6133.25.3.408

Hoehner, C. M., Barlow, C. E., Allen, P., & Schootman, M. (2012). Commuting distance, cardiorespiratory fitness, and metabolic risk. American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 42(6), 571-578. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.02.020

Ross, S. L., & Zenou, Y. (2008). Are shirking and leisure substitutable? An empirical test of efficiency wages based on urban economic theory. Regional Science And Urban Economics, 38(5), 498-517. doi:10.1016/J.Regsciurbeco.2008.05.009

Stutzer, A., & Frey, B. S. (2008). Stress that doesn’t pay: The commuting paradox. The Scandinavian Journal of Economics, 110(2), 339-366. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9442.2008.00542.x

Zenou, Y. (2002). How do firms redline workers? Journal Of Urban Economics, 52(3), 391-408. doi:10.1016/S0094-1190(02)00526-0