Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on FlexJobs.com.
According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, commuting times have steadily increased over the last several decades.
With the average commuter traveling almost 30 minutes one-way to work, that math adds up to nearly 10 days annually invested in commuting to work.
Those numbers get even higher when you consider professionals with extreme commutes. The U.S. Census Bureau defines extreme commuters as those who travel 90 minutes or more each way to work.
If you’ve never been in a position that required a commute for that length of time, it’s hard to wrap your head around the idea of spending three hours or more in your car every day.
But according to the most recent data, that’s the reality for over 4.5 million commuters in the United States.
Intrigued? Dismayed? We’ve gathered some interesting extreme commuting facts for you to ponder.
Factors Behind Extreme Commuting
The first question most of us would ask upon meeting an extreme commuter is, “Why do you do it?” No one would choose to spend over 180 minutes commuting each workday on a whim, right?
Consider some reasons behind extreme commuting.
1. Clogged City Streets
One of the most interesting stats about extreme commuters is that more than half live within a 30-mile radius of their workplace.
That’s one of the significant factors that earned New York City a second-place tie with Bangkok, Thailand, for the world’s longest average commute — a distinction that isn’t necessarily an honor.
Traffic and lack of public transportation are often to blame for extreme commutes. Along with the daily hustle and bustle, extreme commuters have to deal with traffic jams, late buses, unfavorable weather, and other hassles.
All of those factors add up to more hours lost for extreme commuters. Traveling three hours round-trip daily? Those extra minutes create more stress and claim more potential free time.
2. Searching for Affordable Housing
Being able to afford housing is another cause of extreme commutes. People working in busy downtown areas often find it challenging to secure an affordable place to live near their employer.
Research shows that even an additional 15 minutes each way can decrease housing rates. And moving to areas over 90 minutes away can cut your housing bill in half in some metro areas.
In some larger cities, the desire to get out of the city means driving an even greater distance to find affordable housing options.
In Phoenix and Houston, for example, that same research points to suburbs that are substantially more expensive than the downtown areas.
So, in some cases, if you want to get out of the city, you’ll have to drive further to get away from steep housing rates.
3. Accommodating Personal Circumstances
Personal circumstances can also play a role in extreme commuting for those living far outside of a city center. For some, the ability to get out of the city is worth the effort and planning required for an extreme commute.
That’s the story of Blaine Bassett, a resident of Lake Tahoe, on the California-Nevada border, who recently shared his story with BBC.
He considers his four-hour commute to his San Francisco office a few times each month to be worth the hassle so that he can spend the rest of his days walking in redwood forests or along the lake.
With bigger yards, less traffic, and more affordable housing, remote living areas offer an appeal many extreme commuters can’t resist.
Costs of Extreme Commuting
Several factors come into play when considering the impacts of extreme commuting on professionals.
From financial to health impacts, the bottom line is often more costly than you imagine.
4. Increased Expenses
The bills from extreme commuting can add up quickly. For those using their own car, the price of filling and refilling their gas tank and the wear and tear on their vehicles can be substantial.
While commuters who rely on public transportation must often take multiple modes of transportation to reach their destination from their remote location, necessitating the purchase of bus passes, train tickets, and the like.
In cities such as New York City and Los Angeles, the average commuter spends over $10,000 annually, according to a recent report by Bankrate.
The costs are even more staggering for extreme commuters, whose average commute is more than double that of the average commuter.
5. Negative Impact on Well-Being
Extreme commutes compromise work-life balance, which can be difficult for both commuters and their loved ones.
Less time exists for self-care, such as regular movement and mindfulness activities. Quality time as a family is almost a lost cause during the week, and everything has to get packed into weekends.
Long commutes are also shown to increase the risk of obesity and heart disease, as commuters spend more time sitting in traffic than being physically active.
6. Decreased Longevity in the Workplace
It turns out that it’s not just your car that can feel the wear and tear of a long commute.
In fact, studies show that adding even 20 minutes to your commute can “have the same effect on your job satisfaction as a 19% pay cut.” Imagine the impact of an extra hour.
Flexible Work Solutions to Commuting
So, what should you do if you’re in a position where extreme commuting is your only option? Consider flexible work.
The growth of flexible work options has created many opportunities to pursue a thriving career without sacrificing a significant chunk of money or personal time.
1. Remote Work
Your best commuting solution might be to ditch the commute entirely.
Technology is making remote work accessible for industries and rural areas that hadn’t considered it even a decade ago. With remote work, you can find jobs in every state, in nearly every industry.
An interesting study by Hubble, the hybrid workspace platform, highlights that remote job satisfaction is often proportional to commute length.
As commutes grow, so does the enjoyment of working out of a home office. Getting those hours back in the day is a significant factor in overall quality of life, financial freedom, and job satisfaction.
And if you enjoy working in an office sometimes, you could consider a hybrid remote job.
In a hybrid role, you can work from home a few days a week and in the office on the other days. In that case, you could cut your overall weekly commute time by 50% or more.
2. Flexible Schedules
If your company doesn’t support remote work, or if you don’t prefer remote work, consider how a flexible schedule could positively impact your commute.
For example, how much time could you shave off your weekly commute if you weren’t stuck in rush hour? Or, could you travel during off-peak times and occasionally work in the evenings or on weekends?
3. Compressed Workweeks
Many workplaces are exploring the options offered by a compressed workweek. When working longer shifts fewer days per week, you’ll spend less time wrestling with traffic or finding a place to sit on the metro.
Those longer hours might be intimidating at first glance, but if you’re moving outside of traditional commuting hours or getting an extra day off, they might be well worth the trade-off.