How To Tell if a New Commute to Work Is Too Long (With Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

The commute is an important factor when trying to decide whether to accept a job offer. There are many aspects to weigh up, such as the cost of the travel and how the commute impacts on your time with family. For instance, if you are going to end up commuting two hours to work, that's two extra hours you are out each day, but depending on your mode of transport, you might be able to get work done on the commute that you would otherwise end up doing at home.

Understanding these factors and how to prioritise them can help you decide whether a new role is worth a particular commute. In this article, we explain how to tell if your commute is too long and list some things you can do while commuting to work to make better use of your time.

Related: A Complete Guide To Starting a New Job Successfully

How to determine if a commute to work is too long

Here are some things you can do to assess if a commute to work is too long:

1. Check the company's location

To determine the length of a commute, you need to know exactly where you will be based. If the company you are interviewing with has offices in multiple locations, make sure you know which office you would be travelling to. Check how far the office is from your home and the modes of transport available to plan your commute accurately. It's important to know this before you accept the offer because it's a long-term commitment that requires you to travel the same route multiple times per week.

2. Check the traffic

After determining the location of the building you would be working in, and studying your potential commute, you can check if it's likely that you will encounter traffic while travelling to work. To find traffic information specific to your commute, you can use a standard navigation app, where you set your departure time and destination. The app uses historical user and transportation data to determine traffic for each time of the day. If you're likely to encounter delays on your commute, the app can show you which roads or stations to avoid.

3. Test out the commute

Testing out the commute you've researched is a great way to understand what it will be like in practice. This step is especially important because, in reality, you may encounter more traffic or unexpected road closures, which the online journey planner didn't account for. Consider taking the trip back and forth to test how long the commute really is. You might also make useful discoveries that could make your commute shorter. For example, you may discover that it's quicker to change trains or buses rather than choosing a direct connection.

4. Look for alternative routes

A commute with more than one possible route might reduce the time you spend commuting overall. For instance, if your preferred commute involves driving, it could be helpful if there is an alternative route that won't take too much longer in case of road closures. It can also be practical to have the option to travel by public transport in case you are not able to take your car for any reason.

Having a back-up travel plan available could reduce the stress involved in commuting and help ensure you arrive on time for important meetings and training sessions at work. Although you wouldn't be using it every day, having a manageable alternative route to take when needed could have a real impact on your overall commuting time.

5. Calculate commuting expenses

Commuting expenses are everything it costs you to get to and from work. Create a list of regular expenses related to the commute, such as the cost of petrol, fares, tolls or parking. If you decide to drive or cycle to work, you also need to factor in long-term costs. The long-term costs involved in travelling by car can really add up, and include the cost of oil changes, new tyres or any other vehicle repairs, as well as the impact of the mileage on the car's value.

Once you've got the list, add up these costs to calculate your weekly, monthly and annual commuting expenses. You can then compare different travel options and look for ways you might be able to make savings, such as investing in a season ticket if travelling by National Rail.

6. Review employment terms

Reviewing employment terms can show you if you'd have the possibility of working from home part of the week, reducing the amount of time and money you would be spending commuting. It may also be helpful to talk to the recruiter to understand the employer's attitude to working from home and any company initiatives aimed at making the commute to the workplace easier for their employees.

Remember to ask yourself how you feel about the possibility of working from home, in addition to the impact it has on your commute. If you are considering a role with a long commute but the option to work from home, you need to know if you would be happy taking that option in reality.

Related: Everything You Should Know About Working From Home

7. Analyse the personal cost

A long commute to work can impact your work-life balance. Here are some important factors to consider:

Your morning routine

The way you start your day can set the tone for the rest of your day. Knowing how much time you need to shower, eat breakfast and take care of personal commitments before leaving for work can help you determine if a commute is practical for you. For example, if your morning routine is 60 minutes and your commute is 45 minutes, you would need to get up by 7:15 a.m. to make it to work by 9 a.m.

Your family life

If you have children, it may be important to check if your daily commute allows you to be on time for their important school or life events, or to drive them to school in the morning. If it is possible for you and your partner to travel all or part of your commutes together, this may also give you additional time each day to catch up.

Your hobbies

If you have a hobby you're pursuing after or before work, you may want to think about how your daily commute impacts that. It's important that you use your time-management skills to organise your activities. Having time for doing the things you love is a great way to maintain motivation in life and at work.

Related: Interview Question: 'What Are Your Hobbies?'

Your social life

If you wish to attend parties, go on dates or meet with your friends regularly, calculating your commute can tell you how much time you've got left for such activities. When you're starting a new job that may require you to spend more time travelling to work, telling your friends in advance can help them better understand your situation and support you while you're adjusting.

8. Compare the commute to other offers

If you're currently seeking employment or have received multiple job offers, comparing potential commutes can help to determine which job might suit you best. Doing this is especially important if potential employers have offered you similar salaries and employee benefits. Choosing the company closer to where you live could save you time that you can spend with your friends or family.

How to use the time you spend commuting to work

Here's a list of activities to consider for your commute to work:

  • Learn new things: You can use your commute to learn new skills, such as a foreign language, especially if travelling by bus or train. By doing so you can keep enhancing your CV and make productive use of your commuting time.

  • Listen to music or podcasts: Listening to something while commuting is a great way to relax and mentally prepare for the day. For example, you can listen to music to set your mood or choose a podcast that inspires you.

  • Talk to someone: If you have little time to talk to your loved ones during the day, it may be possible to call or write to them while you're commuting. This way, you can nurture your personal relationships and make your journey to work more enjoyable.

What is the average commute time?

According to a study by the TUC, the average time spent travelling to and from work in the UK is 59 minutes per day. Analyses published by the organisation show that getting to and from work these days takes more than five minutes longer than it did 10 years ago. Furthermore, commute times have been continuously going up in recent years. Typically, the commute times of people who work in London, the South East and the East of England are the longest.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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