Have you ever wondered why workers prefer working remotely and why remote first employers prefer remote, hybrid and co-working arrangements? First, there is a lot of emphasis on time savings obtained when working remotely in comparison to workers reporting to an in office traditional office setting. But before we get into the real reasons remote workers hate commuting, let’s look at the data (if you don’t like the lengthly prelude, skip to the second to the last paragraph).
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Review of NBER Commuting Data
The National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) just published Working Paper # 30866b based upon work from home data spanning 27 countries. The data demonstrated that remote workers, on average save almost 1 hour and 15 minutes each DAY when working from home. They tended to re-invest about 40% of the extra time back into their work, 34% to entertainment and leisure activities, and slightly more than 10% to taking care of family obligations. As can be expected, remote workers with children, completing remote job tasks at home allocated more of the time saved each day to childrearing, family obligations and what not than remote workers without children in the home.
NBER researchers extrapolated the data to estimate time saved for remote workers employed full time, amounted “to 2.2 percent of a 46-hour workweek (40 paid hours plus six hours of commuting). ” Further, the authors of the study, Cevat Giray Aksoy, Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom and others exclaimed, “that’s a large time savings, especially when multiplied by hundreds of millions of workers around the world.”
Estimates of Global Commuting time: By Country
Do you wonder just how the researchers determined the average time saved when working remotely instead of commuting each day to a traditional in office work space? The NBER researchers gathered data to show that the commuting time varied to:
- 51 minutes in Serbia,
- 54 minutes in Poland,
- 55 in United States
- 99 minutes in India,
- 100 in Japan, and
- 102 in China.
The average commuting time saved globally, when working remotely was higher than one hour each day for remote workers residing in 23 of the 27 countries participating in the survey. “The simple average of these country-level conditional means is 72 minutes of time savings per day. ” (NBER, pg. 3).
Estimates of Time Re-invested: By Country
As there are certainly cultural differences between countries, not all remote workers re-invested the extra time saved back into their primary and/or secondary jobs. For instance, the NBER researchers found remote workers in these countries re-invested these percentage of time back into their employer:
- Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan, 52%
- India 47%
- China 46%
- Egypt and France, 44%; Australia, 43%
- U.S., 42%;Canada, 41%
- Brazil, Hungary, and the Netherlands, 40%
- Turkey and Ukraine 39%; UK (38%)
- Sweden, Serbia, Austria and Spain, 35%; Italy and Poland 34%
- Germany, 32%; Japan, 31%
Second, in addition to time savings re-invested back into their employer, removing the need to commute also has a financial benefit for the individual employee. Upwork computed the estimated savings as expressed in US dollars, determining that “the economic benefit of remote work from lower commutes has been $90 billion.
Back in 2018 prior to the pandemic, Upwork estimated weekly commuting time to 4.6 hours; 18.4 hours per month, and 9.5 full days each year. Estimates of increased commutes appeared to be the trend. When comparing the 1980 commuting time to 2018(almost 5 decades), the average daily commute increased to about 11 minutes per day to two full days annually. This time lost due to employer requirement to report to an in office setting can amount to significant costs borne by the individual worker; his household budget and quality of life.
Non-economic Costs of Commuting
How so you might ponder?
Third, psychologists have found that the time spent commuting can cost the individual commuter more than time, gas, and vehicle maintenance. Commuting to a traditional work setting often causes delays due to congested traffic, accidents, and detours. Psychology Today in 2015 estimated that the 38 hours to 52 hours of delays for the average worker equates to about “wasting an extra week’s worth of fuel for the average U.S. driver.” With increased fuel costs and record highs in inflation, we are certain this number has doubled or tripled.
In addition to commuting time, vehicle maintenance, auto repairs and fuel expenses, commuting can exact a psychological toll on workers. Commuting has been known to be a major source of stress. Further, as other commuters fill the highways, congested conditions, accidents, detours, road blocks and even protesters can lead to unpredictability and a loss of control.
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Under such conditions, you can see how daily commuters might experience road rage, boredom, anger, frustration and even social isolation.
Back in 2012, Forbes published research conducted by Harris Interactive (for CareerBuilder) to show that almost 60% of daily commuters have experience road rage. Almost 1 out of 10 commuters escalated their bouts of road rate into a fight with another commuter.
Further, one can only imagine how an insignificant 5 to 20 minute delay caused by congested traffic or a minor accident can cause stress. These delays may lead to running late for a meeting, project or impending deadline. When starting the day late; it is so easy to become frustrated and express anger about the smallest and unintended slights by co-workers and one’s boss.
Reasons Why Remote Workers Hate Commuting
And finally, fourth, the Keck Medicine the University of Southern California, provided extensive research on the ways in which long commuting times can have a negative impact the health of commuters.
- Long commuting times can increase obesity due to lack of exercise,
- Tiredness from commutes increases the probability of declining invitations to social engagements requiring driving,
- Long commute times increases likelihood of experiencing insomnia,
- Long commutes to and from work increases exposure to air pollution,
- Workers commuting by car experience heightened levels of stress and are more prone to moodiness than non long commuters.
In closing, remote work not only saves commuting time for the employee working remotely, it also give employers the opportunity to take advantage of the tendency of the remote worker to re-invest the time saved back into the company. Additionally, without the requirement to commute, remote workers can experience cost savings, reduce their stress levels and improve their overall quality of life.