Why the key to happiness is a 16-minute commute？
Many people look forward to a lengthy work commute as it provides them with an opportunity to awaken their senses before entering the office and starting their workday. Others, however, prefer commutes under half an hour in length, as long ones make them feel drained and exhausted before even stepping foot into their place of work.
It’s perhaps not surprising that our commutes make us miserable. The UK’s Office for National Statistics has found that “commuters have lower life satisfaction, a lower sense that their daily activities are worthwhile, lower levels of happiness and higher anxiety on average than non-commuters”. In fact, if your commute takes longer than an hour, feelings of happiness decrease with every successive minute of travel. If a lengthy commute makes us unhappy, then it should follow that a shorter commute improves our happiness levels.
What’s the ideal commute that is necessary to ensure work efficiency and general happiness? Prepare to be surprised. It turns out that the ideal commute is actually not no commute at all. A study of more than 1,000 workers in San Francisco found that their ideal one-way commute was 16 minutes. Fewer than two per cent of people wanted a commute time shorter than four minutes, while only 1.2 per cent wanted no commute time at all.
It seems that people do appreciate some separation between work and home – using the travel time as a psychological tool to decompress from the day. And it’s backed up by science. An increasing amount of research shows that ‘active commutes’, which involve walking or cycling, can make life better – even as important to wellbeing as a marriage or a pay rise.
If the ideal commute for most people is a 16-minute stroll each way, how should businesses respond? “Gone are the days of making employees spend unproductive time traveling to a central location and working to fixed hours that date back to Victorian times,” says Richard Morris, UK CEO at Regus. “Businesses of every size investigating flexible work options that enable employees to work closer to home and to vary their hours to better suit their circumstances.”
If, as the ancient Athenian historian Thucydides suggests, “The secret to happiness is freedom”, the opportunity to choose where to work and how to get there could make all the difference to weary commuters across the world.
1. drain v. 耗尽
2. commuter n. 通勤者；每日往返上班者
3. decompress v. 使减压；使解除压力
4. stroll n. 漫步；闲逛
5. unproductive adj. 非生产性的；徒劳的
6. weary adj. 疲倦的；厌烦的
7. Athenian adj. 雅典的；雅典人的