Why you should commute when working from home

Like the movie sequel that no one wants to see, lockdown 2.0 has arrived in the UK and to varying extents around the world. We’ve been through a lockdown before, but with the changing weather and shorter days, many of us are feeling apprehensive.

The aim of 15 minute wellbeing is to help maintain and improve our wellbeing with simple activities that can be done in 15 minutes. Although lockdown can seem huge and overwhelming, there are small things we can do to help our wellbeing over the next month or so. This month’s post offers a small, practical change for those of us working from home or primarily based at home: commuting.

This isn’t about completing a round trip on the train, bus or in the car before you start your day working from home. ‘Commuting’ in this instance means getting out of the house for 15 minutes to prepare ourselves for the day ahead.

Home-based lives

Before the first national lockdown, hardly any of us were based exclusively at home. By April 2020, 43.1% of us were working from home all the time. This dipped a little (to 36.5%) as restrictions eased in June 2020, though with a new lockdown and the government encouraging us to work from home, it’s looking like for many of us, our lives will be completely home-based.

On the whole, it seems that the majority of people in the UK want to continue working from home after lockdown.  One of the biggest appeals of working from home is the lack of commute. On average, commuters in the UK spend 492 days of their lives travelling to and from work, spending £37,999 in the process. Not only that, those who commute by public transport are more likely to experience stress, anxiety and report lower life satisfaction.

The average commute in the UK is 65 minutes and in a survey of over 1,000 commuters, journey delays were the aspect of commuting reported to be most detrimental to their health and wellbeing.

It’s no wonder we prefer working from home, spending longer in bed and less time waiting around for the train or bus. So why is this post about re-introducing commuting into our lives?

Why commuting can be good for you

Although we may be glad to see the back of our traditional commute, the routine did enable us to mentally switch on before starting work and switch off at the end of the day. Throughout lockdown, why not try starting each day by leaving the house for a 15-minute commute?

Here’s how it can help our wellbeing:

  • It helps to maintain a work-life balance – whilst working from home during lockdown, we took fewer breaks as we felt under pressure to be constantly available. In (unpublished) research I conducted with one of the UK’s largest employers, and in this national survey, this lack of breaks was found to have a detrimental effect on our health and wellbeing. It’s easier to give ourselves permission to leave the house before we start work compared to during the working day, so prioritise that morning commute.
  • It’s an opportunity for exercise – as we found out in last month’s post, exercise levels have fluctuated throughout lockdown, with many of us struggling to consistently exercise. Spending 15 minutes at the start of the day walking, running, skipping (or any other form of exercise) can ensure we get our bodies moving before other pressures of the day or the darker evenings get in the way.
  • It’s a chance to connect with nature and the outside world. There is a wealth of research on the benefits of being outdoors on our mental health. Connecting with nature can also significantly improve mood.
  • We can listen to music while we’re commuting. Music can calm us and uplift us – helpful if we haven’t had a great night’s sleep. Listening to music can boost our mood help us get in the right headspace before starting work. It’s worth noting that listening to music can disrupt our problem-solving skills, so it may be worth getting your musical fix before work.

There’s no workbook for this activity – just start each day by commuting for 15 minutes!

I’d love to hear how you get on with commuting and what effect it has on your wellbeing. Please do get in touch 15minutewellbeing@gmail.com or comment in the box below.

I share wellbeing-related research, news and stories on twitter and Instagram in between monthly blog posts so do follow @15minwellbeing on both platforms to keep up to date.

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