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Missing a commute? Here's how remote work employees can replace theirs.

Missing a commute? Here’s how remote work employees can replace theirs.

Mar 27, 2023

6 mins read

Employee Experience

As a remote work employee, you probably never thought you’d be missing a commute, especially if it was a long one. You’ve finally been able to ditch the countless minutes spent fighting traffic or sitting on a crowded train for a simple walk from your bedroom to your office. But, here you are, wishing you had a little time away from your office, perhaps before your family gets home, to unwind, and clear your head. 

Well, you’re definitely not alone. As painful as commuting can be for many people, it actually has its benefits. 

3 benefits of commuting

  1. Time to prepare yourself mentally for work (and home): Spending time commuting can actually give you the opportunity to mentally prepare for your workday ahead, or decompress after a long day at the office. This can help you be more productive and focused when you arrive at work, or more relaxed and able to enjoy your evening when you get home
  2. Time for a little self-reflection: If you’ve ever gotten lost in thought while you’re commuting, whether it’s thinking about your past or your future, or about that specific day in the office, commuting can provide you with a period of uninterrupted time for self-reflection and introspection. This can actually help develop self-awareness and a deeper understanding of your goals and priorities.
  3. Time for a bit of self-care: Many people might say that commuting is stressful, but if you take that time and utilize it to engage in a bit of self-care, you can actually make that time beneficial. Listen to podcasts or an audiobook, check in with friends or family (via phone), or take a lesson or class (like a language). You can use that time to expand your horizons and take time for yourself that you might not otherwise have. 

Commuting as a liminal space 

A recent research study by professors at Wayne State University and Rutgers University examined commuting as a form of a liminal space. This is a concept that refers to a transitional or in-between state, often associated with a period of change, transformation, or uncertainty. 

In this study, the researchers argued that commuting is a sort of an in-between time, between home and work roles, where individuals can recover from their work day and then switch over mentally to home duties.

“Most of the workers in this study reported using the commute’s liminal space to both mentally transition from work to home roles and to start psychologically recovering from the demands of the workday.”

For those employees who work in an office setting, it’s important for them to use their commute to relax as much as possible: detach from work, focus on something that’s completely not work-related, and give yourself the opportunity to just enjoy something for the sake of enjoying it. 

Of course, the amount of time varies based on a person’s commute, and their method of transportation. Those who use public transportation might find some of their time taken up by the logistics of actually getting home, while others who drive the same route in their car might have more space to explore non-work and non-home “activities” during their commute time.

How remote work employees can create a liminal space 

So, what if you happen to be a remote work employee and you don’t actually have a commute anymore? You might have even thought about how nice it would be to have some time between shutting down your computer and heading into the fray of your family life without a little bit of downtime and for good reason. The researchers in this recent study suggest that you might benefit from creating your own form of a commute to provide you with that liminal space for recovery and transition. 

One example they provide is taking a 15-minute walk to help mark the beginning and end of the workday. Listen to a podcast or music, whatever you enjoy that will help give you a moment of peace and relaxation before you transition to the next part of your day. 

If a 15-minute walk isn’t feasible, you can also consider taking a few minutes to journal, listen to a favorite song, or read a bit from a book. Whatever you choose, it’s important to ensure that it doesn’t have anything to do with work or home, but rather, an activity that gives you the space for transition. 

Coworking spaces offer a smart way for remote work employees to give themselves a commute back. Having an office space outside of your home can not only help with productivity, but it can also support your need for the transition time that you might be missing by not working in an in-person work environment. 

If your office has gone fully remote, and they’ve yet to consider offering coworking space benefits to employees, this research about commuting and liminal space could be a motivating factor for your management to consider.