Workplaces and hours are shifting as more people are working from home than ever before.
According to the American Community Survey (ACS) help by the United States Census Bureau, the average commute time in the U.S. has been steadily increasing since 2009 – hitting its all-time of 27.6 minutes each way in 2019. The Travel Time to Work in the United States report produced by the ACS generates its statistics from approximately 3.5 million Americans each year.
Post-COVID statistics have not yet been calculated, so the 27.6 minute average does not yet include the one in four Americans predicted to be working from home in 2021.
Commute Time Trends in the U.S.
Up until 2019, the average commute time in the U.S. had been steadily growing for fourteen straight years. The last time there was a decline in the average commute time in the United States was in 2009, the year after the labor force took a major hit from the financial crisis. During that same time period, the cohort of Americans whose commute was less than 15 minutes each way had also decreased year after year.
Said another way, the average American was driving more – not less – to and from work each year.
Reasons for Long Commute Times
Commute times can be attributed to various factors. Many workers now find themselves living outside of their city of work, where property and rent prices are cheaper. This means they have a longer journey to get to their office.
Others have found that more people are now living in their area, increasing traffic and transportation and lengthening their commute time.
Those who have been freed of their commute by working from home don’t have to consider transportation factors in their daily work lives. In fact, more than half of college-educated Americans in 2020 believed they could indefinitely complete their work duties remotely.
While the history of commute time has shown increases in travel duration, those looking for alternatives may find solace by working from home.
The Average Commute Time by State
Location is everything when it comes to commute times. We’ve listed the top five states with the longest commutes below. Keep in mind that all commute times listed are for one-way trips.
It’s no surprise that four of the five states listed are also part of the top ten most densely populated states. Those large populations call for more traffic.
Top 5 States With the Longest Commutes
- New York: New York, unsurprisingly, comes in at the top of the list with the longest commute time of any U.S. state. Swayed heavily by New York City commutes, an average of 33.3 minutes each way means you’ll be spending an hour a day just getting to and from your place of work in and around the Big Apple.
- Maryland: The Old Line State follows closely behind New York with 32.9 minutes of commuter time per trip. As the fifth most densely populated state in America, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise.
- New Jersey: “Joisy” ranks third with a 31.7-minute commute time. As more and more New Jersians live in New Jersey and travel to work in to the city for the higher wages, commute times have steadily increased.
- Massachusetts: With a 29.7-minute average commute time, MA ranks third in the nation based on population density.
- California: If “LA traffic” is one of the first things that pops to mind when you think of California – it’s for a reason. Coming in at number five on the list, Californian’s average 29.3-minutes per trip to work, only a few seconds ahead of Massachusetts as whole.
Is Commuting All Bad?
Believe it or not, a commute can be considered a good thing if you need time to get ready or unwind from your workday.
Many people take their commute time to mentally plan and prepare for their day. Some may listen to the news, podcasts, or audio books to expand their knowledge or ingest new ideas and information. Others use it to decompress by listening to music or gazing out the window, while others still may use the time to read.
If coming from a busy home, a commute can also be a time to enjoy alone. If riding with others, a commute could be seen as a social opportunity.
With the elimination of a commute, consider adding some of the activities below to your daily routine to help lower stress and improve your health.
Things to Do If You’re Not Communing
One of the most prominent advantages of working from home is the elimination of the commute. By saving hundreds of hours of commuting per year, knowledge workers have an opportunity to dedicate their time to bigger and better things.
If you have the opportunity to work from home and have eliminated the need for a commute, make sure to take advantage of that extra time.
Eliminating even a 15-minute one-way commute adds up to an extra 600 minutes of free time per month. That’s 5 full days every year!
Utilize this extra time to benefit your mind and body:
- Exercise more by taking a walk around the neighborhood – or even around the house
- Stretch, meditate or journal when your would normally be in the car
- Start a side hustle – a business that doesn’t compete with your day job but that could earn you some additional income
- Get ahead on house chores like laundry, sweeping, or organizing
- If you have a hobby that can be done at home, carve out some extra time for you.
What activities have you taken up since working from home?