Hybrid Work Has Actually Made Commutes Longer

By: Anneken Tappe · June 11, 2024 · Reading Time: 3 minutes

Urban Exodus

Rising housing costs and flexible work arrangements catalyzed a nationwide exodus from city centers during the pandemic.

But while Americans aren’t living in cities like they used to, many still work in them, necessitating longer commutes at least on some days of the week.

Travel Transition

It’s simple: If you live further from your office, your commute is longer. And it’s still true if you only go in two, rather than five, days a week.

Since the pandemic, the number of workers commuting more than 75 miles into the 10 largest U.S. cities has grown by a staggering 32%, according to a study by economists at Stanford University. On average, these “super commutes” take two hours and 20 minutes each way, or nearly five hours for a roundtrip.

A separate study from payroll platform Gusto found a similar effect, showing that the average commuting distance across the nation increased from 10 miles in 2019 to 27 miles in 2023.

This increase was particularly pronounced for millennial and higher-earning employees. Workers in their 30s have seen their average commutes nearly triple, while Americans earning $250,000 per year or more went from traveling 12 miles to a whopping 42 miles to get to work.

Living further from the city center often drives up the price of commuting as well, as workers either have to pay for different transit systems, actual trains rather than inner city public transport, more gas, or parking.

Commute Consequence

One of the often cited benefits of remote work is that home offices don’t require a commute. But in the world of hybrid schedules, the math is different. By trading longer travel times on some weekdays for more time at home on others, workers have driven up the total time they spend on the road. Looking at the average time spent commuting over the course of the week, the time spent traveling may even be worse in the hybrid world under these circumstances, and as the saying goes “time is money.”

But the workplace is adapting too. Some employers now offer services like vanpools to accommodate longer travel times and higher gas expenses.

Notably, these lengthy commutes aren’t turning workers away from hybrid schedules, which are now the preferred flexible work arrangement for U.S. employees, according to a 2024 Morning Consult survey. The travel costs may be higher, but the comfort of a home outside the city limits appears to be worth it for many.

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