One of the key things to consider when you’re on the hunt for your next position is the distance, time, method and cost of both getting to work and home again. Why more people don’t think about this I don’t know, but getting to and from work is a given as long as you’re employed, so it should be a key consideration. And yet, every so often, I encounter people who interview for a job, receive a an offer of employment and only then turn it down because, “it’s too far”.
The first thing you’re wise to do is remind yourself of your transportation options. If you’re in a metropolitan or urban area, you probably have an option of taking public transit. This can mean subways, buses or trains. If on the other hand you live in a rural area or a small community, none of these may be an option for you. And of course, if you live in an area where there is public transit but you’ve broadened your search to other municipalities or towns, the transportation link you rely on now might not range to another community, leaving you to either pay two separate fares or have to make alternative arrangements. There are taxis to consider as well, but the cost of hiring one on a regular basis isn’t a viable option for most.
Should you own a vehicle, you’re not bound by schedules and routes public transit limits you to, nor does rural or city living limit your ability to get around, but now you have to factor into your decision the cost and availability of parking, gas and ongoing maintenance.
For those who don’t drive, don’t own a vehicle and/or for whom there is no public transit option, your geographical area in which you can work might shrink considerably. You could be limited to walking distance or find yourself reliant on others to drive you to and from work. While the generosity of others might be something to get you going, you may find yourself wanting to eventually change your situation so you become self-reliant, such as obtaining your licence and buying a car.
Let’s assume for a moment that you have a licence and a vehicle. Given you have the means to get wherever you need to be, ask yourself if you’re in favour of a long or short commute. A short commute definitely saves money on gas, reduces your maintenance costs, and the less you travel, the less likely you run the risk of having an accident, encountering delays and you can leave for work later and get home quicker too. However, some people like longer commutes. Driving for an hour for example to get to work gives a person time to catch up on news, listen to music or a podcast, or just unwind a little before walking in the door at work or home.
Time however isn’t the only factor when you map out a potential route to work and back. Considering the nature of that drive is important to your mental health and well-being. There’s a huge difference between 45 minutes spent in bumper-to-bumper traffic on snarled streets with stoplights every block, versus a 45 minute commute on paved country roads where traffic moves at the posted limits all the way. While two people might have an identical commute in terms of distance or time, they may have a completely different experience. The inner city driver may have to be constantly looking in every direction for aggressive drivers, changing lanes to make progress and watch for inattentive pedestrians, while the country driver watches for the progress being made on some farm building they pass or hopes to spot the odd deer or fox.
Costs of commuting is also a factor to consider. If you can ride your bike, walk or jog to work, you’ll appreciate the cost savings of working locally. For slightly longer commutes than you’d like to walk, you might consider an electric bike or scooter which still gives you independence but of course you need to determine what you’ll do during inclement weather or wintery conditions.
If you’re really fortunate, you might find that the boss is willing to swing by and pick you up along with a few other employees at some central location and drive you to rotating job sites. This happens sometimes with construction or road crews. This is very much like a carpool, and carpools are an option for many. While you spend less to get to and from work, you’re no longer in charge of whether you travel in silence (unlikely) or constant conversation (probably). If you like your solitude, this won’t be a happy time for you twice a day.
Of course, if the next job you go after is your dream job, you might consider relocating altogether so you cut the commute down. This is a viable option if the pay is good and the length of employment is long enough to make the move sensible.
Having had one-way commutes of 2 hours for 6 years, 1 hour for 18 years and now having a 4 minute commute, I’ve had both extremes. I like both for different reasons and would never rule a job out simply based on the commute. But that’s me.
What’s your own view?