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Build Your Career Office Life

Hate Your Job? Maybe It's Just the Commute

Hate Your Job? Maybe It's Just the Commute
Credit: leungchopan/Shutterstock

If you hate your job, your commute could be to blame, new research finds.

The way in which you get to work, where your office is located and how long it takes to get there, are stress factors that can lead to job burnout, according to a new study from the University of Montreal's School of Industrial Relations.

The risk of burnout increases significantly when a commute lasts more than 20 minutes and the risk of cynicism toward a job rises when commute time is longer than 35 minutes.

"The effects of the duration of a commute on a person's mental health vary according to the type of transport used and the profile of the area where the person works," Annie Barreck, of the University of Montreal and the study's author, said in a statement.

Stress levels increase based on the size of the city you're commuting in. The research discovered that the bigger the city, the more stressful the commute, at least for people traveling by car. [Work Stress Can Take Long-Term Toll on Mental Health ]

"People commuting towards rural areas, or even suburban areas, feel less stressed out," Barreck said.

The opposite tends to be true when using public transportation. Since some rural regions aren't serviced as well by public transit, the risk of unforeseeable and uncontrollable delays is increased. The study's authors said those delays can cause stress that's carried over into the workplace.

Employees who use public buses and trains in urban areas are likely to have more options on types of transit and times of service, which mean fewer burnout symptoms, Barreck said.

Riding a bicycle or walking to work is also tougher on those whose workplaces aren't in a large city.

"Cyclists in the suburbs have a lesser sense of control than cyclists in the city," Barreck said. "Cyclists and walkers in the city have access to safety features such as cycle paths and pedestrian crossings, which increases their sense of control over their commute."

Employees might be inclined to think carpooling is a good way to cut down on stress levels, however, that's not the case for those not behind the wheel.

"Carpooling reduces the passenger commuters' sense of control, which causes them more stress before they've even arrived at work," Barreck said.  

The study's authors believe that based on their findings, employers should consider adopting flexible commuting arrangements.

"Managing employee commuting flexibly would increase employee efficiency and, moreover, enable organizations to attract or retain workers," Barreck said. "In the current context of skill shortages, employers have everything to gain from facilitating the mental health of their employees."

The study was based on surveys of 1,942 employees between ages 17 and 60 working at 63 organizations in Quebec.

Chad  Brooks
Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based freelance writer who has nearly 15 years experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.