For most commuting American workers, the commute to and from the office takes almost a full hour a day: 26 minutes each way on average, with 7.7% of workers spending two hours or more on the road.
Many people think of commuting as a homework and waste of time. However, during the boom in remote work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, several journalists pointed out with curiosity that people were, could it be? – losing his trips. One woman told The Washington Post that although she worked from home, she regularly sat in his car in the driveway at the end of the work day in an attempt to create some personal time and mark the transition from work to non-work roles.
ace management scholars who study the interface between people’s work and personal lives, we sought to understand what people were missing out on when their daily commutes suddenly disappeared.
In our recently published conceptual study, we argue that displacements are a source of “liminal space” – a role-free time both at home and at work that provides an opportunity to recover from work and mentally shift gears home.
During the shift to remote work, many people lost this built-in support for these important daily processes. Without the ability to mentally shift gears, people experience role confusion, which can lead to stress. Without mentally disconnecting from work, people can experience burnout.
We think the loss of this space helps explain why so many people missed their commutes.
(Credit: PeopleImages.com – Yuri A/Shutterstock) One of the most surprising discoveries during the pandemic has been that many people who switched to remote work actually missed their commutes.
Commutes and Liminal Space
In our study, we wanted to know if travel provides that time and space, and what are the effects when it is no longer available.
We review research on traveling, role transitions other work recovery develop a model of the liminal travel space of a typical American worker. We focus our research on two cognitive processes: psychological detachment from work role – mentally disconnect from the demands of work – and psychological recovery from work – rebuild the reserves of mental energy spent during work.
Based on our review, we developed a model showing that the liminal space created on the journey created opportunities for detachment and recovery.
However, we also find that daily variations can affect whether this liminal space is accessible for detachment and recovery. For example, train travelers must pay attention to selecting their route, monitoring arrivals or departures, and making sure they get off at the correct stop, while car travelers must pay constant attention to driving.
We found that, for one thing, more attention to the act of traveling means less attention that could otherwise be devoted to relaxing recovery activities like listening to music and podcasts. On the other hand, longer trips can give people more time to unplug and recuperate.
in unpublished follow-up study We conducted ourselves, examining a week of commuting by 80 university employees to test our conceptual model. Employees completed morning and evening surveys asking about the characteristics of their commutes, whether they “switched off” from work and relaxed during the commute, and whether they felt emotionally drained when they got home.
Most workers in this study reported using the liminal space of the commute both to mentally transition from work to home roles and to begin psychological recovery from the demands of the workday. Our study also confirms that daily variations in commuting predict ability to do so.
We found that on days with longer-than-average commutes, people reported higher levels of psychological detachment from work and were more relaxed during the commute. However, on days when commutes to work were more stressful than usual, they reported less psychological detachment from work and less relaxation during the commute.
Creating a liminal space
Our findings suggest that remote workers may benefit from creating their own form of travel to provide a liminal space for recovery and transition, such as a 15-minute walk to mark the beginning and end of the workday.
Our preliminary findings align with related research suggesting that those who have returned to the workplace could benefit from trying to use their commute to relax as much as possible.
To help improve detachment from work and relaxation while traveling, travelers might try to avoid ruminating over the workday and instead focus on personally meeting the uses of travel time, like listening to music or podcasts, or calling a friend. Other forms of commuting, such as public transportation or carpooling, can also provide opportunities to socialize.
Our data shows that the stress of the commute detracts from detachment and relaxation during the trip more than a shorter or longer commute. So some people may find it worth their time to take the “scenic route” home to avoid stressful driving situations.
Matthew Piszczek is an assistant professor of management at Wayne State University. Kristie McAlpine is an assistant professor of management at Rutgers University. This article is republished from The conversation under Creative Commons License. Read the Original article.