A commonly asked interview question by the interviewer is, how far are you willing to commute? This question is often asked by the interviewer to get a better sense of a candidate’s expectations and their willingness to commute over long distances to reach the office. Another reason this question is asked, is because the interviewer would like to ensure that proper expectations are set from the get-go and that the candidate will not find the commute too taxing once they begin the role.
Commuting is, unfortunately, a part of the corporate dynamic. Unless you have a permanent work from home structure, most corporate jobs will require some sort of a daily commute. And whether you opt to commute via car, bus, train, scooter, or simply walking to work, the commute is an important factor in your decision to accept a role.
What is a Commute?
While it may seem obvious, a commute can have many different meanings. Overall, when we discuss corporate commuting, we mean the route it takes to arrive to your work location. Typically, a work commute and the route taken day-over-day, does not change. While you may experience differing levels of traffic or congestion on your route, the overall steps are generally the same.
Your commute, while typically static, can play a large role in your daily lifestyle. If you have a long commute, generally defined as anything over one-hour, then it can make achieving a work-life balance more difficult.
Typically, many corporate employees will factor their overall commute into their decision when looking for a new job role or opportunity. This is often recommended as longer commutes can cause varying levels of frustration, anger, and headache.
Before accepting, or even applying, to a new role at a new company, it is important to fully determine and understand what the potential commute would look like on a daily basis. This can be done most easily via Google Maps, which can show an estimate of the total commute time at random time intervals throughout the day.
Average Commute Times
On average, the American commute times are increasing year-over-year. In the 1980’s, the average American commute was just over 21-minutes. Now, the average commute hovers around thee 26-minute mark. This is an increase of nearly 20%!
Looking at additional statistic, nearly 139 million American commuted to work in 2014. At the current average of 26-minutes, the total number of minutes spent commuting by all Americans is a whopping 1.8 trillion minutes. Stated differently, this is 29.6 billion hours, 1.2 billion days, or a collective 3.4 million years of time spent commuting across the nation.
Diving even deeper into the numbers, roughly a quarter of all Americans have a commute of just 15-minutes or less. However, conversely, nearly 17 percent of all Americans had a commute of 45-minutes or longer. This is time spent idly by which could have been spent more productively or with family and friends.
Commute Effect on Health
While the, “how far are you willing to commute” question may seem innocuous, there are real, direct, and tangible effects on your health due to long commutes. Long-term travel and commuting is not only stressful, but can also have an effect on your blood pressure.
In addition, long commutes can raise your cortisol level, your adrenaline level, and your risk of having a heart attack. In addition to direct impacts, there are secondary ones that are important to consider. This includes an increased exposure to air pollution and respiratory issues.
Long commutes also play a significant role in developing, and encouraging, a sedentary lifestyle. After commuting for over 45-minutes, not too many people will feel the motivation to go for a walk or hit the gym. Lastly, longer commutes have been shown to lead to worse decisions when it comes to dieting and the food we eat.
Determining How Far You Are Willing to Commute
When it comes to answering how far are you willing to commute, the best answer is an honest one. While you may be tempted to answer in a manner that shows willingness, you don’t want to mislead the interviewer or yourself. You should, ultimately, be comfortable with your commute and the route you take to work. Be honest with yourself and what you understand you will be able to handle on a day-to-day basis.
In addition to answering honestly, you may want to reframe the question back to the interviewer. Although you may be willing to commute a longer distance, is the company or department flexible in allowing work from home days? Knowing the answer to this question can definitely make your decision easier and more thorough.
Benefits of a Longer Commute
While the benefits of a shorter commute are often pronounced, there are some benefits to having a slightly longer commute. While we would refrain from commuting over an hour, there can be benefits to a commute that lasts a bit over a half-an-hour.
One potential benefit is the time alone and away from the daily responsibilities. Whether it’s responsibilities at the office or at home, it is nice to be alone and to get lost in the music or your own thoughts. In addition, commuting for a longer period of time can afford you the time and space to catch-up on your reading list, just be sure to commute on a bus or train before pulling out your book of choice.
Lastly, a long commute can afford you the time to simply be alone with your thoughts. This is a great time to be more creative, to assess any work problems which you may not have been able to get through, and to simply perform some self-meditation.
When it comes to answering the how far are you willing to commute question, by-and-large it is best to answer honestly and truthfully. Long, daily commutes can have detrimental effects on not only your mental health, but also on your physical health. However, there are tips that you can take to make your commute easier.
When it comes to making your commute easier, it will take some pre-planning. This should include creating a unique playlist to listen to, calling in and checking on family and friends, and bringing along healthy snacks to make your commute more enjoyable.