Mental Health Benefits of Commuting

Commuting, though often viewed as a tedious chore, serves as a valuable “liminal space” that allows individuals to transition from work to personal life and recover from work-related demands. With the rise of remote work during the pandemic, the absence of this liminal space has led to role blurring, stress, and burnout.

Researchers conducted a study to explore the effects of commuting on psychological detachment and recovery. They found that commuting does indeed provide an opportunity for detachment and recovery, but the availability of liminal space varies based on daily circumstances.

follow-up study confirmed that most workers used their commute to mentally transition from work to home roles and initiate psychological recovery. However, commute stress was found to hinder detachment and relaxation, highlighting the value of minimizing stress and opting for a more scenic route if needed. The study emphasized the importance of avoiding work-related rumination and engaging in personally fulfilling activities during the commute. For those working from home, the study suggested remote workers can benefit from creating their own version of a commute to replicate the liminal space experienced during traditional commuting. Activities like a 15-minute walk at the start and end of the workday can serve as symbolic transitions between work and personal life.

Overall, commuting serves as a crucial element in maintaining work-life balance and preventing burnout, and individuals can optimize their commute experience to enhance their well-being and mental health.