What Are You Doing With Your Commute Time?

Filed under Becoming a PM | Posted by MMeloni

by Kevin Eikenberry

As you read the title of this article if you are thinking, “What commute? I don’t have one anymore,” I hope you will read on, and read carefully. And if you lead a team that became remote workers last year, this is for you too – even if you are still going to the office.

Back when working remotely was seen as a perk, the “lack of commute” was seen as one of the big advantages of that working arrangement. No commute means fewer expenses, less wear and tear on vehicles, and perhaps reduced stress, but none of those are the purpose of this article.  The biggest daily change when your commute changes from going to the office to walking down the hall is time.  The average commute in the U.S. is about 26 minutes – so that means for the average person, this equates to an hour a day.

The question is, what are you doing with this new-found time?

When the lockdowns began, most people weren’t thinking about this question. They were just trying to make everything work. Few people made conscious decisions about how to spend that extra time.  Some needed it for their kids, some slept longer, and many just added it to the workday.

Those largely unconscious decisions have led to new habits about how we use the “extra time,” and not all of these habits are serving us very well. Now is the time to ask ourselves the conscious question – what do I want to do with the time we used to use commuting?

Creating a New Routine

To get to a great answer to that question, consider the following steps:

  1. Assess how you have used your commute time since you began working from home.
  2. If you are happy with your answer, congratulations (and you might want to skip down to the comment about productivity below).
  3. If you are less than happy with your answer, ask yourself how you would like to use that time.
  4. Devise a new routine or habit that allows you to use the time in the way that you prefer, rather than the way you are doing it now.
  • Make that new usage clear and understand why you see it as a better choice.
  • Once you have determined your new preference, share that new routine with others in your house (or others who will support you).
  • Get started.

A Comment About Productivity

In talking with literally hundreds of people who “lost” their commute and began working from home, I know what many people did with their commute time – they just added it to their workday.  If that is the case for you let me kindly ask you two questions:

  • Are you getting more done than before?
  • Is your task list shorter?

If so, that is fantastic!  For many I’ve talked to, the answer is sadly, no. Remember that there will always be work to do, and if you are working more hours but not gaining ground, you aren’t being more productive. Productivity has a numerator and a denominator – it isn’t raw work accomplished, it is how much you accomplished in a given amount of time.  If you find you are spending more time working but not accomplishing more than before, you will be well served to consider building new routines for your former commute time.


About the author

Kevin Eikenberry is a recognized world expert on leadership development and leader of The Kevin Eikenberry Group. He has twice been named by Inc.com as one of the top 100 Leadership/Management Experts in the World. He is the author, co-author or a contributing author to 20 books, including the latest collaboration with Wayne Turmel, The Long-Distance Teammate: Stay Engaged and Connected While Working Anywhere.