Employees who think about their upcoming role at work during their morning commutes are less likely to be negatively affected, according to a recent study by the Harvard Business School.
The study noted the average commute time for employees is 38 minutes each way, meaning each commuter spends nearly 300 hours travelling between work and home in a year. “Several surveys have found longer commutes are associated with lower levels of job satisfaction and increased turnover intention,” it stated.
While researchers highlighted commuting as a time employees physically and psychologically transition between their home and work responsibilities, the study considered the roles during the commute to work as ambiguous. It noted employees are in limbo, which leads to negativity.
One possible reason commuting is seen negatively is boundary theory, which proposes longer commutes extend the time employees are ambiguous about their role adoption. The study noted this ambiguity can create a problematic experience for commuters.
In addition, people with low trait self-control may be less apt to handle role ambiguity. And longer commutes may be specifically challenging for employees with greater work-family conflict as they tend to experience heightened role ambiguity, the study noted.
Commuters with higher levels of work-family conflict and low trait self-control are actually more likely to engage in role-clarifying prospection. This process of thinking about upcoming work-related ideas may function as a transition ritual, ultimately reducing the negative impact of commuting, the study found.