Eight billion. That’s a big number any way you slice it. But it’s even bigger when it denotes what you’ve lost. In this case, eight billion is the number of hours Americans spent commuting to and from work last year. That averages out to 50 hours per driver, or more than a week’s worth of vacation days.
You could have explored Europe, but sat bumper to bumper. Let that sink in for a moment — and then ask yourself if there is a better way.
It really is amazing. We live in the age of bike-shares, carpool lanes, and public transport. Some companies even reward employees for taking more eco-friendly ways to work; I see this in the Bay Area all the time.
Despite these new ways to reach the office, I cannot help but wonder if they all miss the point. Commuting takes time no matter how you do it. And time is the most precious resource we have. Those who have big goals and work with a sense of urgency cannot afford to waste it.
You already know that you could have had a holiday instead of commuting last year. But what else could you do if you gave up your commute? Which daily activities could re-enter your life if you were able to work remotely?
We built Aha! with the goal of changing how companies innovate and build products. And we wanted to do it with a totally distributed team. We had experienced what working from home gave back to us. So, we wanted all Aha! employees to work from anywhere and be happy doing it.
But don’t take my word for it. Here’s how other Aha!s use the time they spent commuting to do something they love:
Share a passion for food
“In place of my former commute, I have time to be more mindful about our family meals together, and set them up in the morning so that my children can participate in the preparation in the evening. It also enables us as a family to be more thoughtful with food waste — yesterday’s lasagna ingredients become tomorrow’s time with family making ricotta donuts after dinner. I have the time to teach my children how to appreciate and utilize the food around them better — and the savings of about $275/month in my family food bill was an unexpected bonus.” — Donna Sawyer
Exercise in the garage
“I used to have co-workers who would work out before coming to the office– and talk about how refreshed it made them feel. Meanwhile, I was waking up at 5 a.m. each morning so I could make it to work by 7:30 and miss some of the traffic — only to spend almost two hours driving home. Needless to say, I assumed I would never be a morning gym person. But now that I work remotely, I am able to hit the gym first thing in the morning — and I love it.” — Danny Archer
“At one point, I spent 90 minutes commuting each way to work — which equals an insane 15 hours per week. Today, I use the time I spent commuting to volunteer instead. Since my company is not based in the city where I live, I need other ways to put down roots here. That’s why I hold leadership roles with four non-profit groups, including a Board of Directors position. Working remotely has given me the gift of time and helps me spend my time more effectively.” — Lauren Maffeo
Spend time with a son
“I live in Los Angeles — a city which proudly maintains the top spot for the worst traffic in the nation. Before joining Aha! I spent about 2 hours commuting each day — which was painful. Most days, I only saw my newborn son for about 40 minutes each morning before heading out. Since joining Aha! I’ve been able to see his big milestones including crawling, trying solid foods, and even saying his first words. Each morning, I feed him breakfast and get to see a huge smile on his face as I give him new foods to try. The difference in the amount of time I’m able to spend with my son is night and day.” — Ron Yang
“I love the outdoors. It’s refreshing. But before I joined Aha! I spent more time each day sitting in traffic than I did outside. I had no idea a reality existed beyond a painful commute. Now, at 7 a.m. each morning, I spend time outside gazing up at the tall oak trees in my backyard. This is a stark contrast to staring at the driver in front of me tapping their brake lights in stop-and-go traffic. It’s amazing how much more productive you are throughout the rest of the day when the first hour of it is not spent in a traffic jam.” — Keith Brown
“Before work some days, I’ll spend time doing some woodworking in my garage. It gets my blood pumping and helps me organize my thoughts for the day. While I was commuting, I’d spend the first half hour at my desk just getting mentally ready to tackle the tasks at hand. Now, I can do that on my own time making something meaningful. And this helps me get right to work making meaningful software.” — Alex Bartlow
We do not have all the time in the world, so how we spend our time matters deeply. Remote work gives us time to do more of what we love, build sustainable happiness, and feel more fulfilled.
And here is the great news: remote work is rising each year. Whether you are a writer or a lawyer, an increasing number of roles can be performed from the comfort of home.
So, if you are stuck in traffic or on a train this morning, think about something you truly love to do. And then ask yourself if remote work would allow you to do more of it. The answer might pleasantly surprise you — and give you more restful mornings.
How do you stay refreshed before and after work?