Amid the widespread shift to remote work triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, many employees chose to relocate themselves farther from the offices they worked in pre-pandemic. For some, their moves were based on a prediction that remote work would become permanent, while others’ decisions were without regard to the possibility of a return to the office.
Some Employees Facing Long Commutes
Whatever the reason, now that many offices around the United States and the world are bringing staff back to the office, these transient staffers find themselves faced with extremely long commutes. The U.S. Census Bureau refers to anyone who travels 90 minutes or more to work (one way) as an “extreme commuter.” Others use the terms “mega-commuter” or “super-commuter.”
In an article for BBC Worklife, Bryan Lufkin writes that while there has always been a small segment of the population that has commuted long distances to work, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased both the number and the variety of such workers.
COVID-19 Drives Extreme Commutes
“Historically, the workers doing these kinds of long-haul commutes have had certain things in common,” Lufkin writes. “They were often very senior or wealthy knowledge workers in spheres like tech, who were allowed to live far away and come in sparsely, sometimes even by commuter flight services.”
But now, Lufkin says, super-commuting is evolving into something different. Remote work has become far more common than it was in the past, even in industries in which remote work was rare pre-pandemic (teaching and health care, for instance). “Employees well below the C-suite now expect to work more flexibly,” he adds. “Many companies are responding by allowing a far wider range of employees to request working conditions that suit their personal circumstances.”
Super-commuting has been on the rise in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are many reasons the practice has traditionally been a limited practice, and not all of them have to do with convenience or employee preferences. Super-commuting is not easy to keep up long term due to some important challenges we’ll discuss in a follow-up post.
Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.