The lure of a bigger paycheck can make it tempting to accept a longer commute. It's a dilemma most people face at one time or another. How much more do you need to get paid to commute an extra 30 minutes? What is your time really worth?
The Link Between Life Satisfaction and Commute Time
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 10.8 million workers commute an hour or more to work each way. And there are an additional 600,000 "mega-commuters," who travel 90 minutes or more each way.
A 2014 study published in World Leisure Journal says a long commute could kill your happiness. Researchers for the University of Waterloo found that the longer it takes to get to work, the lower a person's satisfaction with life is likely to be.
While some people think a commute serves as the perfect way to unwind, or create a barrier that separates work and home, studies show most people struggle to find their commute enjoyable. Instead, commuters often felt rushed and stressed.
Most commuters reported they spent their travel time thinking about all the activities they'd rather be doing, or all the things they were missing out on because they were stuck in traffic. Decreased leisure time takes a serious toll on a person's well-being.
The additional time spent sitting is also problematic. People with long commutes are less likely to have time to exercise.
Other studies have linked lengthy commutes to a variety of mental and physical health problems, including obesity, low-energy, and hypertension. People with longer commutes are also more likely to have illness-related absences from work.
How to Make the Best of a Long Commute
If you can't change your commute, change the way you think about it. Getting frustrated over traffic delays and complaining about the weather will only make things worse.
If you make the best of your time, you are less likely to experience harmful effects from your commute. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Transport Geography found that commutes can actually be beneficial when people view it as a break from their other responsibilities.
Enjoying the scenery, listening to music, or simply being alone with your thoughts could help you view commute time as leisure time. You can also turn it into a learning opportunity by listening to your favorite podcast or by trying to learn another language.
Turning Down the Higher Salary
Rather than try to convince yourself your commute is fun, however, you're probably better off skipping the long commute time altogether--even if it means taking a pay cut. According to researchers at Princeton University, more money isn't likely to improve your life once you earn $75,000 a year.
So if you're already earning that much, taking a job that requires a longer commute could zap your happiness, even if the job pays much more.