Power nap anyone?

Depending on how long your commute is, and what type of transport you use, you could make your commute useful. If you are taking public transport, you can use that time to answer those emails you don’t have time to get to at the office/lab, or to catch up on reading some papers that you could use for journal club or your own research.

Instead of looking at your commute as part of your workday, or yet another added stress, you could use your commute to relax, and act as a buffer between work and home. Using your travel time to de-stress after a hard day can be beneficial. Nowadays, many of us find it hard to have any time for ourselves between work, the gym, our family and friends, among other commitments. So, it could be a good thing to take that 30-minute commute to be by yourself and do something you enjoy doing, like reading a book or newspaper, listening to music, or just disconnecting from the world and taking a power nap.

The negative side of commuting

During my research for this article, I was surprised to see that there were quite a few published ‘scientific’ studies on how commuting to work affects productivity, and even absenteeism. For an example, check out this article by van Ommeren, which tells us that there may be a link between longer commutes and absenteeism. And, commutes over 45 minutes have been linked to poor sleep quality, exhaustion and poorer health, according to the Regus Work-Life Balance Index (2012).

Many of us are tempted to move out of the city to get more bang for our buck, maybe a bigger garden, or more rooms, but at what cost? In the UK, workers lose approximately 1.5 days of productivity per year due to commuting-related stress. However, one study in Canada showed that people who commute using public transport rather than their own car are less stressed. So, if you have to commute, why not help the environment and use public transport? That way you’ll have that time to yourself to do what it takes to make it a happy and productive commute.

Turning the negative into a positive

Although commuting to work is often regarded as a negative, you can easily turn it into one of the most productive parts of your day. And with the following helpful resources you’ll be off to a good start.

How about listening to some science-related podcasts?  Here are some examples ranging from the serious to the fun side of science:

Or, for a more general range topics, why not try Ted Talks?

You could also catch up on some important (and fun) reading:

  • Checking out BitesizeBio is always a good idea
  • If you’ve signed up for PubCrawler, then this is your chance to have a look through all those articles that are sent to you every day/week
  • Wired has some really interesting blog posts too

You could even use the time to keep your lab book up-to-date, or do some marking if you are a teaching assistant, especially if you’re on the train.

How do you make the most of your commute? Why not share your ideas here to help other commuters like yourself.


von Ommermen JN, Gutiérrez-i-Puigarnau E. Are workers with a long commute less productive? An empirical analysis of absenteeism. (2011). Regional Science and Urban Economics. 41:1-8.

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