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The Upside Of Living In The Cities With The Worst Commutes

Seven out of 10 states that have the worst metro area commutes also have plenty of work for telecommuters.

The Upside Of Living In The Cities With The Worst Commutes
[Photo: Flickr user Malinda Rathnayake]

How much do you hate your commute to work?

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Some denizens of the Bay Area were so tired of traveling back and forth to their tech jobs in Mountain View that they were willing to shell out $46 a night to sleep in a tent in someone’s backyard in close proximity to the Google campus. That works out to just under $900 per month–which in some cities is what it costs to rent a decent one-bedroom apartment.

Lest you think that’s an isolated story, consider this: American workers spend over 40 hours a year stuck in traffic. And it’s only going to get worse as the population increases. By 2040, nearly 30,000 miles of the country’s busiest highways are expected to get backed up daily, wasting an estimated $27 billion in time and fuel costs. Ouch.

Though it’s tough all over the U.S., a 2013 report by the U.S. Census Bureau revealed the 10 metro areas where full-time workers have the worst commutes in terms of travel time.

The Top 10 Longest Commutes In The U.S.

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  1. San Francisco, Oakland, Fremont, California
  2. New York, Northern New Jersey, Long Island
  3. Washington D.C., Arlington-Alexandria, Virginia
  4. Trenton-Ewing, New Jersey
  5. Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Ana, California
  6. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, Massachusetts
  7. Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, Georgia
  8. Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, Illinois
  9. Philadelphia-Camden, Pennsylvania/Wilmington, Delaware
  10. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington

Among the commuters, those traveling from Monroe County, Pennsylvania, to New York have the longest ride at 91 miles, which takes an estimated 120 minutes to get to the office (depending on traffic, of course).

“These cities are extreme examples where commuters are losing massive amounts of time simply to get to and from their offices, although there are many cities around the country where commuting takes a toll on the average worker,” Sara Sutton Fell, Founder and CEO of FlexJobs, said in a statement. Sutton Fell believes that eliminating a commute even two days per week would not only reduce traffic, pollution, and gas consumption, but also free up time for workers to do something that makes them happier. That can boost productivity, Sutton Fell says, “a win-win for both employees and employers.”

The Commuting Fix: Working From Home

Indeed 87% of human resources leaders say that staff working periodically from home boosted employee satisfaction so much that nearly seven out of 10 hiring managers use flex-time programs as a recruiting and retention tool, and HR membership service Workplace Trends and CareerArc, a global recruitment and outplacement firm. Nearly one-third (29%) spent over $40,000 implementing a flex-time program last year, and more than half say they’ll invest more in those initiatives this year.

But a most recent Workplace Flexibility Study revealed that employees and job seekers still want more. Nationally, according to the Census, just 4.7% of the workforce is able to work remotely every day.

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FlexJobs, a job service that specializes in telecommuting and other flexible jobs, found that seven out of the 10 states represented on the census survey for the worst commutes are also among the top 10 states with the most telecommuting job listings.

In this case, telecommuting refers to work that can be performed from home, and options may include contract, employee, part-time, and full-time positions. Most telecommuting jobs (96.5%) do have a location requirement in which the employer requires the applicant to live in a specific location. The other 3.5% allow applicants to work from anywhere in the world. The location-based, work-from-home positions vary between states and industries.

FlexJobs data shows that a host of enterprise businesses have recruited telecommuters in the past year. Amazon, Apple, IBM, Kaplan, GE, Dell, UnitedHealth Group, Salesforce, Pitney Bowes, CIGNA, and Lockheed Martin are among those companies that hired flex workers in states where they have headquarters as well as for satellite operations in other states.

About the author

Lydia Dishman is a business journalist writing about the intersection of tech, leadership, commerce, and innovation. She is a regular contributor to Fast Company and has written for CBS Moneywatch, Fortune, The Guardian, Popular Science, and the New York Times, among others.

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