The average American spends 250 hours a year commuting to work. That’s equal to 10 days just spent driving.
Traffic jams, congestion, and the feeling that you’re wasting time on the road can all impact your stress levels. In fact, studies show that if you spend more than 20 minutes in a single commute, it can lead to chronic stress. This stress leads to increased levels of cortisol, which produces inflammatory chemicals and causes symptoms of depression and anxiety. It can also increase blood pressure and lead to fatigue and irritability.
Despite all this, commuting is a way of life for many Americans. So, what can you do to help your employees have a less stressful daily commute? Here are some tips.
Encourage employees to use micromobility vehicles
Micromobility is defined as transportation that uses lightweight vehicles such as bicycles or scooters, particularly electric ones. This method of travel has rapidly grown in cities nationwide, proving to be a popular transportation option for many users. Many metro areas are exploring micromobility as an alternative mode for active transportation and short trips.
Biking is an excellent way to incorporate fun and fitness into your daily routine.
Health guidelines recommend about two hours of moderate activity each week to combat stress, so biking a 25–to-30-minute commute a few times a week will help employees hit this goal.
Biking also helps lower blood pressure and boost energy, and exercise of any kind has been shown to alleviate symptoms of depression. Outdoor exercise also improves your mood by releasing endorphins and stimulating neurotransmitters, the signals that control emotional response.
Carpool with a friend
Talking to a friend is the best medicine for a stressed mind – and way cheaper than therapy. Being in the presence of a close friend has been proven to lower cortisol levels. One study found that spending time with someone who is happy makes you more than 15 percent more likely to be happy yourself.
Commuting with a friend or co-worker is an excellent way to incorporate social time and fun into a busy schedule. Consider setting up a rideshare group in the office to connect co-workers who live near each other.
Use public transit
Sometimes it’s not the commute that leads to additional stress but rather the time we spend in the car. One of the reasons people choose to drive themselves is to be in control of their situation.
But when you’re caught in a traffic jam, you likely feel like you’ve lost control. By taking public transportation, you’re giving up control of your commute and are less likely to be stressed out by delays.
Plus, turning the driving over to someone else can allow you to partake in de-stressing by reading, meditating, or even napping.
Offer commuter benefits
To entice your employees to use public transportation, consider offering commuter benefits. These benefits allow employees to set aside money in their paychecks tax-free every month to pay for commuting costs. Those savings mean employees pay less in tax on those earnings. The current limit is $280 per month.
They can spend the money on mass transit, qualified paid parking, or rideshares. The money is paid directly to a transit or parking vendor or set up on a voucher or debit card.
Make a playlist
One study found that people who listened to music when stuck in traffic were less likely to get angry than those who didn’t listen to music. Another study shows us that listening to upbeat music tends to make employees more cooperative, supportive, and productive.
Learn during your drive
Have you always wanted to learn Spanish? Or do you enjoy historical fiction novels? Borrow books on CD from the library or use a subscription service to download them onto your phone. Even the worst commute can be improved by getting lost in a book.
Bring your favorite beverage
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — it kick-starts your metabolism, gives you energy, and has been shown to improve concentration.
Include citrus and green tea in your morning drink when you’re feeling stressed out. Citrus prevents spikes in cortisol — just the smell alone can be enough to calm your mood. Green tea is another tool to have in your stress-fighting breakfast arsenal. It boosts dopamine and serotonin, known as the “happiness hormones.”
The bottom line
Commuting might not be something everyone can avoid. But with options like micromobility and mass transit, you can easily encourage employees to reduce the number of days they drive their own vehicles to work. Help by setting up rideshare groups, encouraging de-stressing activities, and of course – making sure you’re offering the very best in commuter benefits.
To learn more, schedule a meeting with us today so we can help you find the options for you and your employees.