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The Globe and Mail and Morneau Shepell created the Employee Recommended Workplace Award to honour companies that put the health and total well-being of their employees first. Register for the 2020 Employee Recommended Workplace Award at employeerecommended.com. This series of articles supports the award.

How long is your commute to and from work each day?

Statistics Canada reported that, for the 12.6 million Canadians who commute to work by car the average drive is 24 minutes. That’s approximately five hours a week commuting to and from work. For those who live in bigger cities, 10 hours a week commuting to and from work is quite common.

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Scientific American reported that each additional travel minute correlated to higher health risks for headaches, digestive problems, high blood pressure, fatigue and psychosomatic disorders. This suggests that for some employees, commuting can have a negative impact on their health, and perhaps their productivity, at work.

This microskill explores how to reframe commutes from being an energy drain to being found time.

Awareness

On a scale of one to 10, how much do you dread your daily commute? The higher your dread factor, the more likely you will experience negative emotions and symptoms. When you are not mindful or aware of negative emotions attached to your commute, you’re likely to accumulate stress, be more at risk for health issues and be distracted, which may put you at more risk for accidents.

You may not be able to easily shorten or eliminate your commute. However, with the right frame of mind, you can change how you perceive your commute from being a burden to being found time that you can allocate as you like.

Accountability

If your commute is wearing on you, you’re becoming angrier when driving, getting sick more often, not sleeping well and displaying more negativity at work – these are signs that your mind and body are dreading your commute.

But the thoughts we tell ourselves about our commute influence our emotions and mood. Changing our frame of mind means owning our behaviour.

Action

Creating a new mental framework for commuting begins with seizing the opportunity to leverage commute time as found time.

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1. Set a goal: One way to change your mental frame about commuting is to record your dreaded commute score on the scale of one to 10 and set a goal to lower it. You can do this by using your commuting time in a positive way. If your commute is five hours a week, you can reframe this time as found time rather than as hours you dread.

2. Define options: Your commuting mode (car, bus, train, walking, biking, subway) will define what kind of things you can do with your found time. Based on your mode of travel, you can create a list of options related to your interests. For instance, some options that could be relaxing and good for you are:

  • Taking an online course
  • Meditating
  • Reading a book
  • Learning a language
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Listening to music
  • Clearing e-mails and messages
  • Calling a friend

Once you create your list, pick one or two things to focus on for the next two weeks. You’re now ready to reprogram your commute experience from negative to positive. Check your list every two weeks so that you’re focused on things you’re interested in. This will provide an opportunity to make changes.

3. Develop your newfound time habit: Seldom can we change our mental frame overnight. It takes patience and practice to move from a dreading state to an enthusiastic state. Ultimately, the more we embrace and learn to enjoy found time, the more likely we’ll look forward to it. A commute has the potential to become a rejuvenating factor instead of an energy drain, provided the focus is put on taking advantage of this found time and putting attention on doing something versus counting minutes and stressing about time. Pay attention to your dread score each week. As it drops, so will your stress. Once you develop your found-time habit, you’ll be able to improve your mental outlook, which will benefit you both at home and at work.

Bill Howatt is the founder of Howatt HR Consulting and a co-creator of the Employee Recommended Workplace Award.

You can find other stories like these at tgam.ca/workplaceaward.

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Read about the 2019 winners of the award and watch a video from the winners here. You can also purchase the benchmark report that outlines findings from 2018 at this link.

Download our e-books: Inch by Inch, Make Life a Cinch; Little Steps to Big Change; Staying Afloat.

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