5 Ways to Alleviate Commuter Stress

Dreading the commute again? Experts suggest these strategies to make it less awful—and even useful. 

After working from home for nearly two years, you’re called into the office. You’re not alone. With 38% of employees working in person again, and more slated to return early next year, the dreaded commute is back. For many, this means unpleasant flashbacks of driving on crowded highways, getting stuck in gridlocked traffic, or squeezing into packed subways. But while commuting probably can’t be avoided forever, there are some perks that come with it, experts say. Among them, after months at home: what comes at the end of the ride. “The enticement of going back into the office is the anticipation of face-to-face interaction” says Rick Sklarin, a senior client partner at Korn Ferry and member of the firm’s Global Technology practice.

Here are some expert tips on easing the stress – and maximizing the value – of commuting:

Incorporate hobbies.

Integrate your interests into your travel time to make it less grim. Listen to audio books or podcasts on topics you find engaging. “There are so many podcasts about every possible topic that are very well produced and interesting,” says Andrés Tapia, a Korn Ferry senior client partner and the firm’s global strategist for diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s a fast and simple way to be mentally active during “idle” time.

Commute shift.

Most companies bringing their employees back to the office are doing it in a hybrid format that allows individuals to work both remotely and in person experts say In such cases, they note, savvy workers try to shift their commute time to non-rush hours.  If your company is going hybrid, you could, for instance, schedule at-home Zoom meetings during the morning rush hour and leave for work after peak travel hours, says Sklarin. “That would dramatically reduce the time and stress associated with battling traffic or full trains and buses,” he says.

Re-establish the routine.

Take steps to transition to your pre-pandemic commuting routine. Blocking out time for travel in your calendar and setting a morning regimen will help you ease back into commuting life, says Sklarin. If you anticipate going back to the office soon, now is the time to start planning and implementing a schedule that works for you.

Make the commute productive.

Turn your commute productive by tackling some low-effort tasks. “You can use the commute as a productive part of the day and fill it up with calls you need to make,” says Sklarin.  Set up less intensive one-on-one chats to catch up with your colleagues during the travel time, Tapia says. Or get customer service calls with your insurance company or a repair service out of the way...

Plan for collegial interaction at the office. 

Avoid hyper scheduling or filling up your in-person work time with Zoom calls, says Tapia. Instead, try to set up brainstorming sessions or social events when you’re in the office. One of the primary reasons for reopening offices is to foster a sense of community again, so if you have the social aspect to look forward to, it will make the commute less dreadful, says Tapia. “Every time I go into the office, I want to make it a point to schedule lunch or coffee with somebody,” he says.