Three hands, one behind the other. Each is holding a hanging strap of the kind that is designed to keep them stable when standing on public transport.

Five ways to make the most of your commute

For some, the commute to and from work draws a boundary that allows them to separate business from home life, and this was something that people really struggled with in the early stages of the pandemic. Even though the lack of morning commute was time-saving and welcome, many found it hard to switch off at the end of the day. And deep in our collective subconscious, we slowly began to mentally associate our home spaces, such as living rooms and even beds, as places of work. The concept (and excellent portmanteau) of ‘Coronasomnia’ was coined to describe the sleeplessness many suffered as the enforced discipline of the workday fell away. It was an unwelcome side effect of our metal grappling with the blurred line between where work ends and home life begins.

However, in many countries, a gentle return to the office has started. Maybe not all the time, but certainly enough to give pause for thought about what we loathed about the daily commute and what we can do differently – especially if it’s not going to be every day. Whether it’s a fifteen-minute walk or two hours on a train, this is the time where you enter and exit the work world – and what you do during this time can have a huge effect on how you feel and what you do afterwards. Whether that’s arriving at your desk or opening your front door. How about trying something a bit different?

Why not slow down?

When you have a destination, isn’t there always a sense of quietly willing yourself to be there faster? This is entirely understandable, especially if the weather is dreadful, or traffic atrocious. But what if you could build in a moment or two to slow down your commute. Is there an opportunity to stop and have a coffee? Not just grab one to take away but instead sit down and do a spot of people watching for ten minutes. Or is there a park you can take a short stroll around before heading into the office? The reason? Rushing is stressful. By giving yourself extra time each day to slow down, you’ll arrive at work – and home – in a far better place mentally.

Two people in business clothing smile at each other as they cycle side by side past shops, a tree and some flowerbeds. Their bikes have brown baskets in the front.

Could you learn something new?

It’s a bit of a cliché, but good advice nonetheless: using the time you spend commuting in a productive way can actually make the time fly. And we don’t mean by working (although sometimes that can’t be helped), but by expanding your horizons in lots of different areas. Fancy learning a new language? Whether you’re driving or on public transport, it couldn’t be easier with so many excellent resources available. Perhaps you could explore new perspectives with an excellent podcast or two (we can heartily recommend our very own award-winning Shutter Stories if you’d like to immerse yourself in the world of photography and filmmaking!). Or a deep dive into a non-fiction or audiobook can open up a world of new ideas.

Are you a daydream believer?

Of course, this isn’t for the drivers, but perhaps ditching the car once in a while might allow you to let your mind wander into a world of positive daydreams. Studies of professional athletes, musicians and even surgeons have shown that a daydream that focuses on a positive outcome or goal can have incredible benefits for working life. Of course, it’s not all about work – a cheerful or meaningful daydreaming, however wacky, is proven to boost your mood and give you an increased sense of wellbeing. Think of it as letting your brain go on a little vacation every day. There is also strong supporting evidence to suggest that taking a pause to let your mind wander can help you to solve thorny problems and conceive new and creative approaches.

Can you reach out to loved ones?

Make that phone call. Or if that feels weird while on the bus, fire up the instant messaging and take a little time to catch up with friends and family. Deliver that amazing happy birthday GIF you’ve been saving directly to your cousin, instead of through Facebook. Arrange a get together. Send the latest video of your cat to your feline-loving aunt. Wish your kids a great day at school or work. Life moves so quickly, and all the best intentions have a habit of disappearing into the ether when you’re busy. Just ten minutes of your commute spent sending messages to your loved ones isn’t just good for the people who love to hear from you but will give you a sense of wellbeing too.

How about mixing it up?

Who says a commute needs to be a solo affair? It’s nice to have company from time to time, so is there any opportunity to meet a friend or colleague along the way? Equally, a change is as good as a rest – could you walk or cycle to work instead of driving? There’s plenty of evidence that exercise before work, even light, makes you more focused and productive. Remember: there are no rules on commuting – you can change how you get to and from work to suit your mood or just the weather.

Written by Anna Shaw