Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes

Our crowded, lengthy commutes are making us more lonely than ever


November, 2017

Several years ago, I was living in London when I accepted a job as a freelance reporter in Manchester. Despite the job being two hours away by train, I was eager—read, desperate—to take my first properly paid journalism position. The temporary contract job wasn’t enough to warrant moving cities, so I told myself I could hack travelling back and forth for a few months.

The strain of commuting 200-plus miles a week began to take its toll after just a few weeks. After travelling two hours to get to Manchester, it took another 40 minutes to the office. During the week, I crashed on sofas. Sometimes I would stay with my boyfriend’s family in Yorkshire—but that still left me 90 minutes away.

I felt drained. I was broke from spending so much on train fares. I was sick of carrying clean underwear and a toothbrush in my bag. My commute and work had left me little time to see friends, family, or my partner properly—they faced long working hours, fairly minimal pay, and hour-long commutes too.

One evening, as I waited at the station to go back to London, I realized my work had been late paying me and I was scraping the bottom of my overdraft. I had been commuting across the country for weeks, with nothing to show for it aside from bags under my eyes. I sat on a bench and cried, feeling embarrassed, exhausted, frustrated—and incredibly lonely. What didn’t occur to me at the time that I was far from alone.

Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams. It contributes to our anxiety, stress, and our waistlines. A recent study of British commuters found that even just a 20-minute increase in commute time is equivalent to getting a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction. Every extra minute spent travelling to and from work feels like a lifetime—and, unsurprisingly, increases strain on our wellbeing.

It’s also making us lonelier than ever.

“Commuting can be bad for our health, whether it’s packed, delayed trains or mile-long traffic jams.”

Millennials are often maligned as entitled, work-shy snowflakes unwilling to go the extra mile for their professions, but research suggests this is not the case. Stagnant wages and rising housing costs are pushing people further away from their jobs. The number of workers who commute daily in the UK for two hours or more has increased by a third in five years. This is a problem felt acutely by those aged between 20 and 35, who typically spend over a third of their post-tax income on rent.

Young British people may be the first generation to earn less than their predecessors, according to one 2016 report by the Resolution Foundation think tank. The 2008 Great Recession is only partly to blame, with earnings for young people being squeezed even before the start of the financial crisis. The same goes for young people in the US, who are $2,000 poorer than their parents were at the same age, according to the 2015 US Census.

As a result, my generation faces increasingly long journeys to work, with less to show for our efforts. In the UK, young people commute for the equivalent of three days a year more than their parents, according to a study by the UK-based Resolution Foundation. American workers are commuting longer too, according to the 2013 US Census—and nearly 600,000 workers endure “extreme commutes” of 90 minutes or more.

Facing skyrocketing living costs, and less disposable income, young people are also going out less, and spending more time on social media. A University of Pittsburgh study of adults aged between 19 and 32 years old found those who spent more than two hours a day on social media were twice as likely to feel socially isolated.

That leaves commuting one of the few times we’re consistently around other people. And yet, ironically, it’s an incredibly isolating experience.

When I was commuting to Manchester, people would ask how I was. I’d reply, “Fine,” because admitting I was lonely and depressed would mean admitting defeat. But it’s not surprising that I was feeling that way. Harvard political scientist Robert Putnam lists long commutes as one of the most substantial predictors of social isolation. He suggests that every 10 minutes spent commuting results in 10% fewer “social connections”—connections that make us feel happy.

We assume loneliness is a problem only felt among older generations, but it is a growing issue among young people. A survey of 2,000 Brits published by the UK’s Nationwide bank earlier this year unearthed a surprising phenomenon—nearly 89% of people aged between 18 and 34 who were polled said they had experienced “feeling disconnected or isolated” from society at some point in their lives, compared to 70% of those over 55.

We might be the generation that has instant streaming video, avo lattes, and “deconstructed food,” but we also live in an age of job insecurity and perilous casual worker contracts, burdened with enormous debt, and high living costs. It’s difficult to find a millennial worker who doesn’t feel disposable—most of them are. So if you’re offered a job with a long commute, the chances are you’re going to take it.

A lengthy transit to work seems like a relatively minor inconvenience, but long commutes and increased social isolation need to be taken more seriously.

Research shows feeling lonely is terrible for your physical and mental health. Earlier this year, medical practitioners warned that being lonely can be as bad for you as having a long-term medical condition like high blood pressure. Feeling isolated can contribute to problems such as anxiety and depression, which in turn can make you feel more alone, says Stephen Buckley, a spokesperson for Mind, a British mental health charity.

“Many people find spending time socializing to be a useful tool in boosting their wellbeing,” Buckley says. “But when you’re faced with long commutes, long working hours, or a lot of time away from home, it can be really difficult to spend time with others.”

These underlying factors aren’t going to go away overnight. But there are ways to get help if your commute is getting too much.

Online peer support networks like Mind’s Elefriends provide an outlet for people to discuss their problems online with people going through similar experiences. Networks for workers, such as freelancers, can be a good way to let off steam. Some groups organize social meetings in different cities, so you can speak to others face-to-face. This can be a lifeline when working far away from home.

A short-term answer to a stressful commute could be found in meditation apps like Buddhify (paywall) and Headspace, which have guided meditation sessions for a number of different scenarios, including traveling.

As an increasing number of people face long, strenuous commutes—employers may need to become more open to flexible working scenarios and telecommuting. According to a 2014 survey of more than 300 US workers by the University of Illinois, most employees performed at least as well as in the office when telecommuting—and some actually do better.

I commuted between London and Manchester for around five months until I was offered a full-time position in the capital, a breezy 30-minute commute from home. I don’t regret that period—if anything, it taught me how closely linked my commute was to my mental well-being and how important it was for me to stay connected to others. Even though my commute is shorter now, my experience has motivated me to work hard to maintain that connection with friends and family, even if it’s finding ten minutes for a coffee with someone at a train station. It can make a world of difference.


Lydia Smith

Telecommuting is right for me…

Telecommuting is right for me…

… is it right for you?

Over the years, the phrase ‘work from home’ has held a laundry list of negative associations. Not too long ago, it would bring about thoughts of MLM (multi level marketing), envelope stuffing or ‘home based shipping managers’. As with any industry, there are going to be scammers and before considering ANY type of role, you must vet both the company and the opportunity itself.

When I first learned about telecommuting (or working from home) in the spring of 2004, I was in a traditional call center management position that was ending in a few weeks due to a company relocation. I was highly skeptical and researched the company whose ad I had been shown in the paper with diligence – Arise Virtual Solutions (then it was known as Willow CSN). It seemed almost too good to be true… the thought of working from home, selecting my own hours and the clients I would be supporting? I looked for the angle, but was not able to find one. I moved forward in the Arise Admissions Process and became my own Independent Business Owner, contracted to provide service to valued Arise clients – essentially, I was my own boss. These clients were brands and names I both used and trusted. I carefully weighed the pros and cons of working from home and was amazed at how much I began to save in fuel costs, child care, wardrobe expenses and TIME!

“Spending $50-$100 a week in fuel to commute to & from work costs you $1.25-$2.50 an HOUR in lost wages!”

By the end of 2004, I was contracted to support potential IBOs (like I once was) through the Arise Admissions Process. This was a role I enjoyed tremendously! Helping people vet the company, the opportunity and ultimately, achieve their goal of working from home was amazingly rewarding! By early 2008, I was working directly for Arise and was no longer an Independent Business Owner contracted to provide support. Supporting US Admissions efforts on the corporate level included social sourcing and the use of Social Media. After growing the US Facebook fan page to 20k strong, I was asked to support the launch of two separate international verticals, initially Arise UK and then Arise Canada (which I supported until my departure from Arise in the Spring of 2015). During my tenure at Arise, I supported a variety of projects, including logo / re-branding focus groups, CMS testing & launch, Admissions Procedural Guidelines and documents, graphics projects as well as opportunity enrollment and being the primary point of contact for a number of Arise’s valued Independent Business Owners. My efforts earned me two separate Arise ‘Best of the Best’ awards and multiple certificates of recognition!

After an Arise hiatus and conversation with a Canadian IBO (ATAC Canada) that I acted as an Arise liaison for years ago, I have decided to venture back into the world of Arise! Only this time, I am going back to my roots… err IBO status! This means I am looking for a few people that are interested in venturing into the Virtual Call Center / Telecommuting World. Arise is one of the clients ATAC USA supports and having someone who not just knows the ropes, but helped spin the twine, is an added value to you!

There are many Independent Businesses contracted to provide support to Arise… but none of them with ATAC USA’s combined experience and network support!

Currently, we are seeking independent contractors to help support:

A Major Office Supply Retailer
A Major Cable Company
A Major Theme Park
Plus more!

If you have questions, we here to help- just ask! If you would like to apply to ATAC USA to provide support to Arise Clients, visit https://www.atacinc.ca/apply-usa/

We look forward to hearing from you!




Owners and Founders of ATAC “A & T Ascension Consulting Inc.”, a certified Virtual Service Corporation and Member of the Arise Virtual Solutions Network.




With the start of the New Year, many people find themselves reflecting on what’s important and resolving to make personal changes. For those of us in the workforce, this often means trying, yet again, to find a better balance between our personal and professional lives. In fact, one of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to spend more time with our family, our children and our friends.

Six years ago, my wife and I took this to heart and started our own business together.  Now, instead of balancing work-life and home-life, we find ourselves blending both in ways that allow us to finally have the life we both craved. Neither one of us would ever go back to our full-time jobs in a typical office environment where, between the office politics and our daily commute, we spent little quality time with the people who truly mattered to us.  Yet, working together, sometimes while children are in the house, hasn’t always been easy. We’ve learned a lot over the past six years as we’ve grown our business to where it has supported over 700 work from home customer service representatives.

Confucius says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Taken a step further, choosing a business that lets you work with the one you love can lead to an even better life.