Why All Women Should Be Allowed to Work From Home


woman commuting trainCommuting in some of the most nightmarish conditions should be on my resume. In the past, I drove a three-mile commute in L.A. that took up to 45 minutes most days and a 13-mile commute in New Jersey that took up to TWO HOURS (thanks, bridge traffic!). I also drove in white-out snowstorms, and once, black ice caused a seven-car pile-up, which I was seconds away from becoming a part of. Then, there was the hour-long train commute from the 'burbs into Chicago and NYC. I still do that once a week. But my easiest commute by far? The one from my bed to my desk in my own apartment! Working from home has been nothing short of a miracle for my mental and physical health.

For so long, I've thought I was a weakling for not being able to handle the rat race. Everyone else (in NYC especially) makes it look effortless. But now researchers say that commuting to work IS more stressful for women. Whew -- so I'm NOT alone!

Although the study, out of the University of Sheffield, found that women have shorter trips to work than men on average, they're definitely hit harder psychologically by their commutes. I found that particularly interesting, because it's totally true for my boyfriend and me. He drives over bridges and through tunnels almost every day from north NJ to Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, sometimes even far out on Long Island. It can take him more than two hours, depending on traffic. What he does is something I just don't think I could bring myself to do. Sure, it takes a toll on him, but he seems to handle it MUCH better than I did my significantly shorter commutes.

Researchers attribute women's heightened "sensitivity to time spent commuting" to our "greater responsibility for day to day household tasks (including childcare and housework)." I could definitely see that being the case for some women, and yeah, I worry about cooking dinner (because I like to and am a bit more adept at cooking than my BF) or cleaning up around our place. But I also feel like I don't have the healthiest stress response to cope with the commute. Could have to do with some personal hormonal issues, but I wouldn't be surprised if other women are in the same boat. After all, chronically heightened cortisol (the fight-or-flight hormone that probably goes all sorts of wonky when dealing with jerk fellow drivers or masses of fellow commuters at your train station) can be a problem for anyone!

The upshot, though? The researchers say women might not have to worry so much about their commute stress as men start taking on more of an equal role with household tasks. A-ha! No matter the reason behind any woman's commute stress, that's certainly a fix I'm sure most of us wouldn't mind!

What do you think of this study? Are you stressed by your commute?


Image via Mo Riza/Flickr

stress, mental health, hormonal imbalances, emotional health


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nonmember avatar Eva

I defintely believe this study. My DH and I commute together (about a 25 minute drive each way) and while he'll chat and talk or use his phone when it's my week to drive I just sit there and worry about what I have to do at home, about the time I'm away from my baby, and if there's a delay in traffic, forget it, I'm a maniac. It stresses me out more than my job ever could.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I would love for businesses to take this to heart and start hiring more women to work at home. It would be amazing for those of us who live in rural areas, too. There's no reason why a woman in Kansas couldn't work for a business that's located in NYC, if everything is done online.

nonmember avatar Laura

Why in the world would you DRIVE three miles if it takes 45 minutes? You could've walked there in that time. And if you're fit, a 13-mile bike ride is supposedly not too hard. I wonder why people with short (distance-wise) commutes like that don't take advantage of it and get their exercise done while commuting. Two birds with one stone. I live 30 miles from work in a rural area so it's not possible for me. But I wish I had the option of walking. And I'd definitely take it if the commute was only 3 miles and I could get there faster by biking or walking!

Anyway, I really hope more and more jobs let us work from home. Everything I do could be done online, but they won't let us.

the3Rs the3Rs

I totally agree with this!  I used to have an hour long commute - on rural highways in the snow belt where it's winter 9 months of the year.  Ugh.

I've been working from home full time for years now and I absolutely LOVE it and I'm no longer nearly as stressed as I once was.

I used to work in the corner of my bedroom - and now I've built an office downstairs and I was (temporarily) annoyed that my commute was longer now!  LOL

KamiB79 KamiB79

Only thing that stresses me about working is getting everyone ready and out the door!

bether89 bether89

I do not have a long commute to work, only about 5 minutes from home.

L1558 L1558

What if work was close-- but the sitter/daycare/school was further away than that, and how do you take 2 or more kids on a bike, with diaper bag or backpacks, and purse and a tote for your heels/work shoes? If it were just me, I could walk...if it was more than 3 miles and not a "stroller friendly" road it'd be a lot harder.

Now-- on to the commute issue. I *don't* stress out more on the commute excepting that I cannot get cell service for much of my rural, 35 minute commute (lonely highway) and I'm always someone who likes to plan and get things done, using the time I have while I can't be "doing" to be catching up and planning. To sit in a quiet car and drive for half an hour doesn't stress me out.

I think the reason women are more "stressed" on the commute is they usually bear the burden of pickups/drop offs of children, getting kids ready to go out the door, lunches, keeping up with backpacks, keys, sippy cups, bags, and the deadlines of not only work but buses, school openings, kids' appointments during or after the school or workday, and errand running. They also plan dinner, and know coming home to husband saying, "well I didn't think about it/didn't know what you wanted/didn't remember what we were doing later" SUCKS. Who wants to get home with kiddos and everyone's hungry, and no one has a plan? 

The commute isn't stressful, being a working mom (or any mom) with a hectic schedule and inflexible work schedule is what's stressful!

nonmember avatar Andrew

Single Dad of a 12 year old boy and 9 year old girl. I completely disagree with the title of this article. Everyone has stress. The title should read "Everyone should be able to work from home" I hate to burst your bubble, but there are too many other variables that the study doesnt account for. The area in which you work. The traffic conditions (I live in Washington DC metro area...)

Currently, individuals in society do not look at issues from all view points. Roles in modern day homes have changed drastically. Does the individual who wants to work from home have the personality and dedication to not let home distract from the job? I am an IT professional and can do 85% of my job from anywere in the world. However, being in the office for meetings and collaboration is far far more productive.

Far too many variables for this to be a reality.

slw123 slw123

Commuting would be stressful to me, but it's also choice.  You can choose to take a different job to be closer to home.  If you choose to keep a job that causes you to commute 2 hours a day for extra money......your choice, but the time you spend away from your family suffers.

Pnukey Pnukey

I actually enjoy my commute. It allows me time to detach from the morning madness of getting the kids to school and mentally switch to what I have to concentrate on at work. The same goes for the commute home. However, it's only about a 20 minute drive.

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