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Market-Based Solutions to Vital Economic Issues
Research
Feb 2, 2016

Commuting with a Plan: How Goal-Directed Prospection Can Offset the Strain of Commuting

Abstract

Across the globe, the average commute is 38 minutes each way, and it is well known that lengthy commutes negatively affect employees’ well-being and job-related outcomes leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover. Despite the importance of commuting in employees’ everyday life, little is known about how negative effects of lengthy commutes could be attenuated. Integrating theories of boundary work and self-control in psychological and organizational sciences, we argue that organizing one’s thoughts and actions to prepare oneself for the workday — what we call work-related prospection — reduces the negative consequences of lengthy commutes because it facilitates employees’ transition into their work role, improving employees’ well-being and job-related outcomes. Across two field studies, we find that employees who engage in work-related prospection are less likely to experience the negative effects of lengthy commutes in terms of reduced job satisfaction and turnover. In a field experiment, employees randomly assigned to engage in work-related prospection during commuting experienced less negative effects from longer commutes, in comparison to multiple control groups. Although commuting is typically seen as an undesirable part of the workday, our theory and results point to the benefits of using it as an opportunity for work-related prospection.


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