Three-minute explainer on… super commuting

Whether it’s by plane, train or automobile, super commuters are travelling further than ever to make it into the office

Three-minute explainer

During the pandemic, when many first began working from home, there was an exodus of people from expensive city centres to suburbs, towns and more scenic rural areas.

London’s population, for example, fell by 75,000 during Covid, according to the Centre for Cities. While the capital’s population has since bounced back, those that have remained on the city outskirts now find themselves at the forefront of a rising trend – super commuting.

What is super commuting?

A super commuter is defined as someone who spends more than 90 minutes travelling to work each way. The longer commute time can be for a variety of reasons, whether that be to reside in a more affordable part of the country, capitalise on higher wages in another region or to live with family or partners.

Super commuting is not a new trend – BBC Worklife wrote about the commute of an acupuncturist who flew from Southwest France to London for work once a fortnight in 2014. However, it does seem that more people are willing to travel further for work in 2024.

Globally, the proportion of people who make a journey of 90 to 120 minutes at least once per week has increased by 1.6 percentage points, from 2.4% in 2020, according to Euromonitor. It estimates that over 3% of commuters are willing to travel even further, completing a 120-minute commute once a week or more.

This is widely regarded as a consequence of hybrid working. With people having to travel to their place of work less frequently, a two-hour commute once or twice a week can seem more manageable than coming into the office every day of the working week.

What to be aware of with super commuting

But, although multiple-hour-long commutes may not seem too burdensome when you’re only required to make the journey once a week, many companies are requesting that workers frequent the office more regularly

This is likely to create tensions between employers and their super-commuter staff, who may be unwilling to relocate closer to the office. Last year, video-sharing platform TikTok warned US staff whose home addresses aren’t in the vicinity of their office, that they could face disciplinary action, including being sacked, if they don’t relocate.

Longer commute times can also have negative consequences for staff and have been linked to higher stress and lower levels of wellbeing.

As businesses gradually increase the amount of time they require employees to spend on-site, the appeal of the super commute could begin to wane. But, for those who enjoy the new pace of life outside of the city, the longer commute time may continue to be a sacrifice they’re willing to make.