SURVEY SAYS – What Do You Do on the Way to Work?

July 29, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Over the course of my career, I've had various - and varying - commutes.

Those have been everything from long train rides to short drives, and back to longer drives – and there was that period right after I joined PLANSPONSOR  when my commute was just a matter of navigating the stairs in my house.   As those commutes have “evolved”, I have found various ways to help “fill” that time – and this week, I asked readers to share what YOU normally “do” on the way to work.  

The answers, of course, were as “varied” as those commutes – but let’s start there.   More than half ( 58.2% ) of this week’s respondents said their commute ran between 15 minutes and an hour – time enough to need something to do (IMHO).   What was more striking (to me, anyway) was the fact that nearly a third ( 30.2% ) said their commute was less than 15 minutes!   As one reader noted, “I only live 4 blocks from work, it don’t take me long to get there especially if the only traffic light is with me” ).

Roughly 8% said their commute ran between one and two hours, and just half a percent had a commute of more than two hours.

Of course, that means that about 3% were in the “other” category – and this week, that was mostly folks whose commute varied by day of the week (telecommuters, 4-day-week, that kind of thing).

Now, as for what they did on that commute, the most common response - 38.8%  - listened to music on the radio, while 30.6% listened to news on the radio, and one-in-four ( 25.6% ) listened to talk shows on that radio (you could provide more than one response).

Nearly as many ( 23.1% ) said that they "just drive", while 16.3%  listened to music, and 11.3% filled the time by listening to audio books.   As for the rest of the list:

7.5% - talk

6.9% - read newspaper/magazine

5.6% - read books

1.9% - sleep

Among the "other" activities were the following:

"Get all the calls done that I need to make so when I am at home I don't have to talk to anyone but my family."

"You left off catching up on phone calls....I'm generally checking on my mother on the drive home every night."

"I ride a motorcycle so I am limited in what I can do."

"That and dodge the crazy, erratic cowboys in the roads, and that does not include the Clearwater, FL retirees.

"My 3 year old son talks for the entire 30 minute drive to his daycare and my office. There is no silence in the car."

"Think!"

"While listening to my Ipod, I check my twitter and facebook accounts. After that I normally read a book."

"Stress about all the things I have to get done at work and at home."

"Do crossword and suduko."

"Eat a banana."

"And I do my make-up if I am running late."

"I make sure I am not texting."

"Eat breakfast."

"And at stoplights, I'll swipe on lipstick and mascara. I am not one of those crazy people who tries to put on makeup while the car's in motion."

"Thank goodness my car knows it's way to work. I have about a 20 minute, very easy commute. There's times when I don't even remember going through that light or seeing that area. Scary."

"I wish i could sleep but i doubt that my car can drive itself very far without me in control. In Louisiana, it is still legal to talk on a cell and drive...so i also do that a lot...especially if i get sleepy."

But this week's Editor's Choice goes to the reader who, for purposes of this week's survey, wanted to know, "Does cursing other drivers in your head count?"

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

  • Fortunately, I get to walk to work and take my dog with me.   So I'm usually playing with her and watching the birds on my three minute commute.
  • listen to radio - sports
  • Pray.
  • "It's about a 25 step walk from the bedroom to my office, so I rub my eyes, run my fingers through my hair, and check how bad the breath is.   My wife usually has control of the lone sink in the master bath when I get up, so I let her finish her regimen before I move in.   I work from home as you can tell.   Although there are benefits, I find my day doesn't seem to end until well after 9 PM.  
  • I think if I were office-based, the chance of me working so late would be lower as I'd be less likely to crack the laptop case after I packed up and went home.   But our firm seems to expect everyone to be available 24/7.   Indeed, the April Fool's joke this year (actually conceived by a friend of mine) was a change to our work policy where by you would work an hour, take 2 hours off, work another hour, take another 2 hours off...etc...so you'd be available at some reasonable hour for any timezone all day.   The comments online were funny from people who thought it was real.
  • But anyway, last year, when I was onsite at a client location here in Atlanta and took MARTA to work, I ended up catching up on work on the train usually."
  • Detour to the kitchen to get my coffee, read the headlines and boot up the computer.
  • Thank goodness my car knows it's way to work.   I have about a 20 minute, very easy commute.   There's times when I don't even remember going through that light or seeing that area.   Scary.
  • "Since my husband and I commute together [with him driving] I'll talk to him about our upcoming plans;
  • I'll sometimes read a book; and invariably, [we'll] listen to classical music anyway."
  • I work from home, so I pet the dog on my way to the other room, "THE OFFICE"
  • It depends whether I am driving or taking public transit...I am not one of those people who would read the newspaper while driving! Surprised to see one of the options wasn't work...because occasionally that is great time to catch up on stuff I didn't have time to get to while in the office.
  • I have a long drive and it gives me time to think some things through that happened that day or problems that need fixing.
  • I also sing along.
  • Audio books make it easier for me to keep up with reading, even though I don't have a lot of time to "read".
  • On the way to work I relax, listen to music, enjoy the beauty and get ready for the day; it's (generally) a beautiful 30-minute ride on country roads and uncongested freeways
  • XM Satellite Radio is AWESOME!   I love the comedy channels when I've had a rough day.   It picks me up before I get home so I can walk in the house with a smile.
  • After years of commutes of at least one hour each way, I'm very lucky with a 2.5 mile commute.   Too short to engage in talk radio or books on CD, so I just station-hop and blast music!
  • Work on laptop
  • I studied for my CEBS (Certified Employee Benefit Specialist) exams while on the bus.
  • for the first time in a long time I have only a 5 minute commute to work.   It's great - if I miss the two traffic lights it's 5 minutes.   It just leaves me enough time to say a quick prayer for the day.
  • Eat breakfast.
  • I carpool 3 days a week and sometimes we talk and sometimes ride in total silence depending on how we feel. Usually the radio is on NPR.
  • I do the puzzles in the newspaper from the day before.   There's a crossword, a sudoku, a jumble and a cryptogram.   I also carry a sudoku puzzle book in case I finish the puzzles in the paper before the trip is complete.
  • I make sure I am not texting.
  • My commute is 20 minutes, so I just listen to the news.   When it was an hour or more, I listened to a lot of audio books, especially books that I wouldn't otherwise get around to.   I did learn not to listen to Shakespeare, because I could never tell who was speaking (was that Macbeth or Macduff?).
  • Listen to NPR
  • My commute is very short but when it was longer or if it ever is, I study for tests.
  • My drive is rather short to work, a total of 7 miles but it takes me over 25 minutes some days with AM traffic. Since my new car has XM I sing along on the way.   It's a great way for me to wake up, gets me ready to tackle my day.
  • Listen to motivational tapes about goals, using your mind's capacity, attitude, etc.
  • The news (and the fascinating, in-depth way it is presented) on National Public Radio (NPR) makes the commute fly by!
  • I walk to work so I also burn about 200 calories. 🙂
  • And I do my make-up if I am running late.
  • While driving I learn and rehearse music for auditions or performances.
  • Do crossword and suduko
  • I come in early to beat traffic so I spend much of my 45 minute drive on major highway doing 70-75 mph (in slow lane). Of course, the other thing I do when driving to work is look forward to the fun-filled workday that lies ahead.
  • I walk to work. Sometimes make a few phone calls. Check the news and read email on my iPhone.
  • In the morning I listen to Bob & Tom for some humor to start the day.   In the afternoon I listen to rock & roll to wash away the worries of the day.
  • listen to sermons I've missed at church
  • EAT A BANANA
  • Listen to satellite radio and mentally address workplace issues and tasks.
  • I wish i could sleep but i doubt that my car can drive itself very far without me in control.   In Louisiana, it is still legal to talk on a cell and drive...so i also do that a lot...especially if i get sleepy.
  • I either listen to NPR on the car radio or listen to some favorite music CD at a very high decibel level in my car, depending on which mood I'm in that day.
  • Of course I should probably clarify that I take public transportation.
  • News on the way to work in the AM to catch up on overnight happenings; talk on the way home because Michael Medved is on.
  • Having my iPod connected to my car stereo has given me the ability to listen to the soundtrack of the last 25 years of my life.   I am convinced that my 2 year old will know the lyrics to all of the songs on the Joshua Tree before she knows her ABC's and Old MacDonald Had a Farm.   Perhaps it's time to change the soundtrack.
  • Read news on my iPhone
  • I switch among NPR, Martha Stewart radio and country music.
  • After many years of long commutes where no public transportation was available and I had no choice but to drive, I changed jobs and happily began getting up half an hour earlier to catch an express bus to my new job.   I used that 45-minute bus ride to catch up on reading or, more often, sleep.   Fast forward a few more years and I now have a 7-minute commute, or 10 minutes if I make a stop at Starbucks on the way.   Life is good!
  • ...actually, reading books, is reading on my Kindle...which is great, because if I finish a book, I can order up another one in seconds.     I just never can sit and do nothing, so if I'm talking with friends, at least 4 out of 7 of us are crocheting or knitting.
  • Part of my commute includes dropping off (or picking up) the kiddos at school or summer camp.   We talk and listen to music.   After the 2nd drop-off and before the first pick-up in the afternoon, I switch the channel to the local NPR station for Morning Edition and All Things Considered.
  • I listen to "Mike & Mike" sports talk in the morning. On the way home, I plug my ipod into the car stereo and listen to music.
  • When I'm not listening to conservative talk radio or playing my CDs of obscure '70s folk artists, I'm generally trying to dream up ways I could quit my job and do something more fulfilling and less stressful, while still making the same salary.   Needless to say, that fantasy has been ongoing for about 20 years now!
  • I literally work 2 minutes away...by the time I get comfy in the seat...I'm there!!
  • "And at stoplights, I'll swipe on lipstick and mascara. I am not one of those crazy people who tries to put on makeup while the car's in motion.
  • I do miss riding the bus (my mode while working in a downtown office) as it gave me a chance to catch up on reading while being completely oblivious to the harsh reality of rush-hour traffic. Unfortunately, our company moved to a building a bit outside the down-town business area, so bus service is spotty - my 10 to 15 minute commute would be 1.5 to 2 hours if I rode the bus!"
  • My commute is a combo of walking & rapid transit. Mostly I read short articles about investing & economics that I download off the internet while I'm at work. But I often listen to music on my MP3 player.
  • I also will talk to friends on my hands free phone as I have an hour drive each way. I purchased an older car when I was not employed a couple of years ago & the CD player doesn't work. Otherwise I'd listen to books on tape.
  • Listen to podcasts or music.
  • Stress about all the things I have to get done at work and at home.
  • ESPN radio & Glenn Beck!!
  • Make some hands free phone calls.
  • short drive to work ususally just visit with husband and listen to music on radio
  • XM/Sirius has improved the quality of my commute.   I usually listen to a different style of music each morning and vary my route periodically.   Seems to help get me engaged in my day a little quicker.
  • While listening to my Ipod, I check my twitter and facebook accounts.   After that I normally read a book.
  • Need to get into the "right" frame of mind.
  • Think!
  • My 3 year old son talks for the entire 30 minute drive to his daycare and my office.   There is no silence in the car.
  • My morning commute includes a short drive (8 miles) while listening to the morning news, a bus ride where I continue with my current book, a ferry ride where I eat breakfast and read the morning newspaper and then a short walk to the office.   The evening commute is mostly the same except mostly just reading my current book perhaps while listening to music on my iPod.
  • Read a book or magazine when I take a train, and if I am driving I have to listen to sports-talk radio...since I have less time at home to catch up on ESPN I need to listen in the morning to keep on top of everything!
  • I listen to CD's or radio and sing at the top of my lungs - there's no one else in the car that I would bother.
  • Hopefully, I am also paying attention to the traffic around me.
  • I stand; the trains are always packed.   Because they travel at a high rate of speed, they're too noisy to listen to music at a safe decibel level.   It's really really boring.
  • "1.   I try to stay alive.   Driving on the I 75 highway in Florida is life threatening.   The speed limit is 70, I'm going 80 (or get run over) and the weaving idiots are going 90, and do not know where their turn signals are!
  • 2. The drive is bearable because the radio show I listen to is such a hoot!   They have segments like ""The 9:00 o'clock nudes""   story of the day, champagne Fridays where they pop a bottle and talk with the comedian appearing at the local comedy club that weekend, and the latest ""drive-thru"" story -about who has driven into a building that is not a drive-in (only in FL!)."
  • Being a casualty of the economy ("we must protect the company, mustn't we?," on my way to work, I generally pet the dog, feed the cats, grab a cuppa joe, and then settle down in my home office to scan for any new job postings.   Oh, and I listen to CNBC, to see whether it'll be a good day or bad day (depending on the direction of the futures).
  • My commute now is only 10-15 minutes across town. I normally bring my son (2.5) along as his daycare is close to my office so we play a game of "I spy". He especially likes to find fire trucks, garbage trucks, water, boats, fountains, dogs and basketball hoops. It goes by too fast.
  • I talk to my mother on the hands-free every morning. She's getting up there in age and it helps if I touch base with her.
  • Curse at the idiot drivers on the road!
  • I know it is boring, but 90% of the time I just drive.   If a particularly newsworthy event is going on, I may listen to the news and a small portion of the time I listen to music.   However, if you asked what I do on the way home from work, it would be "talk."   Given a shortage of time in the day, my husband and I catch-up during our commutes home by talking on the phone.   And yes, we always use a hands-free device.
  • Since my commute is a short six minute drive, I don't have time to hear a whole song, listen to a talk show or the news or even get in a meaningful amount of time to listen to an audio book.   As a result, I take the couple of minutes to organize in my mind what my priorities are for the day so that I have a plan when I walk in the door.
  • I found that listening to faith-based radio programming puts me in a better frame of mind for both work and dealing with life issues at home.   It's an enriching time that I truly value.
  • That and dodge the crazy, erratic cowboys in the roads, and that does not include the Clearwater, FL retirees.
  • This is one of my more relaxing commutes - about 20 minutes and no freeways involved.   The bus is not an option now, but it has been in the past and I really enjoyed that time to sleep, read or just gaze out the window.
  • Does cursing other drivers in your head count?
  • I listen to radio - Bible teaching and music
  • I enjoy Mike & Mike in the morning, then flip to local traffic and news, then flip to comedy stations during Mike & Mike commercial breaks. I especially enjoy stumbling on to a good comedy routine - Brian Regan, Kathleen Madigan, Jim Gaffigan - to start my morning with a smile, at least until I enter the front door of the office building when my smile tends to turn upside down 🙂
  • I talk by phone to my significant other. We have a long distance relationship and "ride in together" every morning.
  • "You left off catching up on phone calls....
  • I'm generally checking on my mother on the drive home every night."
  • "I used to take the train to SF for years and I would read or do work in the morning going to work but I would sleep coming home.   It was a long ride and my station was the last stop.
  • Now, my commute is a 20-minute freeway drive at 70 miles/hour.   Not much else to do but listening to the radio or music."
  • My current commute is only 15 minutes.   Back when I had a 2 hour commute, I listened to books on tape and, sometimes, planned my day which was fruitless since nothing ever goes as planned.
  • Get all the calls done that I need to make so when I am at home I don't have to talk to anyone but my family.
  • I ride a motorcycle so I am limited n what I can do.
  • Cell phone conversation

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