Between Home and Work: Commuting as an Opportunity for Role Transitions

59 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2016 Last revised: 8 Aug 2018

See all articles by Jon Jachimowicz

Jon Jachimowicz

Columbia University - Columbia Business School

Jooa Julia Lee

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

Jochen Menges

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management; Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

Francesca Gino

Harvard Business School

Date Written: August 2018

Abstract

Across the globe, people commute an average of 38 minutes each way. Several large-scale surveys indicate that lengthy commutes decrease job satisfaction and increase turnover. Despite the prominence of commuting in everyday life, little is known about why commuting is so aversive, who is most affected by the commuting experience, when people are particularly affected, and how people could better cope with lengthy commutes. Integrating theories of boundary work, self-control, and work-family conflict, we propose that commutes serve as transitions between home and work roles. Because employees hold no defined role during their commute, lengthy commutes keep employees in limbo between their home and work roles for longer, which gives rise to aversively experienced role ambiguity. Across three studies, including a field study and a four-week-long intervention study, we find that lengthy morning commutes are more aversive for employees with lower trait self-control and greater work-family conflict, leading to decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover. In addition, we find that employees who engage in role-clarifying prospection—role-related thoughts about their upcoming (work) role—are less likely to be negatively affected by lengthy commutes to work. Employees with higher levels of trait self-control are more likely to engage in role-clarifying prospection, and employees who experience higher levels of work-family conflict are more likely to benefit from role-clarifying prospection. Therefore, 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 transitioning into a different role.

Keywords: Commuting, Boundary Work, Self-Control, Work-Family Conflict, Prospection

Suggested Citation

Jachimowicz, Jon and Lee, Jooa Julia and Staats, Bradley R. and Menges, Jochen and Gino, Francesca, Between Home and Work: Commuting as an Opportunity for Role Transitions (August 2018). Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 16-077; Columbia Business School Research Paper No. 16-7. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2714478 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2714478

Jon Jachimowicz

Columbia University - Columbia Business School ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Jooa Julia Lee

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States
734-647-4606 (Phone)

Bradley R. Staats

University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School ( email )

McColl Building, CB#3490
Chapel Hill, NC 27599
United States

Jochen Menges

WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management ( email )

Burgplatz 2
Vallendar, 56179
Germany

Judge Business School, University of Cambridge

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom
1223766447 (Phone)
1223766447 (Fax)

Francesca Gino (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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