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

54 Pages Posted: 14 Jan 2016 Last revised: 18 Jul 2019

See all articles by Jon Jachimowicz

Jon Jachimowicz

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit

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: July 2, 2019

Abstract

Across the globe, every workday people commute an average of 38 minutes each way, yet surprisingly little research has examined the implications of this daily routine for work-related outcomes. Integrating theories of boundary work, self-control, and work-family conflict, we propose that the commute to work serves as a liminal role transition between home and work roles, prompting employees to engage in boundary management strategies. Across three field studies (N = 1,736), including 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 a specific boundary management strategy we term role-clarifying prospection—i.e., thinking about the upcoming work role—are less likely to be negatively affected by lengthy commutes to work. Results further show that 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. Although the commute to work is typically seen as an undesirable part of the workday, our theory and results point to the benefits of using it as an opportunity to transition into one’s work role.

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

Suggested Citation

Jachimowicz, Jon and Lee, Julia and Staats, Bradley R. and Menges, Jochen and Gino, Francesca, Between Home and Work: Commuting as an Opportunity for Role Transitions (July 2, 2019). 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

Harvard University - Organizational Behavior Unit ( email )

Soldiers Field
Boston, MA 02163
United States

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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