Before remote work became the norm for many white-collar employees, the average American’s commute was 27 minutes, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau. That means that if you’re no longer commuting, you’re saving nearly an hour a day on average. And although it’s nice to get that time back, there is a drawback to not commuting — there’s no longer that set break between the workday and the rest of the day, no buffer period between your “on” and “off” times. Which is why some workers have taken it upon themselves to institute a “fake commute” at the beginning and/or end of each workday.
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“‘Fake commutes’ serve a real purpose in the new scheme of virtual work life,” said Diane Martinez, a certified holistic life coach. “Taking time in the morning to get outside and walk, sit and listen to your favorite playlist, do yoga or whatever serves us best, acts as a buffer to give our mind and psyche time to shift gears and prepare for the day ahead, and the same is true when the workday is over. We need an opportunity to decompress from the stress of the day before taking on the evening’s responsibilities at home.”
Last updated: May 19, 2021
Do Your Normal Commute Activity
“During the ‘commute,’ I recommend doing something you used to do during your actual commute on the subway, bus or car, whether that is reading or listening to a book, listening to music or reading the day’s newspaper,” said Paul French, managing director of Intrinsic Search, an executive search company. “These activities help your mind and body to acclimatize and transition into a ‘work mindset’ in spite of working from home.”
Go for a Walk
Walking has numerous benefits, so consider starting and/or ending the day with a 20- to 30-minute stroll.
“First, it helps move your body and brain into motion,” said Katie Kent, co-founder of the career coaching company, Placement. “Second, it helps you sleep. Getting outside in the morning and soaking up Vitamin D tells your body to wake up, which makes it easier to actually fall asleep at night. Third, it’s a great way to build a habit of daily exercise, which is one of the best things you can do for overall health.”
Make a Real Breakfast
“Taking time to make yourself breakfast during that additional morning time and eating it consciously can be helpful, as opposed to grabbing a protein bar as you rush out of the house,” said Dr. La Keita Carter, a licensed psychologist and owner of the Institute for HEALing. “If you use this time to meet an internal need, then you are doing yourself a favor.”
Take an Extra Long Shower
“Enjoying an extra long shower can positively impact your stress levels,” Carter said. “Research shows that lower stress levels are associated with higher performance at work. People who have lower stress levels are able to concentrate, problem-solve and plan better.”
Listen To a Podcast
Rachel Gilfrin, a career coach with Rachel Harriet Coaching, has instituted a ‘fake commute’ into her own daily routine that includes listening to a podcast.
“By listening to a podcast, I work on my mindset and consider other perspectives, which prepares me for interactions with others during my working day,” she said.
You can even listen to a podcast while you walk to hit two birds with one stone.
Knock Things Off Your To-Do List
Having a bunch of errands you need to run or tasks you need to do around the house hanging over your head the entire workday can give you anxiety, so why not take care of these to-do list items first thing in the morning?
“Run a few errands before the workday begins,” said Jennifer Tomko, LCSW, psychotherapist and owner of Clarity Health Solutions in Jupiter, Florida. “Some people challenge themselves to accomplish 10 things before 10 a.m. This gets the day off to a rewarding and productive start, and sets you up for success for the remainder of the day.”
Chat With Your Neighbors
One of the downsides of working from home is missing out on the social aspects of working in an office, so try to (safely) incorporate some socializing into what would normally be your commute time.
“Go outside and have a safe, socially distanced conversation with a neighbor to get your dose of watercooler chat that you’d normally get at the office,” Tomko said.
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Pick Up a Cup of Coffee
Caffeine can be your motivator for getting out of the house in the morning.
“Go to a local coffee shop for your morning cup of coffee,” Tomko said.
You can walk, jog, bike, or even drive to the coffee shop, just to ensure you’re getting out of the house and getting some “me” time before starting your day.
Do a Workout
It may have been hard to squeeze in a workout when you had to be in the office by a certain time, but with extra commute time, plus a possibly more flexible schedule, you can make a workout part of your daily workday routine. Life coach Leah Wiseman Fink has made a workout her “fake commute.”
“Personally, I am grounded and energized by my parking lot workouts, which give me fresh air and exercise,” she said.
Katie Utterback, life coach and founder of Elevated Aura, recommends meditating for 15 to 30 minutes before starting the workday.
“When we give ourselves even just 15 to 20 minutes in the morning to meditate, to breathe, it sets a tone for the day,” she said.
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