I love this idea discussed by Web Worker and based on an article in the New Yorker regarding the personal cost of commuting in America. Lots of people have studied the issue and impact of commuting, but one, Harvard Politicial Science professor Robert Putnam, has actually come up with an easy rule of thumb for thinking about the impact of commuting: Every ten minutes of commuting results in ten per cent fewer social connections.
(A side note here that the one of the people Nick Paumgarten interviews in his article about commuting notes that she has tried every available commuting option including the bus–which she found “depressing.” Why are buses depressing? I find them so myself, even though I don’t want to. What am I missing?)
Web Worker discusses Putnam’s idea that the farther spread out our Work-Sleep-Shop triangle is, the less happy we are. The closer, the happier. So, if you commute 2 hours to work and back every day, that’s going to hit your happy-quotient. If on top of that, you have to travel a long way to get groceries, etc, that will also hit the quotient. Putnam’s conclusion: “…the bigger the refrigerator, the lonelier the soul.”
As Web Worker notes, there are real advantages here for the biz-at-home worker–that person would have to be pretty happy because the triangle is smaller by quite a lot. But wait! What about social isolation because you really are working all by yourself, day after day??? She offers a number of antidotes to isolation: conf calls, IM, blogging, twitter (which I just tried and didn’t quite “get” on the first go-round). I would also add that it’s nice to step outside for a few minutes or a few hours and work in the yard or walk through the neighborhood. This offers lots of chances to feel more connected with your own hood, and that’s a good thing. Even feeling more connected with your yard, the birds, the fresh air, helps to alleviate isolation. Yesterday I took a break from the desk to spiff up the driveway garden some and of course, a couple of neighbors stopped by which brightened my mood considerably.
So, one side of my work-sleep-shop triangle is pretty short (when I’m not commuting to El Salvador or some other place on a regular basis) and that also allows me to do a lot of my tasks/shop stuff by bike, which also postively impacts my health, energy and the environment. And as Martha would say, that’s a good thing.
Bike: 2.5 miles
Flexcar/Bus: 15 miles (Bus)