All Those Remote Workers only a 2-Minute Drop in Commute Times? Doesn’t Seem Fair

The move to remote work continues to shake up the U.S. office market, with office vacancies reaching all-time highs in many cities during the third quarter of 2022. But more people working from home should come with at least one positive: a reduction in commute times as fewer cars clog U.S. highways.

The problem? The commute time for the average worker has dropped since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, it’s only dropped by about 2 minutes.

That’s the finding from a report released October 31st from Yardi Kube. Yardi reported that in 2019, 94% of the U.S. workforce was commuting and 8.9 million people worked remotely. That resulted in an average time of travel to work of almost 28 minutes.

In 2021, 27.6 million people worked remotely, resulting in about 18.6 million fewer commuters. The average time for commuters to travel to work in the United States that year fell to 26 minutes.

That isn’t much of a drop, but Yardi reports that this dip of 2 minutes equals about 8.5 hours in commute time saved a year for the average commuter.

But why isn’t the drop in commute times even higher with so many more employees working remotely? Yardi points to commuter habits.

Last year, more than 126 million workers 16 and older were commuting to work each morning. The company’s analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows that across the United States 67% of these commuters leave for work between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. The busiest timeslot for the morning commute is between 7 a.m. and 7:29 a.m., when more than 18 million people leave for work, or about 14% of total commuters.

The next busiest time slots are 7:30 a.m. to 7:59 a.m. and 8 a.m. to 8:29 a.m., with 12% and 11% of commuters leaving for work during these times.

Yardi’s research finds that commuters can save a significant amount of time on their travel to work by delaying or advancing their time of departure to work by just half an hour.

Consider Chicago. If commuters leave for work at 6:30 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. or after 8 a.m., they can save an average of 17.2 hours in commute times every year. This change can make an even bigger difference in Dallas. Yardi reports that commuters here can save an average of 22.2 hours a year by leaving at those same times.

And in Austin, Texas? Commuters can save a whopping 31.4 hours a year in travel times by leaving at 7:30 a.m. instead of 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. instead of 8:30 a.m.