Commuters driven to burnout

Canadian employees could be more likely to suffer burnout when they have less control over their commute.

Employers concerned with disability claims could offer transit pass discounts, flexible hours

New study shows a long trip to work can leave you feeling less interested in your job, Christine Birak reports 2:10

Canadian employees could be more likely to suffer burnout when they have less control over their commute.

Annie Barreck of the University of Montreal's School of Industrial Relations studied 1,942 people aged 17 to 69 across Quebec using questionnaires on mode of transport, length of commute, and symptoms of professional burnout, such as feeling exhausted at work.

A police officer directs traffic in Montreal, where researchers found people who travel to urban areas by car reported more stress and burnout than those who travelled to a rural area. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

"As of 35 minutes, the effect of your commuting will affect the cynicism behaviours of employees," Barreck said.

Not surprisingly, Barreck said, people who travel to urban areas by car reported more stress and burnout than those who travelled to a rural area where there's less traffic.

She's interested in how employers could help reduce the risk of burnout and disability.

"For people who travel to urban areas by car, the organizations could offer discounts on monthly pass to use the public transport or they could even offer flexible working times," Barreck suggested.

For commuters stuck in traffic, the findings could help shed light on whether the grass is in fact greener in getting to work another way and what trade-offs you'll face.

For instance, public transit users in large cities may have more options to make bus or train connections, compared to people in rural areas that aren't as well served.

Similarly, carpooling reduced passengers' sense of control and stress levels compared with drivers, the researchers found.

Barreck expects the urban findings would apply in Toronto and Vancouver, which show similar commuting times to Montreal, according to Statistics Canada.

Const. Clinton Stibbe of Toronto police says too often people run late, exceed speed limits, make mistakes, and collisions or even deaths result. 

"They can barely control their car," he said.

"Anything outside of [their car] is beyond their control. Except for time. If you give yourself that time, doesn't matter really what happens around you or outside that vehicle: you're probably going to make it to your appointment on time."

With files from CBC's Christine Birak

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