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I'm considering moving to Northern Virginia because my girlfriend lives there. When I leave her place to get to work, 50 miles away, it takes two hours if I leave before 6 a.m but 3 hours if I leave later. It's got me wondering how employees here manage to consistently make it to work on time when they are spending two to three hours in traffic everyday.

Do companies in areas such account for the congestion and allow workers to arrive later than usual?

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    Hilmar's answer covers most of it so I won't post a new answer, but as someone who lives in the DC area, most office jobs I know of offer flexible hours because of the commute. At my office there are some people who choose to arrive by 6am and some who don't arrive until 10 or 11am. You'd have to work with your employer to figure out what's possible for you. You could also look at carpooling to take advantage of HOV lanes. That being said, when I moved into the city I got tired of the long drive very quickly and opted to find a job with a better commute. – David K Feb 20 '18 at 13:10
  • Thanks for the great responses. I do agree that it's the employees responsibility and not the employers, but I was curious about the sustainability of such a routine. At some point, spending up to 6hrs of my day in traffic would wear me down. I personally know a few people who have moved or found another job, but the majority of the area seems to deal with this and have been for a long time so I wanted to know how they cope, and what kinds of support employers in the area are willing to offer them. – user83072 Feb 20 '18 at 15:41
  • @EmmanuelColeman, The type of job you're applying for will also factor in the kind of flexibility and support your employer is willing to give you. For instance, if you're a software developer, it's not unheard of that you might be allowed to work one day a week remotely from home. Or if you work for the government, it's likely that they'll give you a very flexible schedule assuming your job does not entail dealing with the public. And if you're applying for jobs, you should read their websites to see what perks they offer their prospective employees in terms of commute or working hours. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 20 '18 at 16:01
  • @EmmanuelColeman, you are right to conclude that sustainability is a problem. I once commuted from Baltimore to Rockville. It was exceedingly clear that a 2-ish hour commute wasn't feasible in the long term. It drains so much valuable time that it was only worth it as a stepping stone to get to a better place career-wise. That said ultra commutes are common along the eastern corridor, employers simply accept it for professional salaried perm staff that have flexible hours. – teego1967 Feb 20 '18 at 18:02
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In principle, it's the employee's problem, not the company's

Simply put, your employer doesn't care how you get to work on time, as long as you do. That one employee needs 3 hours to get to work when a coworker might only need 3 minutes is not relevant to the company: they expect you to be on time at the designated place. That's your responsibility as an employee, which you agreed to when you signed your contract.

This means that if you're moving for any reason that wasn't forced on you by your employer, you should not expect them to react to that in any way.

Now, if you were hired to work specifically at location X and your employer decides you need to work at location Y instead causing you to have a much longer commute, only then can you start talking to the employer about some form of compensation. In this case it's the employer's fault that the commute time increased. However, be aware that it's possible that your contract already includes a provision that states you may be asked to work in a different location than location X, in which case you have no real basis to ask for compensation.

Regardless of why, if your commute becomes too long for comfort, the only thing you can do is take steps to shorten it. This probably means either moving houses to live closer to work, or changing jobs to work closer to home.

Another thing to keep in mind is that even if you do get some compensation, that doesn't change the length of your commute. What constitutes too long of a commute is highly personal. Some people will happily spend 3 hours getting to work and another 3 hours getting back home. Other people will get fed up as soon as they need to spend more than 20 minutes to get to work. Nobody can decide for you what commute you're comfortable with, but it's important to keep it in mind when you're making your decision.

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That's unfortunately very common. The possible options are

  1. Just live with it
  2. Arrange flex time with your employer: time-shift, work from home days, alternate long/short days, stay in town for a night, etc.
  3. Use the car time productively for phone calls (if that can be done safely), listening to audio books for entertainment or education
  4. Alternative commute methods: train, car pool, company shuttle
  5. Move closer to work
  6. Find a new job

I've seen all of this happening. Commute is a big deal (see e.g. this study comparing an increased commute to a pay cut) and you need to find something that's long term sustainable. Otherwise the job won't work out, regardless how good it is.

Depending on what you do, there is quite a bit more flexibility these days. For example, last week I stayed in town two nights in a cheap AirBnB and workd three really long day in the office, but did the rest of the week from home.

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Many employers simply won't hire you if your commute is longer than "X" with "X" being defined by that company.

Others allow telecommuting if your commute is longer than or farther than "X"

As for employees, some will rent rooms closer to work, or have friends they can crash with for times of emergencies, such as inclement weather. Failing that, sometimes telecommuting, at least part time can be arranged in some circumstances.

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    I've never heard of a company asking about your potential commute before extending an offer. As long as you show up on time, why would they care? – Nuclear Wang Feb 20 '18 at 14:58
  • @NuclearWang it is VERY common in the new York, New Jersey area. In fact, prior to the completion of a highway in this area, ALL employers in a certain city would explicitly ask about your commute. There, now you've heard about it. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 20 '18 at 15:11
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    @StephanBranczyk in the NY city/NJ/Philadelphia corridor, the commutes are a consideration, due to traffic, mass transit snarls, et cet. As you indicated, a concern for business is "how long will this guy put up with a three hour commute". As you indicated, there are MANY ways to circumvent any laws restricting any inquiries – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Feb 20 '18 at 15:27
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    Also, there is one more reason not to hire someone with a long commute, if you work in tech, some employers expect their exempt employees to do lots of unpaid overtime and have no life. And with a 2 to 3 hours commute one way, that means a commute of 4 to 6 hours in total both ways, you're much less likely to do overtime if you commute that much, and you're also more likely to be tired, and not be as productive for the employer if you can't get enough sleep each night. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 20 '18 at 15:41
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    @Neuromancer, In my area, exempt employees can have 40 hours of work assigned to them, but end up doing 60 hours - 70 hours a week. That's what I meant by saying unpaid overtime. Good for you that you don't have to do that. – Stephan Branczyk Feb 21 '18 at 9:31