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Future Of Work

Walking or Biking to Work Could Make You More Productive

New research shows that a bad commute can set the tone for the entire day.
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Illustration: Daphné Geisler for Bloomberg Businessweek

For 14 years, Kerry Mellin commuted 40 miles to her job as a motion picture costumer at Nickelodeon Studios in Burbank, Calif. The trip from her home in Simi Valley took her east via Route 118, then south onto Interstate 5. Three turns later, she was there. On a good day, the drive took 75 minutes. “On bad traffic days, it was easily two hours,” she says. “The road rage was real. I felt trapped in my lane, and my sciatica was killing me.”

No productivity guru preaches the benefits of morning anger and back pain. But exactly how an odyssey such as Mellin’s affects the workday hasn’t been fully understood. New research from Dartmouth helps quantify the cost of commuting on performance. “Your commute predicts your day,” says Andrew Campbell, lead researcher of the study and a professor of computer science.