Burnout & Why Commuting Sucks

Commuting to and from a job is something that millions of people in the UK do. It’s something that people go along with as a ‘normal’ thing to do for a chosen profession.

My experience of commuting was one that I’ll always regret. In 2014 I took a job that I shouldn’t have taken. It was 32 miles away from my house (not that far really) and a chance to work in a small advertising agency. I’d previously worked for myself and within larger ‘in-house’ design rolls. The commute didn’t look to be too bad. It was all motorway driving, so surely I would eat up the miles right? Wrong. The motorways in question were the M60 (the large ringroad around Manchester) and the M56, which I now dub as the highway to hell.

My average commute, either in my car or on my motorbike would fluctuate between 1h 15m on a good day to 2h 30m on a bad day. And the bad days greatly outweighed the good. Who would have known that my average speed on a motorway would be around 10mph some days. I could have cycled to work in a quicker time. Most days there were accidents on the motorway. I narrowly avoid a big pile-up whilst on my motorbike one day. A van in the fast lane ploughed into the back of a car causing everyone behind to hit the brakes hard. I came to a stop just 2 feet from the back of the car in front of me. If I’d braked harder then I would have certainly locked the front wheel, dropped the bike and slid under a car.

And one day I was involved in an accident on my motorbike. A young female driver decided to pull out of a junction at the last minute. I braked but couldn’t stop (it takes a lot more effort to emergency brake on a bike). I hit the car and flew over the bonnet. Spraining both wrists and writing off the bike. Luckily nobody was seriously injured.

And the greatest (and scariest) accident that I ever saw was one wet, dark Winter morning. Around 8am there seemed to be big chunks of what looked like paper strewn across the carriageways on the M56. Around 1/2 a mile later there was a lorry parked on the hard-shoulder that had a massive tear in the side of its trailer, and much more paper on the road. Further along there was a small van on the hard shoulder with the front end completely caved in. It had run into a roll of paper that was around 2metres high and probably weighed 1,000kg. Littered along the next 3 miles were more rolls of paper. One roll had even jumped over the central reservation and hit a van on the other side of the motorway. Total carnage. And I’d just avoided it all by about 5 minutes. The police hadn’t even turned up yet.

Oh, and remember the time that the gas lorry set on fire on the motorway causing 6 hour delays all day? Yep, that was on the M56 too.

Commuting made me miserable, not to mention tired from waking up and leaving the house so early. My social time was limited too. My friends would invite me to gigs or events in Manchester that started at 6.30pm and I had to turn them down. I could only get into Manchester for 7.30pm on a good day.

I got totally burnt out. The travelling was massively affecting my creativity and my general irritableness (which is usually quite high anyway) sky-rocketed towards the end of each week. I wasn’t a nice person to hang around with in and outside of work. My general mood was just horrendous. I suffered massively from anxiety and stress partly caused by commuting but partly caused by working at a job that I didn’t particularly like. It did at least give me a chance to work within a small agency. And to be honest I wasn’t keen on the way things were run. The lack of trust I was given by the bosses was another big factor. There wasn’t even scope for working from home because us designers weren’t trusted to work outside of the office.

After 1.5 years I had to give it up. The sense of relief of never having to do that journey again was an incredible feeling. The nature of creative work makes us designers flexible to work from wherever we want to. I love the agility that this type of work allows for. Nobody deserves to be chained to the same desk for 9 hours each day. And we certainly shouldn’t be trapped in a metal box travelling on a motorway dodging accidents left, right and centre.