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18 September 2023
Doctoral thesis (Dissertations and theses)
COMMUTING SATISFACTION AND SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING: Linking life domains, workplace relocation and working from home practices
Maheshwari, Richa


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Keywords :
Commuting satisfaction; Subjective well-being; Satisfaction with life domains; Workplace relocation; Time-use satisfaction; Luxembourg; Structural equation modelling; EU-SILC; P-SELL; Working conditions; COVID-19
Abstract :
[en] This dissertation examines the relationship between commuting satisfaction (CS) and subjective well-being (SWB) and investigates the dynamics of commuting. For the analysis, secondary data (EU-SILC, P-SELL III) as well as self-collected data from an online survey about changes in workplace location and working conditions were collected. The combination of these datasets allows the exploration of three important aspects of the relationship between CS and SWB. First, the direct and indirect effects of CS on SWB are examined by considering the interplay with satisfaction with other life domains than commuting, including among others work, accommodation, time-use, leisure time, personal relationships, and health. This is an important contribution to the field of travel satisfaction because it provides an in-depth analysis of how SWB depends not only on satisfaction with a typical commute to work, but also on satisfaction with other activities that are linked to commuting. Previous studies have examined the relationship between commuting satisfaction and SWB but have largely ignored satisfaction with other life domains. This is rather surprising given that commuting depends to a large extent on decisions people make regarding other life domains such as where to live and work. This dissertation thus provides a broader conceptualization of commuting satisfaction, avoiding certain biases that otherwise might exist when interactions with satisfaction with other life domains are ignored. Second, it explores the dynamics of commuting by analyzing the impact of life events on commuting (dis)satisfaction, and the reverse. This temporal dimension of CS adds a dynamic layer to the current static interpretation of travel satisfaction by examining changes in individuals' longer-term life decisions, such as residence and/or workplace location, focusing on voluntary and involuntary relocation. Voluntary workplace relocation occurs when the employee willingly decide to change their jobs, while the latter occurs when the employee is forced to move with their employer in order to retain their jobs. This distinction in terms of workplace relocation thus provides a first empirical analysis on the dynamics of CS. Third, it allows us to examine the extent to which the relationships between CS, satisfaction with other life domains, and SWB are still applicable today, in post-pandemic times where working from home became more important than ever. This is an important contribution to the field of travel satisfaction as it provides first-hand insights into how the relationship between CS and SWB differs in post-pandemic times. The main findings from this consolidated work on travel satisfaction, particularly commuting satisfaction, are manifold. First, commuting is not a stand-alone life domain, but is connected to all other life domains, especially time-use satisfaction. Therefore, it is recommended for future studies to invest more in time-use research to understand the complexity and interplay between CS and SWB. Second, individuals who are dissatisfied with their commute do not necessarily have the financial resources and stability to change either residence or workplace to cope with dissatisfying commute patterns. These individuals who tolerate commuting dissatisfaction in their personal lives might simultaneously have a negative impact on their time-use satisfaction due to time-poverty that arises from commuting longer distances or for longer time, which obviously comes at the expense of dissatisfaction with leisure-time or personal relationships. Future research should therefore address the question of whether people make changes in their lives, for example by changing workplace location or residence, or whether they tolerate dissatisfaction with commuting, which in turn could affect their satisfaction with other life domains and SWB. This will help practitioners and policy makers in formulating the necessary transport and planning policies to accommodate these dissatisfied commuters. Fourth, people seem to be more satisfied with their commute after a voluntary workplace relocation than those who changed workplaces involuntarily. However, the question of how lasting this effect of a workplace relocation on CS is and whether CS changes over time as people become accustomed to the changed environment (treadmill effect) remains unanswered. Future research to understand the dynamics of commuting is therefore needed, using a rigorous panel design. Fifth, a workplace relocation could also lead to residential mobility. This is often noted in previous studies and somewhat addressed in this dissertation, but is not fully explored in the travel satisfaction literature. Therefore, further research is needed on the co-occurrence of life events and their impact on CS, i.e. how a workplace relocation triggers residential mobility and how lasting are its impact on CS. This can be achieved using a life-course approach to gain a better understanding of the life choices individuals make in terms of changes in their travel behavior and satisfaction, to enable better evaluation of transport and land use policies. Finally, hybrid workers (who work from home two to three days per week) seem to have higher levels of SWB compared to occasional teleworkers (who work from home less than one day per week). This implies that the well-documented relationship between CS and SWB needs to be re-examined as commuting has been limited for some people due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic as they have shifted to working from home. Future research is therefore needed to identify whether commuting actually lengthens occasional teleworkers' total workday and reduces the time they could have spent on other non-travel activities, and whether the time hybrid workers save by not commuting to work every day influences the time they spend on other non-travel activities such as household chores, childcare and sleep. Such an in-depth analysis of the interplay between CS, SWB and satisfaction with non-travel-related life domains is indeed needed to determine not only in which areas employees' well-being can be improved, but also how. On a final note, although commuting has a significant impact on individuals' SWB, it is not necessarily the most important life domain. Previous studies have shown that commuting is a stressful activity and has a direct negative impact on individual SWB; however, the results of this dissertation did not find a negative relationship between CS and SWB. In contrast to previous findings, we conclude that satisfaction with time use has the strongest total effect on SWB; regardless of how often individuals commute to work. This might suggest that individuals can maximize their utility and thus their overall SWB as long as they are free to optimize their time. As for the prospective approach of CS, we know that dissatisfaction with commute triggers changes in life event, such as (but not limited to) changing workplace or residence. However, for the majority of dissatisfied individuals who are unable to make a change, the question of how this dissatisfaction spill over onto satisfaction with non-travel-related life domains due to time poverty that results from commuting longer distances seeks further investigation. As for the dynamics, although workers who voluntary changed their workplace have higher CS than those who changes on an involuntary basis, the question of how lasting this is, and whether CS changes over time when people get accustomed to the changed environment (treadmill effect), is a topic for future research.
Research center :
LISER - Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research
Disciplines :
Human geography & demography
Author, co-author :
Maheshwari, Richa ;  University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE)
Language :
Title :
COMMUTING SATISFACTION AND SUBJECTIVE WELL-BEING: Linking life domains, workplace relocation and working from home practices
Defense date :
31 August 2023
Number of pages :
viii, 125 + 32
Institution :
Unilu - University of Luxembourg, Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg
Degree :
Docteur en Géographie
Promotor :
President :
Secretary :
De Vos, Jonas
Jury member :
Ettema, Dick
Handy, Susan
Focus Area :
Sustainable Development
FnR Project :
FNR12676895 > Veronique Van Acker > CASInO > The Happy Commuter: A Life-oriented Approach Of Commuting Satisfaction > 01/09/2019 > 31/08/2023 > 2018
Name of the research project :
The happy Commuter: a life-oriented Approach of commuting Satisfaction
Funders :
FNR - Fonds National de la Recherche


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