What is a Virtual Commute?

A woman working from home sitting at her workspace

Over the course of my speaking engagements I’ve met many work-from-home professionals who share a common concern: “It’s hard to get started in the morning” or “It’s hard to unplug in the evening.”

This resonates with me, because I have the same problem. So much so that I will physically get dressed and commute to a coffee shop, coworking space, or other places I can work, just so I can feel like I’m “going to work” in the morning. It really helps me get in the right mental space for work.

However, not everyone has that option. For those that strictly work at home, I encourage them to create their own virtual commute…

A Virtual Commute, Explained

A virtual commute is a structured routine that includes multiple “steps” that are done in the transition periods before and after work.

The purpose is to mimic a physical commute so that you prepare your brain for what comes next, whether that be work (for your morning virtual commute), or for making dinner and spending time with your family (for your evening commute). For those of us that work from home, this is especially helpful from a mental point of view, as it helps us separate our work life and our home life even though they take place in the same physical space.

Your Morning Virtual Commute

Virtual commutes in the mornings often have common themes in them. A lot of people workout, or cook breakfast. But in theory, it can be most anything that helps you wake up and focus on the day ahead.

There’s no “perfect” routine, but in my opinion, a morning virtual commute incorporates physical activity, mindfulness, nutrition, and a general plan on how you want to attack the day. By the time you sit down at your workspace, you should feel physically awake, mentally prepared, and clearly focused on the day’s tasks. Here are some common options.

Morning Virtual Commute Ideas

  • Get in a short workout
  • Cook yourself breakfast
  • Meditate for at least 10 minutes
  • Write down daily tasks you want to accomplish
  • Listen to an episode of your favorite podcast
  • Write your daily entry into your diary

Not all of these options will apply to everyone, of course. Some of us enjoy working, while others wake up really hungry and need food right away (speaking from experience…). I enjoy making something hot for breakfast if I’m working at home. Usually, I’ll listen to an episode of The Daily while I’m cooking as well. The podcast episodes are usually 20-30 minutes, which is a perfect length for me since I can cook something simple and eat it in that time.

If you’re not the breakfast type, it might be meditation or journaling for your mornings. Whatever you decide to do for your morning virtual commute, I’d suggest limiting it to 30 minutes max. I’ve found that if my morning routine is longer than that, it becomes too much of a focus in my day and becomes a distraction instead of having value as a transitional period activity.

Your Evening Virtual Commute

It can be tempting to just close the laptop and pop on Netflix first thing. Unfortunately, this is actually going to make it harder to unplug for the entire night (at least for me it does). When I don’t have a proper wind down, I find that I want to go back to the computer eventually and finish something, instead of enjoying the rest of my night.

Evening Virtual Commute Ideas

  • Go for a walk (run?)
  • Read a book for 20+ minutes
  • Do a yoga session
  • Meal prep for dinner
  • Catch up on news (TV, not on your computer/phone)
  • Take a bubble bath

Unlike your morning virtual commute, I would encourage this activity to be longer. For example, I’m a big advocate for taking a bath as my wind down activity. I probably take one 5 out of 7 days of the week, I love it! It’s very relaxing for me, so I’ll often be in there for at least 30 minutes 🙂

You could even do a combination of these options. You could catch up on the news of the day while you’re prepping for dinner. Or read a book while you’re soaking in the tub.

Regardless of what you choose, remember the goal: to effectively disconnect from work, reduce stress, and enhance your overall well-being, making your transition to personal time more fulfilling and consistent.

Make the Schedule Your Own

Want to see what this might look like in real life? I’ve included an example graphic to show you what’s possible. Use this to brainstorm your own virtual commute routine!

A virtual commute example schedule

Whatever you decide to do for your morning and evening virtual commutes, make sure it actually works for you. Don’t be afraid to mix and match morning and evening activities if works better for your personality or schedule. After all, no two people are the same.

As long as you’re starting and ending your day in a way that allows you to separate the professional and personal environments, you’ll see the mental and emotional benefits in the long-run!

Founder : Wherever I May Work | Website | Other Posts

Jared has worked remotely for 15 years in various marketing capacities, and has managed hundreds of marketing campaigns along the way. He has held freelance, agency, and in-house positions for companies large and small.

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