Previous research on commuting indicates that stress, anxiety, and frustration from commuting can lead to a less efficient workforce and an increased counterproductive work behaviour.
Researchers from Dartmouth College in the US built mobile sensing machine learning (ML) models to accurately predict job performance via data derived from wearable devices.
"The key was being able to objectively assess commuting stress along with the physiological reaction to the commuting experience," said Subigya Nepal, a PhD student at Dartmouth and lead author of the paper.
Participants in the study used a Garmin vivoSmart 3 activity tracker and a smartphone-based sensing app to capture physiological and behavioural patterns during commuting, including activity levels, phone usage, heart rate, and stress.
The system also captured external factors such as location, weather, commute duration, and commute variability.
Researchers analysed data from 275 workers collected over a one-year period prior to the outbreak of the pandemic.
The workers, close to 95 per cent of whom drove, were monitored as they travelled.
They were also monitored for 30-minute periods before and after commuting.
"Compared to low performers, high performers display greater consistency in the time they arrive and leave work," said Pino Audia, a co-author of the study.
"This dramatically reduces the negative impacts of commuting variability and suggests that the secret to high performance may lie in sticking to better routines."
While high performers had physiological indicators that are consistent with physical fitness and stress resilience, low performers had higher stress levels in the times before, during, and after commutes.
Low performers also used their phones more during their commutes.
Overall, the research also found that workers spend more time commuting home from work than they do traveling to work.
The study also demonstrated that not all commutes can be bad.
By tracking commuting traits such as walking distance and steps, the research confirmed that commuters who are involved in active forms of commuting typically experience increased productivity at work.
"Your commute predicts your day. This research demonstrates that mobile sensing is capable of identifying how travel to and from the office affects individual workers," said Andrew Campbell, the lead researcher and co-author of the study.
The researchers hope that this mobile sensing technology will also be able to detect commuter stress and offer tailored interventions such as music, podcasts or connecting them to friends and family.