Talent   //   November 18, 2022

Remote-working Gen Zers using would-be commutes to develop side hustles

For some remote workers, how they spend the time they would’ve been commuting has been critical. For Gen Z, specifically, it’s meant developing side hustles.

The most recent calculations show the average one-way trip to the office is 27 minutes and 36 seconds for U.S. workers. In the U.K., it’s almost the same: 28 minutes. Remote workers effectively then gain an hour daily. 

In the U.S. alone, workers now spend 60 million fewer hours traveling to work daily, compared to before the pandemic, according to the New York Federal Reserve’s Liberty Street Economics blog. Its findings show that, depending on age, people do different things with that time.

Older cohorts tend to devote more time to childcare, DIY, and cooking. But younger workers, while reallocating commuting time to social events, exercise, and eating out, are also making use of the extra minutes to develop side hustles and learn new skills.

For example, proud Gen Zer Libby Rule is based in Kansas City, Missouri, and has been social content creator at The Social Element, a global social media agency, since May. She spent around five hours a week commuting pre-coronavirus and felt “physically and mentally drained.” Moreover, Rule had to squeeze her passion for art into the weekends, which had the knock-on effect of restricting time with family and friends.

Now, though, because The Social Element operates a fully remote policy, she has been able to dial up her entrepreneurial ambitions due to having zero commute time. “I’ve gained peace of mind and grown my side hustles,” Rule said. “I can do what I love: live painting weddings.”

Her artistic talent has flourished. So far in 2022, Rule attended 35 weddings, including 10 in other states. “None of this would have been possible If I had to commute to work day in and day out,” she said. Rule has made a name for herself on TikTok, and her posts, mainly displaying painted happy couples, have notched up 6.7 million views.

Acting different roles

Similarly, Brittany Hodge, senior talent associate at BrighterBox, a London-based recruitment firm that places graduates with startups, is a 24-year-old making the most of would-be commuting time. She works from her Hounslow home twice a week and has to spend 180 minutes commuting on in-office days.

“On my work-from-home days, I tutor math to youngsters,” Hodge said. “The extra income helps, of course, but honestly, I do it because I loved math at school and kind of missed it.”

The budding actor also films and submits audition tapes and teaches drama. And there is more. Hodge is also a ballet teaching assistant and helps run a class for three- to six-year-olds. “Dance was a huge part of my life until I was 18, and then suddenly it stopped as I went to university,” she added. “When I was asked, I jumped at the change because I wanted to keep that part of my life active while working full time.”

More by accident than design Hodge said she is broadening her skillset outside of her recruitment career, having the time and motivation to follow her passions. “I keep a good balance between acting and recruiting,” she said. “I have my recruiter hat on during work hours, but outside of that, I have my tutor, actor, or dance hat on.”

“None of this would have been possible If I had to commute to work day in and day out.”
Libby Rule, social content creator at The Social Element.

She added that having an encouraging boss, BrighterBox CEO Charlie Johnson, helped immeasurably. “While I would love to be a full-time actor, I’m looking to pursue a career in human resources as a recruiter, and I’m on my way to achieving those goals with the support of Charlie.”

Learning potential

Aqua Zumaraite, operations and partnerships lead at flexible work specialists Flexa Careers, who is a year older than Hodge, would face an even longer commute. “It takes me about three hours to reach the office in London from my home in Liverpool city center via a two-hour rail journey and then the underground train and walking,” she said. Thankfully Zumaraite only has to make the trip once a month for a team meeting.

By working remotely almost all the time, the Lithuanian, who graduated in 2019, can quench her thirst for knowledge. She has pushed herself to learn subjects that are not directly related to her current role. “I’ve done a couple of online courses since I left university, with one of the most interesting being neurolinguistic programming (NLP), which I did out of curiosity,” Zumaraite said. “I also completed an online project management course.”

Now she is looking to start an online micro masters course and is weighing remote programs in Canada and Australia. Zumaraite noted that she has always either studied or worked full-time. With a remote role, she can continue her studies.

Another benefit to not commuting is that Zumaraite can ensure Leila, her Labrador-cross who turns three years-old in December, is walked and watered. “I love taking the dog for a walk around Liverpool Docks,” she said. “If I worked five days a week in the office, as I used to, I would have to run home every lunch break to take the pup out, and it would be the same coming home after work. It wouldn’t be fair.” 

Zumaraite summed up the benefits of not having to commute. “Remote working has opened up a world of opportunities for me, as I am not someone who enjoys living in busy cities such as London, where my current company is based.” She added: “I think it’s a huge win for both talent and companies, and I am a strong advocate for options. It doesn’t have to be that a company is fully remote with no office, but having the choice to either work remotely or hybrid is priceless.”