Would You Fly To Work?

By Marisa TorrieriLearnvest – August 26, 2013


The Rise of the Super Commuter

For Mary Beth Williams, home is where the heart is—and that’s Chicago.

Thing is, Williams only has a handful of days each month to kick back at her two-bedroom condo in the Windy City. The rest of the time she shares a small rental apartment with a roommate in Boston where she works as a health care executive. But Williams isn’t complaining. She’s used to it. Before she started this gig in 2010, she was flying back and forth for a similar job in Philadelphia.

Williams stumbled into her jet-setting lifestyle of shuttling back and forth between time zones. One day, in 2005, she says, she got a call from a recruiter in Philadelphia asking if she would go fill in for six months as an interim director for a program at a children’s hospital—and they agreed to fly her home every week. The gig was exactly what Williams was looking for at that point in her career, so she jumped at the opportunity. Then, six months turned into … four years, with Williams flying back to Chicago every weekend.

womanInPlaneWhy Fly to Work?

Actually, Williams is among a group of people who have been dubbed “super-commuters” by researchers at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation.

For super-commuters, the distance to and from work is 180 miles or more, which, for some, can mean hopping a plane. (Others may choose to take a train.) This subgroup of professionals accounts for about 3-10% of the working population—and their number is only expected to rise.

Workers Are Traveling Farther

According to the NYU report, super-commuting is becoming more popular across the country. A few of the well-traveled routes becoming even more common? Boston to Manhattan, Dallas-Ft. Worth to Houston, Austin and San Antonio to Houston, and Northern California to Los Angeles.

Job Mobility In a Bad Housing Market

“People are more likely to be mobile in regard to their jobs and homes because of the collapse of the real estate market,” says Mitchell L. Moss, one of the co-authors of the NYU report and a professor of urban policy and planning. When people get a job in a new city, he explains, they can find it difficult to sell their home in their current city, so they’re forced to wait it out.

Opportunity & Flexibility

While some people are forced to super-commute because of a slow real estate market, others go the distance for work simply because there’s greater opportunity elsewhere, but like where they live. Plus, with increasing mobile technology, says Moss, “there’s more flexibility in the modern workplace.”

Three years ago, Ian Bearce, a 40-something dad who lives in Minneapolis, landed his dream job working for an ad agency in Manhattan. He did the math and weighed his options: Finding a similar job in Minneapolis would be tough, but the cost of living, with his family, in the New York City metro area was so much higher. Plus, in the Midwest, he and his wife, Megan, have a bigger family network, an invaluable resource that meant built-in babysitting and help with their two kids, ages 6 and 4.

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3 Responses to “Would You Fly To Work?”

  1. louie says:

    I think this could work for a single person, but for someone who is married and with a family, could be quite taxing on the entire relationship dynamics. This is a really good example of not only the times but of the undue importance of ones own fulfillment rather than that of the family unit, if done strictly for personal fulfillment or money on a long term basis.

  2. Tara says:

    I’d love to hear from anyone is married and done this and how they make it work. I guess a lot of it would be making the time when you are with your spouse count but any other tips?

    • Nancy Johnson says:

      Hi, Tara, I am married and was able to do this type of arrangement for 5 years until a family death brought me home to stay.

      My job brought me to projects all over the U.S., The Bahamas and Grand Caymans for extended periods (1 month to 2 years). I LOVED it! I got to travel and pursue my career and see the world on my employer’s dime. My husband got to stay home and continue his life in his way – around his family and friends. His job could only be done in Chicago.

      Traveling and career movement was my dream not his and he wanted me to be happy. Sometimes, you just have to go where the job is and this movement has given me so much diversity that you cannot get by staying in the same place all your life. My knowledge base and outlook is so much more extended because I did travel.

      I flew home ever other week or he came to visit me and we would have 48 glorious hours together. We didn’t have children so it made it possible. We did this for 5 years when a family death brought me home to stay.

      If your marriage is strong and can sustain this type of arrangement, it doesn’t hurt to try if this is really your dream. If your marriage is uncertain, I wouldn’t recommend this arrangement until that situation is settled. It is definitely a family decision.

      Feel free to contact me if you have any further questions!

Any Thoughts?