How I Avoided 5,292 Hours Of Commuting

What it’s like to work from home for 24 years

Clive Thompson
Published in
7 min readFeb 25, 2022


“Commute,” by Matt Wiebe

When I decided to become a full-time journalist back in the mid-90s, nobody would hire me.

I applied for staff jobs, but got not a single nibble.

So as a hail-mary pass, I decided to become a freelance magazine writer. It was a genteel way of saying “I’ll employ myself, since nobody else seems to want to.” We do what we must.

Hey, in the long run, it all worked out! I’m still a magazine writer today. It was a very long slog to sustainability (a tale for another time), but the upshot is, I’ve spent 24 years being self-employed.

Which means I’ve spent nearly a quarter century as a work-from-home “remote” person.

My past now looks like a lot of people’s futures. The pandemic has brought on a ton of remote work that shows no signs of going away. In May 2020, fully 69% of all US employees were working remotely at least part of the time, a number that by the fall of 2021 was still 45%. Recent polls show that a good chunk of workers want to stay that way …

I’m fascinated to watch this transition unfold. For years, when I told people I toiled at my kitchen table, a small number thought it sounded cool — but the majority were mildly horrified. “I’d never get anything done if I worked there,” they’d say. “What’s it like?”

If you’ve been working remotely for the last two years, you’ve probably already drawn some conclusions from your own experiences. Maybe you’ve loved it; maybe you’ve hated it.

But as someone who’s got two-plus decades of this under his belt, let me share some of the long-term effects that remote work can have on a person — the good and the bad.


No commute = 5,292 less hours in traffic

The amount of time I’ve saved by not commuting is truly astounding.

An average one-way commute to work is 27.6 minutes. That means I’ve avoided 4.5 hours of commuting each week — or…



Clive Thompson
Writer for

I write 2X a week on tech, science, culture — and how those collide. Writer at NYT mag/Wired; author, “Coders”.