The Toll of Driving to Clients…

Don’t get me wrong here, I LOVE seeing clients in home. It’s incredibly humbling, so much information can be gathered, and it serves clients who may not otherwise be able to access clinic services (more about in-home therapy on Episode #7 with Kirsten Goffena!)

But…..

Being a road warrior is exhausting. There are a whole host of issues that arise from driving frequently between clients and these are important aspects to consider if this is part of your line of work. I’ve been unable to find research, or any articles really, on the difficulties of driving within your work day. There are loads of resources for truck drivers, long-term traveling (2-10 days) and for the commute to work, but nothing about driving consistently during the work day. So the following is my own compiled list of things to be wary of, to mull over, and to use as information when taking/negotiating/weighing your work opportunities.

  1. Its’ EXPENSIVE– The average cost of gas (which is always fluctuating) plus maintenance, currently is reimbursed at the rate of $.58 per mile. If your company provides this benefit DIRECTLY to you (not by you claiming it on taxes) then that is GREAT!! It not only helps fill up your tank, but takes care of those very frequent oil changes plus other simple wear and tear (tires, brakes, etc.).

    You could drive 4,500 business miles in one year. This would come out to be $2,610 worth of deductions (4,500 x .58 cents, the current mileage reimbursement rate). This looks great!

    BUT you don’t get this sent to you as a check. This is only removed from your taxable income. AND THAT IS ONLY IF YOU ITEMIZE! THEN (yes there’s more!) your itemizations need to add up over the standard deduction ($6,500) to even get them! Therefore, if your itemizations don’t add up over ($6,500) you’ll just end up taking the standard deduction. This you would get if you weren’t driving, so all of that $2,610 is therefore NULL. 

    • If your company says something along the lines of “We don’t pay mileage but we encourage our employees to use mileage as a tax break at the end of the year”, THIS IS A LOADED STATEMENT. Not saying that companies say this in a malicious way, but I never realized the intricacies of this statement. For example:
      • If you own a home, a business, have children, etc., it is MUCH more worthwhile to itemize your taxes at the end of the year. You HAVE to itemize your taxes to get mileage reimbursement as a tax break (you don’t actually get money, they just reduce what you can be taxed on).
      • If you do not own a home, have a business, or have children, it’s almost never worth it to itemize your taxes. Every year you can elect to do the standard deduction or you can itemize. You have to have enough things to itemize (house, business, mileage reimbursement) that will total OVER the standard deduction, to “get” the mileage reimbursement.
    • If you need more guidance on this one, I highly suggest spending a few extra dollars and talking with a tax expert on your particular situation as it could save you HUNDREDS (maybe thousands!) of dollars.
  2. It takes a toll on your mental health. Driving is stressful, annoying, rage-inducing, and exhausting. You are constantly “on” when you are driving and it can be incredibly hard to relax. Don’t even get me started on weather. Watching a truck cross four lanes of traffic in a snowstorm, smash into a guardrail twenty feet in front of you, which leads you to either T-bone the truck or maneuver away? Yeah, I’d say that’s an added stress at work. (I maneuvered, thanks winters in Upstate New York!) Here are some things to remember:
    • This is an added stress to work and be vocal about it. Make sure you talk to your supervisors about it, find proper ways to de-stress, and remember that you CAN find a job that doesn’t require this much driving if it is something out of your zone of tolerance.
    • Find ways to de-stress while you are driving. Lots of deep breathing and Podcasts are my favorite way to do that!
    • Listen to audiobooks.
    • Mentally prep for your sessions (while maintaining appropriate attention to the road of course!)
  3. It really hurts your body. Sciatica pain anyone? It literally keeps me up at night and it’s from the terrible position I sit in when I’m driving. Add that onto sitting on the floor for most of my day, and my poor poor butt is just so unhappy. These tips have helped me:
    • Yoga- It literally saves me from back pain AND I sleep better now.
    • Stretching- Oddly enough, sciatica pain involves hip flexors, your butt muscles, and leg muscles, so I do a lot of the “Figure 4” stretch in this link. 
    • As much as I want to sit down when I get home from work, I make a point to walk, get my dog outside, and just be vertical. When I was doing a 10,000 step a day challenge, my back/neck pain was incredibly minimal.

When it all comes down to it, driving as part of your job adds additional complications and stressors to your job. DO NOT be afraid to discuss this in a job interview, annual review, or during your supervision. I honestly feel that it can be imperative to your overall happiness at work, which as the passionate therapist I know you are, can significant impact your overall work-life balance. In-home work is incredibly rewarding and so unique, but these are just a few additional factors to be cognizant of when you are in this line of work.

I’m always happy to talk about this subject more, so please feel free to reach out for a quick chat.

Kate

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s