Along for the ride through liminal space: A role transition and recovery perspective on the work-to-home commute

Kristie L. McAlpine, Matthew M. Piszczek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The increase in remote work during COVID-19 has drawn attention to the function of commutes as work-home transitions. While prior work-home research has referenced commutes as an example of role transitions, little is known about how the characteristics of a commute or the behaviors and processes undertaken in a commute affect their nature. We integrate research on commute characteristics, role transitions, and psychological recovery to develop a transitional perspective of commuting. We provide a conceptualization of liminal space that differentiates its physical and temporal dimensions and its psychological dimension as characteristics of the space through which one transitions during the commute and the experience of rolelessness one may perceive while doing so. We argue that perceived liminality during the commute frees cognitive resources for psychological role transition and recovery. Based on our conceptual model, we discuss implications for role transitions, commuting, and telecommuting research. Plain Language Summary: Commutes provide a regular opportunity for individuals to shift from the work domain to the home domain. While making this transition, commuters occupy a “liminal space” in which they are neither fully engaged with work or home thoughts and behaviors. We explain and explore the physical, temporal, and psychological dimensions of this space, how the characteristics of commutes shape these dimensions, and how these dimensions create an opportunity for individuals to both recover from work and more effectively shift into the home role domain after the commute.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrganizational Psychology Review
StateAccepted/In press - 2022
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


  • boundary theory
  • commuting
  • liminal space
  • psychological detachment
  • role transition
  • telecommuting
  • work recovery
  • work-family


Dive into the research topics of 'Along for the ride through liminal space: A role transition and recovery perspective on the work-to-home commute'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this