Research from the TUC has found that travel times to and from work are now five minutes longer than in 2007. In response, Lorna Davidson, CEO of short-term recruitment agency RedWigWam says flexible working could be the key to reducing stress of the daily commute.
According to the research, rail commuters face the longest journeys, taking an average of two hours and 11 minutes every day – an increase of four minutes on the last decade. Drivers spend 52 minutes on the road to work and back (up by three minutes), while bus commuters must set aside 79 minutes a day (up by seven minutes).
“Those extra five minutes add up to 18 hours a year,” notes Davidson. “Multiply that figure by a team and it adds up to a lot of wasted time.
“But those are just average figures. What about the railway chaos? For some this is much, much worse than five minutes a day each way.”
The TUC has published its findings to mark the annual Commute Smart Week organised by Work Wise UK. The analysis compares commuting times in 2017 with those in 2007. Most UK nations and regions have seen increases in the time it takes employees to get to and from work in the last decade, with the exception of Northern Ireland.
Londoners take the longest to commute, travelling for one hour and 21 minutes each day, which is 23 minutes longer than the average across the UK.
“Time is only one factor,” says Lorna. “The stress and angst doubles the impact on the commuter. It’s time for more employers to consider offering their staff the option of flexitime or working from home. This flexibility provides the twin benefits of regained time and reduced stress.
“It doesn’t have to be every day – just one day a week of home-working could make a huge difference.”
Research has shown that longer commutes appear to have a significant impact on mental wellbeing. A study by VitalityHealth of more than 34,000 British employees across all UK industries found that people with longer commutes were 33 per cent more likely to suffer from depression. These workers were also 12 per cent more likely to report issues due to work-related stress.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said home-working and flexitime could “cut journeys and help avoid the rush hour”. And she added that if staff had fewer stressful journeys, they could focus better on their work.
Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, said workers’ stress levels could be reduced if they had opportunities to cut their commuting time, for example by working from home occasionally or staggering their hours.
Lorna adds: “Isn’t it time we waved goodbye to the 9-5 culture and embraced flexibility in the workplace? A reduced commute could make a big difference to people’s work-life balance.
“At RedWigWam we have a community of 70,000 workers. We provide them with all the benefits of being fully employed – such as National Insurance and tax paid at source, pension contributions and holiday pay – with all the benefits of doing flexible work, regardless of how many hours they work.
“We also encourage all the hirers we work with to embrace flexibility.”