Employers failing to reduce commuting stress

01 December 2019

This article was featured in the December 2019 - January 2020 issue of the magazine. 

Catherine Diamond, director of human resources at Moneybarn, discusses research findings and the issues

An employee’s commute experience has traditionally fallen outside the responsibilities of an employer, but the tide seems to be turning.

There’s a growing body of evidence (http://bit.ly/32qsBCN) to show the detrimental effect that long and stressful commutes are having on the health and productivity of the workforce, leading more and more employers to consider what adjustments and options they can offer staff to help ease the strain.

Only recently a debate began over whether commuting time should be counted as part of the working day (http://bit.ly/2NujxbR), given many employees now use their smartphone and better wi-fi connectivity on public transport to complete work tasks on their way into or home from work.

So, is it time for more employers to sit up and take note of the commuting experiences of their employees and offer more support?

An employee’s commuting experience can vary greatly to the next. To find out more, Moneybarn recently conducted a survey of 2,000 full-time workers in the UK. 

According to respondents, the average UK ‘working day’ is around eleven hours including time spent commuting, with people leaving home at 07.17 and returning home at 17.48. The amount of time per day spent commuting is 62 minutes, with 15% of workers commuting for 102 minutes or more. 23 miles is the average round trip, with 14% of commuters travelling over 42 miles a day.

Workers in London have the UK’s longest and slowest commutes of all, travelling at just 14 miles per hour (mph), despite paying some of the highest prices for fuel and monthly season tickets for public transport. In comparison, commuters in the east of England travel over double the distance per hour (29mph) and workers in Wales and the south west spend the least amount of time getting to and from work (48 and 49 minutes respectively).

When it comes to delays, commuters in the south east and the south west are the most likely to experience travel delays daily; workers in Northern Ireland and Scotland the least likely.

Surprisingly, 57% of workers surveyed aren’t offered anything by their employer to make commuting easier.

For employers wanting to lead the way in supporting staff to maintain a healthy work-life balance and benefit from having a productive, satisfied and loyal workforce, there are many options available, ranging from small adjustments to larger investments.

...average UK ‘working day’ is around eleven hours ...

 

Flexible working is becoming an increasingly popular offering, allowing employees to stagger their start and finish times to avoid peak commuting hours (usually between the hours of 7–9am and 5–7pm).

Every employee has the legal right to request flexible working from their employer; however, only 21% of UK workers surveyed said they have been offered flexible working hours.

Employers in the east midlands and the east of England are the least likely to offer flexible working opportunities (15% and 16% respectively), whereas 37% of employers in Northern Ireland are the most likely to allow staff to adapt their working hours, followed by employers in London (32%) and Yorkshire and the Humber (21%).

Working from home can also help employees avoid the stress of commuting altogether. Businesses in the south east are leading the way, but only 16% currently offer this. In comparison, only 6% of employees in Wales are able to work from home.

Another important factor in commuting experience and overall work-life satisfaction is the cost of getting to and from work. In fact, according to Moneybarn’s survey results, workers on average pay out 11% of their monthly income on getting to and from work. Sixty people surveyed spend over 40%, and 41 spend over 50% of their salary on commuting.

Employers in London are the most likely to give workers financial support to ease the burden of high commuting costs, with 30% offering season ticket loans and 13% subsidised transport. However, it seems despite these efforts, commuting is still unaffordable for many in the capital, with a recent study (http://bit.ly/2WUamVn) revealing 60% of London’s workers have skipped work to save money on their travel costs. 

When looking at the UK as a whole, only 10.6% of employees are offered season ticket loans and just 5.7% can take advantage of subsidised transport.

All in all, the findings of Moneybarn’s new commuting survey highlight that while some employees are being offered support to help reduce the stress of commuting and the negative impact it has on both their personal and job satisfaction, more can certainly be done.

As employers it’s important to pay close attention to the impact commuting is having on staff and take action to recognise this as part of health and wellbeing strategies. Offerings such as more flexible working arrangements to avoid rush hour or work from home, car share schemes and subsidised transport costs are becoming increasingly valued by workers and could help businesses attract and retain the best talent.