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Just how bad is the daily commute?
Apart from the weather, the most common office conversation has to be about commuting. Whether it’s the train being late, sitting in traffic for hours or fighting your way through crowded streets, our daily journey to work has a significant effect on our day – perhaps more than you might imagine.
A recent study by the Office for National Statistics shows that the average UK worker now spends 54 minutes commuting to work every day. Research by the University of the West of England found 1 in 7 of us take 2 hours or more each day to travel to and from work – while just a 20 minute increase in commute time is as bad as a 19% pay cut for job satisfaction.
But the effects are about more than just time, they’re a genuine threat to our health – as another study, by Vitality Health, discovered.
It showed that commuters with a journey longer than 30 minutes are:
Putting commuting on the recruitment agenda
Interestingly, the Vitality Health study also concluded that employees commuting less than half an hour have an extra seven days’ worth of productive time each year. Which is one reason both employers and recruiters should be taking the commute into account when hiring new employees – not only to maximise productivity, but to attract and retain top talent.
Employers have a responsibility for their workers’ well-being of course, and have long known the benefits of having a good work/life balance. And while the commute has always been seen as the employee’s responsibility, there are many ways employers can help make a difference and support their commuting staff.
How employers can offer support
Here are a few ways employers can make a real difference.
Offering flexibility on start and finish times is a great way to help employees avoid the rush hour, reducing journey times and improving their overall health. An article about the Vitality study stated: “Employees who are able to work flexibly were less likely to be stressed or depressed, and were also less likely to smoke, be obese or get insufficient sleep.”
Remote working and telecommuting
Another option is to do away with the commute altogether. Working from home is becoming a popular option, even just for two or three days a week, and can have a significant impact on productivity, costs and relieving stress. IT giant Dell introduced a scheme allowing 25% of its staff worldwide to work remotely or flexible hours, and in the last five years estimates they’ve saved $21 million in office space, time wasted in traffic and electricity bills!
Help with the costs
Ever-rising rail fares mean many commuters face an annual bill of around £3000 to £5000, so offering options like a season ticket loan, an annual pass to benefit from cheaper rates or even working with local transport to negotiate a discount can take the sting out of the costs. Those who drive or cycle could benefit from discounted or reimbursed parking, carpool tax benefits, on-site maintenance or even just bike storage and shower facilities.
Encourage healthy options
With a renewed emphasis on healthy living leading to more provision of cycle lanes in our cities, it can make sense to help workers get out of their cars and onto their bikes. The government’s Cycle to Work scheme means employers can loan bikes and accessories as a tax-free benefit, with the employee able to ‘buy’ the bike at the end.
Recruiters, do your bit
While commuting is a direct concern of employees and employers, recruiters are in a unique position to influence attitudes. The obvious starting point is not to put people forward for roles that are too far from where they live, but you can also encourage employers to offer many of the support options as part of the remuneration package to attract the right talent.
If they doubt the value of taking the commute into account when hiring, why not suggest they try this commuting calculator from Ford – it’s real eye-opener!