The daily commute is often a necessary evil that millions of workers suffer to get to work. They are particularly stressful, because during a commute, people are often unsure about – and largely cannot control – how long the trip will take. Heavy traffic or delayed trains can make them late for meetings, making the start of the work day rushed and on edge.
Demotivation and increased turnover
The average commute in the UK is just under an hour, at 54 minutes – up to 74 minutes for those working in London. Studies have shown that long commutes lower job satisfaction and increase employee turnover. A stressful commute has an impact on productivity too. Enduring a demanding journey to work can demotivate employees and prevent them from doing their best in the workplace.
Frighteningly, it can also have negative health impacts. It has been shown to increase the risk of depression, obesity, divorce and back pain. This is most prominent in commuters who drive and sit for long hours in traffic – something that, again, is largely out of their control. Obese drivers with long commutes have a 32 per cent higher chance of early death.
Not only do long commutes put off candidates, but a long commute can actually devalue their position as viable options. A study found that job applicants who reside in distant neighbourhoods had fewer positive recruiter responses compared to those living close to work. If an applicant lived 5 to 6 miles farther than the job posted, they received a third fewer call backs.
A potential solution
However, it isn’t all bad news. Commutes can be a beneficial time to get into the frame of mind for the work day. By mentally mapping out a plan for the day, ranking the top priorities and projects to be done, commuters negate some of the damage done by a stressful commute. They also have an easier mental shift from their home to work life. This has been found to improve job satisfaction.
Flexible and remote work on the rise
Of course, the rise in flexible and remote working will also alleviate some of the harm. Organisations can help employees with long commutes by offering flexible work schemes. A commute is easier to endure when it’s only four days a week and half of the UK’s workforce are expected to work remotely by 2020. So, the impacts of commuting will be diluted, if not completely eradicated in the future.
How to help now
For now, organisations can focus on nullifying some of the impacts of a long commute on their workforce. Counting commute time as part of the work day may help matters, as will setting a range of office hours so people can choose their journey times and avoid rush hour. If possible, offering support to relocate closer to the workplace – such as moving expenses or paid time off – can be of benefit.
Commuting has far-reaching ramifications for both employers and employees, this isn’t just about financial impact. By working together, organisations and workers can reduce the stress and negative impacts of a long commute. It pays to be mindful of the costs of a commute, beyond petrol prices or a train ticket.