New data has found that long commutes have a significant impact on your health and cost UK businesses an estimated £5.3 billion*. The study found this to be equivalent to 20 million working days in the UK, but found flexible working can make a positive difference.
Vitality’s Britain’s Healthiest Workplace is a study of nearly 26,500 workers, and has been developed by Vitality in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge. It examined the impact of commuting, and flexible and home working, on employee health and productivity across all UK industries.
Based on the data, 27 per cent of employees in the UK have long commutes of over 60 minutes, which means approximately 8.7 million employees are travelling for over 120 minutes a day, when getting both to work and back home again are considered.
The study also revealed that the average daily commute lasts 43 minutes one way, which equates to the average Brit spending more than 360 hours every year commuting to work, equivalent to more than two weeks of annual leave.
The research additionally found that employees who commute for less than half an hour per day had the equivalent of an extra 2.3 days’ worth of productive time available to them each year. People that commuted for over 60 minutes each way, were also 22 per cent more likely to get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night, when compared to workers with short commutes.
The sectors clocking up the most amount of time commuting were found to be the construction, accommodation and food service industries.
Flexible working is linked to increased productivity and healthier lifestyle choices
The results of the study also found that many employers were making adjustments and putting in place a number of measures or initiatives to mitigate or better manage the impact of a long or stressful commute, in particular around making home working arrangements available to employees.
Flexible working in particular was found to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health and a persons’ productivity. Employees who are able to work flexibly were half as likely to be stressed or depressed, but more than this, they were also 50 per cent less likely to smoke, 30 per cent less likely to be obese and 23 per cent less likely to get insufficient sleep. These employees were shown to have almost 8 additional productive days each year compared to those with no flexible working arrangements.
The study also found an increase in the amount of people able to work flexibly, with an increase from 52 per cent to 59 per cent in the past two years.
Shaun Subel, Director of Corporate Wellness Strategy at Vitality,
Businesses need to wake up to the importance of offering flexible working. Our research shows that allowing employees the flexibility to avoid the rush-hour commute where possible, or fit their routine around other commitments can help reduce stress and promote healthier lifestyle choices and, importantly, this is shown to actually impact positively on productivity.
Vitality is calling on businesses to implement workplace wellbeing initiatives to support employees, including increased access to flexible working. Not only can this bring about a competitive advantage for companies, but it will ultimately build a stronger and healthier society for us all.
*Data from Vitality
Interested in employee wellbeing? We recommend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Forum 2019.