A study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and performed by the University of West of England revealed that even just one extra minute of commuting time negatively impacts job satisfaction, increases stress and worsens mental health. Apparently an additional 20 minutes of commuting each day is equivalent to a 19% pay cut in terms of how people measure job (dis)satisfaction. (Source: UWE Bristol.)
According to the Office for National Statistics, workers in London have the longest commute of all, with an average journey time of 46 minutes. However, in the UK overall, two million of us have to suffer a two-hour commute to work – now that’s dedication!
It won’t come as any surprise to hear that those in the capital also suffer the highest travel prices too. There is now an exclusive London club that nobody wants to be a part of – ‘The £5k commuter club’ for those unlucky enough to pay more than £5,000 for their rail season tickets. With average rail prices in the UK rising by 3.4% in 2018 (the largest price hike since 2013), cost is a growing problem for all rail commuters. Since 1997, the cost of all travel has been rising faster than the cost of living and if the trend continues, we could eventually be in danger of forking out more to travel to work than we receive in actual pay. (OK, so I just made that bit up, but it’s worrying, right?)
Technology has managed to rub salt into those aching wounds by enabling us to protract our working day even further. A combination of laptops, smart phones, tablets and Wi-Fi on public transport means we can check and reply to emails before we even arrive at the office. An article last month on the BBC website reported how researchers suggested that because workers so frequently check emails on their commute, the journey time should be counted as part of the working day (and paid accordingly one assumes). (Source: www.bbc.com.)
What can you do about it?
Depending on your job, the company you work for and your location there are some changes that might make your commute more palatable, or even remove it all together.
Quit your job
For the average person this would reduce the commute time (and costs) by about 100%, but will usually be met by a loss in income of around 100% too. This option is quite drastic, and unless you have a Plan B we wouldn’t recommend it.
Work from home
With modern IT advances, many of us now have the option to work from home. Depending on what you do, and how trustworthy your boss thinks you are, this might be an option. Even just one day a week would make a financial impact and help reduce your stress levels too.
This is an option that has really taken off in recent years. If you don’t like the idea of working from home and need that separation of work and home, a co-working space might be the answer – particularly if your head office is some distance away.
Walk to work
Currently around 10% of the population opt for this free and healthy method of commuting. The viability of this option is dependent on the distance between your home and workplace. The law of diminishing returns might come into play here. A 26-mile hike into work every day might have a negative impact on your stress and energy levels, but just a few miles might be manageable. Maybe you could get off the bus a stop early and walk the last mile – the fresh air and exercise will have a positive impact on your physical fitness and mental health.
Cycle to work
This is the next best option if the walk is slightly too far to bear and it comes with the same health benefits. And with many companies now offering cycle to work schemes, the cost of purchasing a bike need not be too prohibitive. Avoiding potholes and dangerous drivers might make this more hazardous than walking however.
My secret tip is one I use every morning before I drive to the office. Call the local radio station and inform them there is a road closure along your route, forcing other listeners to avoid it – giving you a free run. You need to vary the reason to avoid suspicion but try things like: unexploded WW2 bomb; sewer leak; roadworks; escaped Meerkats; a shed-load and so on.
But seriously; the solution to any problem won’t be found if you just ignore it. If your boss isn’t a dictator (see our previous article – Is your boss a dictator?) then speak to them and see if you can agree on some flexible practises that benefit both you and your company. Arriving to work earlier will avoid the rush-hour and might even mean you’re more productive for the first hour (without distractions from Peter the Project Manager and his dreary drinking anecdotes).
If your commute is affecting your life don’t keep it to yourself – and stash that stapler somewhere safe just in case…
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