In a survey of over 2,000 British workers, the number of employees who work while they commute has risen from 4.8% in 2008 to 7.5% in 2013[i].
18% of British workers feel that the development of smartphones and tablets has made it easier for them to work while they travel, should they want or need to. But one in ten (9.2%) say that new technology has increased the pressure on them to get work done on their journey to and from work.
Mark Bull, UK CEO of Randstad, said: “Time is the vital currency of commuting: how much of it you spend—and how you spend it—reveals a great deal about how much you think it is worth. Many commuters choose to relax and unwind from work while travelling in order to maximise their work/life balance, however, a growing number of savvy Brits are using their commute to extend their working day and become more productive.
“In a tough economic environment, employees are under pressure to demonstrate their value to their employer and committed high-flyers are out to impress. This is manifesting itself as more employees work outside normal hours while they’re commuting. The growth of new technologies such as smartphones and tablets means it’s easier than ever to work around the clock. Our analysis shows the average Brit already feels they’re spread too thin by having to work the equivalent of a six and a half day week. Working on the move looks like a smart way of using downtime to increase productivity and improve your work / life balance to get home as soon as possible rather than staying in the office longer.”
Commuting Times & The Rise of “Extreme Commuters”
The average British worker commutes for a total of 41 minutes each day and has to travel a total of just under 17 miles on their daily trip to and from work. British commuters are spending marginally less time (2.3%) on the move than they were before the economic downturn began to take hold. In 2008, the average British commute took a total of 42 minutes each day.
There has, however, been a larger fall in the distance British workers have to travel to work. In 2008 the average total daily commuting distance was 18.5 miles. This has now fallen to 16.7 miles, a drop of 10%. While the fall in commuting distance shows Britain’s workers are now living closer to their workplace, the fact commuting times have remained broadly the same suggests commuters are managing their commutes and using slower – possibly cheaper – modes of transport than they were before the downturn.
Of all the professions and trades, accountants spend the most time commuting each day and have some of the furthest total distances to travel. On average accountants spend 76 minutes on their journey to and from work and have to travel an average of 35.2 miles each day. Workers in the automotive industry spend the least time commuting each day at an average of 22 minutes, possibly due to many automotive companies being based in large industrial or business parks on the outskirts of towns and are therefore easily accessible. Those in the leisure sector have the least total distance to travel each day at just 12.6 miles.
Over the same period, the number of “extreme commuters” – those travelling more than 90 minutes each way – has increased by 50%, from just over one in twenty (6%), to almost one in ten (9%).
Mark Bull, said: “Commuting is the interaction of demography with geography. With the force of suburban growth now overpowering, three hours of commuting a day is no longer extraordinary. Commuters travel across counties the way they used to travel across neighbourhoods. These numbers suggest the number of British people who travel ninety minutes or more each way to get to work — “extreme commuters”— has now reached 1,840,000.
The central tenet of the commuting life is that you travel away from the workplace until you reach an area where you can afford to buy a house that meets your standards. Although there are other variables like schools and spouses and occasional exceptions in this equation you’re essentially trading time for space, miles for square feet. Some workers clearly feel the benefits outweigh the inconveniences and potentially squandered hours more than others. While accountants have the longest and furthest daily commutes, this may be down to the fact these money-savvy professionals are choosing to live further from work in order to get good value homes and a lower average cost of living.”
While working on a laptop, Smartphone or tablet is how 7.5% of Britain’s workforce spend their time on their journeys to and from work, listening to music is by far the most popular commuting activity. Nearly a third (31.6%) of commuters listen to music on the radio while a quarter (25%) listen to their own music while travelling.
However, when drivers are excluded from the analysis, the most popular activities among commuters are listening to their own music (15.2%) and reading a newspaper, magazine or book (14.5%). Only 5.7% of commuters read a newspaper, magazine or book on a smartphone, tablet or e-reader.
Mark Bull, said: “With so many Brits driving to and from work, listening to the radio, CDs or MP3s is all they can do apart from focussing on the road. However, for those whom commuting is an idle time it’s pleasing to see that working hasn’t overtaken other activities. While it’s good for Britain’s workforce to be as productive as possible, the last thing the country needs is a nation of burnt-out employees.”
Methods of Travel
The car is Britain’s favourite method of transport of choice when it comes to commuting. 53% of Brits use a car to get to and from work. The train, underground or tube is the next most popular with 10.6% choosing this method. The bus is the third most popular with 10.2%.
[i] Research of 2,374 consumers conducted by Canadean Research and Randstad between 28th March and 12th April 2013 – further details available on request