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Driving a happier workforce

Tips to help employees manage the daily commute.

Commuting is rarely a pleasant experience; between congested roads and delayed trains, many UK workers now spend two hours commuting each day, according to a recent study by ONS.

The quality of the commute, whether good or bad, can set the mood for the entire day. We all know there is no greater frustration than being stuck in rush hour traffic or on a freezing train platform.

A new Global Commuter Index has been published to summarise the best and worst commutes in the world. The index compares commutes in 50 cities across the world by comparing the cost and journey length.  

The experts at Brighter Business have reviewed the findings and identified ways employers can manage and improve their staff’s commutes, helping to improve overall wellbeing and happiness.

So, what makes for a bad commute?

The key factors used in the research to determine the quality of a commute include: the length of commute, the monthly cost, and the relative expense (the cost as a percentage of average monthly salary).

The bad news, but perhaps not surprising, is that the most expensive commute overall is in London. The worst overall commute in the world is in Kingston, Jamaica, due to high costs and long journey times. Bern in Switzerland is judged to have the best overall commute, thanks to cheap, fast public transport and high salaries.

But why does this matter?

The time and cost of commuting can not only have an impact on your employees’ perception of work but, long commutes can lead to increased absenteeism as well.

Tip: If a member of your team has a long commute, try to encourage an open conversation to find out how it’s impacting them and how you could help. For example, offering a little more flexibility could help to reduce the time spent commuting, whilst giving your team member a better work life balance.

Productivity on the move

For some commuters – those on trains or in cars they aren’t driving, there’s the opportunity to work on the move. Commutes can provide a focussed window of time for work which doesn’t necessarily require internet connectivity.

However, it’s important to not make your employees feel pressured to work during their commutes; it’s just as important to remind them to take a break. Encourage them to resist the temptation (or the pressure) to work on the way to and from the office, and instead take the time to recharge and refresh. This is not only beneficial towards their mental and physical health, but their attitude towards work too.

Tip: Why not offer employees a subscription to a podcast service or a language course they can do whilst travelling. Learning a new skill or listening to a podcast will help your employees feel accomplished and will enable them to switch off from work and unwind.  

Impact of commuting on health

In a health-conscious society, we are increasingly aware of our lifestyles and the importance of staying healthy.

For many workers across the UK, day-to-day work involves spending a great deal of time sitting down, hunched over a desk. For the most part, these workers also spend time sitting in cars, trains or buses on their way to and from the workplace.

Sitting for long periods increases the risk of cardiovascular ill health and reduces muscle and bone strength. Increasingly, it is the case that commutes (particularly long ones) have an impact on mental health and work performance.

Active travel is touted as one way to combat a sedentary lifestyle. Although, it can be difficult to encourage employees to change their travel habits (or impossible if they commute from afar or somewhere poorly connected by public transport).

Tip: As an employer, you can join a cycle to work scheme and offer your employees the option to save money on cycling equipment. It’s free to join and run and can reduce employers’ National Insurance Contributions. Creating the conditions to enable your employees to become active commuters involves some financial outlay. You may, for example, need to invest in bicycle racks and lockers. It may also be sensible to create spaces for showering, changing or drying wet clothes.

For a small business especially, it may be difficult to see the benefit of this investment straightaway, but helping to improve your employees’ mental and physical health can go a long way in promoting a positive working environment and worker loyalty.

Research suggests that happier people are 12 per cent more productive. Employees who balance work and their personal lives are twice as happy, more productive and show greater loyalty to their employers compared to those who struggle to find the right work life balance.

Conor McArdle, Brighter Business

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