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Britons spend more time travelling to work than most other European countries

Britons spend more time travelling to work than most other European countries

London, 20 September 2018 - In 2018, more than 1 in 4 (28.8%) of British workers will spend 90 minutes or more of their time on their way to and from work. On average, UK workers spend 1 hour and 36 minutes a day commuting, travelling 26.73 km in total. Not only does this detract from working time, it can also put a significant strain on personal lives. These results come from the latest survey conducted across six European countries by the Payroll & HR services provider SD Worx .

Just under half of UK respondents (49.4%) say that, on average, they take less than an hour to get to and from work each day. Of the respondents who take less than an hour to get to and from work, just over half (26.1% of overall UK respondents) take less than half an hour a day, whilst 23.3% (of overall UK respondents) take between 30 minutes and an hour. Of the countries surveyed, the British spend the most time travelling. Workers in Belgium are next on the list with 24% taking in excess of an hour and a half, while the Germans at 17.9%, spend the least amount of time commuting.

In terms of distance undertaken, one fifth of UK workers (21.8%) travel, on average, further than 40 km or even more each day, while over half 50.5% travel fewer than 10 km. The commuting time tells us more than the commuting distance, because even if you only live 15 km from work, the amount of time your journey takes may vary greatly depending on the location, the availability of public transport and the means of transport.

Workers who spend more time commuting are more likely to look for a new job

There is a correlation between commute time and employee turnover. British employees who travel for 30 minutes or more each day are more likely to be actively looking for another employer, with 39% doing so on average, compared to just 12% of those whose commute is less than half an hour.

The Dutch and the French are the most likely to be influenced in this way by a long commute, with 28% and 25% respectively searching for a change of job when their commute is an hour and a half or more. Workers in Belgium are the least likely to be discouraged by travelling, with only 8% of those that commute more than 90 minutes a day actively considering a new job.

Working from home is part of the solution

A possible solution for long commuting times or distances is flexible working. In Europe, approximately one third (30.2%) of employees have the option of working from home. Germany (31.6%), UK (30.6%) and Belgium (30.3%) are very close to the average in terms of companies offering this. However, the Netherlands is leading the way with 40.1% of respondents having the option, while French and Austrian workers are the least likely to benefit with 23.3% and 25.4% respectively being given the opportunity.

People are largely happy with being given the option, with 53.3% of British workers positive about it, but there are also 22.5% who would not like to take up this option (perhaps because they prefer to work from an office, or live close to work) while 24.2% have the option, but find it virtually impossible in their job to make use of it. However, employers do not allow everyone to take up the flexible working option and for some employees it is not practically possible. Of those who are not offered this option across Britain, 32.7% are disappointed, 23.8% are not interested and 43.5% indicate that it is virtually impossible in their job.

There are many reasons for flexible working. Employees are given greater autonomy and experience less time pressure, enabling them to coordinate private matters more easily. This is significantly important with regards to ensuring a better work/life balance and improving efficiency. The long commuting time and the time saved are two important factors, as remote working is well received by employees who have to travel for a long time.

British employees like to work from home several days a week

More British employees work from home several days a week, compared to the other European countries, with 24.4% doing so. However, not everyone is taking advantage of the opportunity and nearly a fifth (19%) of UK employees rarely or never make use of the option to work from home.

Of the European workers who have the option of flexible working, 30.7% rarely or never make use of it and 12.7% use it one day or less each month.

Across the UK, those most likely to take advantage of work from home initiatives are regularly between 30-45 years of age, with 31% of this age group working remotely several days a week. Meanwhile, workers aged over 45 are the most likely (21.4%) to work from home once a week.

"flexible working will provide a limited contribution to solving the mobility problem,” said Jeremy Campbell, Chief Commercial Officer, at SD Worx UK & Ireland. “In addition to remote working, many other items need to be considered to address the wider mobility issue. As well as a coherent and cohesive government mobility policy, employers must also consider a sophisticated integrated mobility policy for employees that optimises and jointly addresses accessibility, commuting and employees' transport options."

About the survey  The Europe LTD survey is a questionnaire on one hundred work-related aspects relevant to employee satisfaction, motivation, involvement and engagement. Since 2009, the survey has been carried out annually among 2,500 Belgian employees under the name NV Belgium. Because of its international growth, SD Worx expanded this survey in 2017 to include Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria and the United Kingdom. It concerns 500 employees each time.

The sample is representative of the specific local labour markets, with the same composition as to statute ((blue-collar) workers, office workers and civil servants), gender, region, work regime, language, educational degree and organisation size as that of the active labour population in the countries concerned. 

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