Toggle high contrast

Calling time on long commutes

Published date

Did you know that the Metropolitan Police once employed a bobby who commuted all the way from New Zealand? Working two months on and two months off, the officer spent about 144 hours a year travelling to work.

If only the rest of us were so lucky. The TUC’s new research, published to mark Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart Week, shows that the average worker spends 59 minutes a day commuting in 2016. That adds up to 217 hours a year, all without the in-flight meals and extra leg-room.  

Some of us spend even more of our lives on congested roads and jam-packed trains. The average Londoner spends an hour and twenty minutes a day travelling to work, while 3.2 million workers have a daily commute of two hours or more.

That’s time that should be spent doing the things we love.

We’re spending more of our lives commuting

And commutes are getting longer. Over the last decade, the average journey to work has gone up by more than 20 hours a year. Workers in the North West and North East have been hardest hit. Last year, they spent 24 hours longer travelling to work than they did in 2006.

Employees in the Energy & Water industry have been particularly affected. Over the past decade, the time they spend commuting has gone by 40 minutes a week. Transport & Communications workers, meanwhile, are being forced to take their work home- last year, they spent 116 hours travelling to work and back, 26 hours more than they did 10 years ago.

Whether it’s cycling, driving or taking the train, more and more of our day is being taken up by commuting. Last year, motorists spent more than 24 working days travelling to work. That’s catastrophic for the planet and it takes its toll on family life as well.

Why should we waste our time?

Every minute of our journey home from work, whether it’s spend in a traffic jam or waiting for an overcrowded train, is a waste of our free time. With journeys to work longer than they were a decade ago, we are losing an extra 20 hours to commuting every year.

Think of what you could do with those extra 20 hours. You could go to 13 football matches, read Frankenstein five times, watch all eight Harry Potter films in order…

Many of us, no doubt, would spend it with the ones we love. With one in four parents wishing they could spare more time to spend with their kids, commutes should be getting shorter, not longer.

Calling time on long commutes

But there is good news. We can stop unnecessary commuting.

If employers made it easier for employees to work from home, some workers could see their commute reduced to seconds. Increasing opportunities for flexible working would take cars off the road during rush hour, reducing pollution and slashing the amount of time motorists spend in traffic jams.

Commuters would waste less time waiting for delayed trains if only the government invested in Britain’s struggling transport infrastructure.

Taking action to deal with the housing crisis would stop workers being forced to live further and further away from the workplace.

As Frances O’Grady, general secretary of the TUC, says, “commutes should be getting shorter, but inflexible bosses and our cash-starved transport system mean we’re wasting more and more time getting to work.”

It doesn’t have to be like this.

Image: mariusFM77/Getty Images

Enable Two-Factor Authentication

To access the admin area, you will need to setup two-factor authentication (TFA).

Setup now