Long commutes to work have a significant impact on employees’ health and cost UK businesses an estimated £5.3bn each year, according to new data from health and life insurance provider Vitality.
A study of nearly 26,500 workers, carried out by Vitality in partnership with RAND Europe and the University of Cambridge, found this to be equivalent to 20 million working days in the UK.
The study “Britain’s Healthiest Workplace” examined the impact of commuting, and flexible and home working, on employee health and productivity across all UK industries.
The study revealed that the average daily commute lasts 43 minutes one way, which equates to the average Brit spending more than 360 hours every year commuting to work - equivalent to more than two weeks of annual leave.
The research additionally found that employees who commute for less than half an hour per day had the equivalent of an extra 2.3 days’ worth of productive time available to them each year.
The results of the study also found that many employers were putting in place a number of measures to better manage the impact of a long or stressful commute, in particular around making home working arrangements available to employees.
Vitality said that flexible working, in particular, was found to have a positive impact on both physical and mental health and a persons’ productivity.
The insurance provider also said that employees who are able to work flexibly were half as likely to be stressed or depressed. They were also 50 percent less likely to smoke, 30 percent less likely to be obese and 23 percent less likely to get insufficient sleep. These employees were shown to have almost eight additional productive days each year, compared to those with no flexible working arrangements.
Shaun Subel, director of corporate wellness strategy at Vitality, said: “Businesses need to wake up to the importance of offering flexible working. Our research shows that allowing employees the flexibility to avoid the rush hour commute where possible, or fit their routine around other commitments can help reduce stress and promote healthier lifestyle choices and, importantly, this is shown to actually impact positively on productivity.”
Vitality is calling on businesses to implement workplace wellbeing initiatives to support employees, including increased access to flexible working.