Long Commutes to Work What are UK Averages & How Far is Too Far?

Whenever we tend to consider a new job very few of us give much thought to the commute to work. How long it takes to travel to our place of work each day can have an effect on health. But how long is too long for a daily commute? What unintended health effects can long travel times to work have?

picture of a bus lane - long commutes to work

There are many people who travel unbelievably long distances to and from work each day. In fact, take London, for example. There are even workers who will fly in and out from France and Belgium and even further afield every day!

What is the Average Commute Time in the UK?

The average UK commuter spends 59 minutes a day travelling to work. In the past few years, these travel times have been slowly creeping up.

A 2019 TUC study suggested that the average commute in 2018 was 5 minutes longer than 2009 averages. Londoners have the highest average daily commute time in the UK, with an average of 1 hour 19 minutes.

UK travel infrastructure is dated and struggling to cope with passenger volumes, and housing affordability makes it difficult to live closer to workplaces in city centres.

What effects does the grind of the daily commute have on workers?

Health Effects of Long Commutes to Work

The biggest adverse effects of long commutes to work tend to relate to stress-related health issues. If you spend too long travelling, it can also impact upon personal relationships and performance at work.

Long hours of commuting, especially if you’’re driving, is associated with:-

  • High blood pressure.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Increased anger and resentment at work.
  • Absenteeism.
  • Lateness.
  • Inability to concentrate and perform to the same standards as those who live in much closer proximity to the workplace.
  • Long commutes can also increase the risk of heart attacks, flu, depression etc.

At worst, long commutes can contribute to an employee needing time off due to the effects of anxiety or depression.

On a global scale, the effects of commuting are only too plain to see, contributing to air pollution, global warming, urban sprawl and traffic congestion.

Reasons for Commuting Long Distances to Work

The daily commute to work is familiar to many of us. But for those who travel long distances, the decision to do so is usually a difficult one and often involves sacrificing work life balance.

Many people who work in a city office environment will tell you that they have to work in the city to pursue their chosen career. They may also wish to earn the kind of income that supports their lifestyle. Many will place the emphasis on money, prestige, better holidays, fancier car, and more material goods. They may neglect other factors of key importance such as their health, personal relationships, social connections, time for hobbies etc.

Some find that it’s necessary to make a long distance journey as they wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of housing etc, if they were closer to the city in which they work.

Then, there are others who choose to live far from work as they prefer the more tranquil lifestyle of a rural Citing their choice of home location as more suitable for their family, e.g. children’s schools, cleaner air, peaceful lifestyle etc.

Coping With the Effects of Long Commutes

Many companies have become more open to accepting flexible working patterns which might allow employees to work from home now and again.

This is particularly so after the Coronavirus lockdown which saw so many offices closed down completely. Many businesses have realised the positive impact of flexible working, or roles being carried out entirely remotely.

However, for some jobs, there is no escaping the daily commute. So, how do you cope and how far is too far to commute?

  • Preparation the night before can help. Sorting out clothes and lunches for both the worker who has to commute and any children can often prevent a ‘panic stations’ scenario first thing in the morning. Finding even a little time for a family breakfast ‘has been shown to help a lot in relieving stress. However, for many, that’s not always possible.
  • Many companies are installing gyms or handing out gym memberships. A quick workout not only reduces that, but also stimulates and refreshes the brain as well as the body.
  • Others will be able to get their boss to agree to Flexible Working practices. Although you might not be able to work from home, your boss may be willing to consider you coming to work in the morning after the rush hour is over.and leaving after it begins again in the evening.
  • Car pooling is also a good idea if you can set it up with coworkers. Alternatively, you might consider ditching the car altogether and taking the train if appropriate.

Both employers and workers should work towards arrangements, wherever possible, to lessen the social and physical and mental impacts that long commutes to and from work can cause.

See Also: Working at Home – How to Make a WFH request to your employer and make a strong case.

Travel Times to Work

As a rule of thumb, the average daily commute is just under an hour. That gives an idea of what the average commuter finds tolerable.

For longer commutes, it will depend upon the individual and the travel conditions. There’s a big difference between spending 90 minutes each way on a rammed train with no seats available, and one with plenty of space and a quiet atmosphere.

How Far is too Far to Drive to Work?

Similarly, when considering how far is too far to drive to work it will depend on the road conditions and your own tolerances for travel. As a rule of thumb however, you should think carefully about how you’d feel driving more than 45 minutes each way every working day.

Ultimately, it’ll be up to you to decide how much of a commute is too long and too far. It’s very important to strike the right work life balance. There’s little point in owning that dream house in the country if you never get to spend any time in it thanks to a horrible commute!

30 thoughts on “Long Commutes to Work What are UK Averages & How Far is Too Far?

  1. MissArcticWolf says:

    Years ago, I drove approx. 9 1/2 miles to work using one road straight through, but it started to affect my performance at work, & started to be stressful, & it caused me to be let go, when I should of quit on my own. & Especially in the winter, when it snowed heavy, & it stressed me out even more to have to slowly drive home in the thick snow…Years later, I had a job much closer, & then later, I took the bus to work, & then I had to change from having a driver’s licence to having state ID for several reasons, but now I feel much better, especially having shorter hours at work. Even long hours can affect your health & well being….

  2. Treasure says:

    Hi. I’m starting a new job this morning and I’m to travel for 2hours plus and I don’t know how long I can cope with it, will just give it a try for a couple of months and see how it goes and how my body can handle the stress.

  3. Mj says:

    Hi I’m local engineer in Manchester. becouse coronavirus and we are short of work my employer forcing me to travel to hq 135 miles them working 7 hours in workshop and travel back home 135 miles 3-5 times in week .it’s this legal?

  4. winnsou says:

    I planning to move to Hanau. Home to work travel time using public transport will take 1 hour and 15 min door to door. Is this too much in frankfurt/hanau area?

  5. Matti says:

    Im a civil engineer in uk my daily commute consist of 2hr drive in the morning and 2.5 hr to sometimes 3.5 hours in the evening. The qorking hours are usualy 8am to 4pm. Money is ok.. if you wudnt include the drive. I have been doing this over a year now. Blood pressure is over the roof, every single bone in my body ache . Stress,anxiety,depression. Messing up my reltionships. Hmm is it worth it? Now that i put that in writing seems like madness!

  6. Katie says:

    I got a place at university part time and my work let me cut my shifts down around my course so I can still afford to live as student loans only cover my rent. My partner runs a pub here so can’t move so I decided to commute to university part time. 3 days a week I travel 112 miles, do a full days studying dentistry and then 3 days I work, while taking on the stress of my partners business. It’s very difficult but I’ve tried to make my car my happy place and not a chore. I listen to audiobooks, always have a coffee in the car and got a back cushion to make it as comfortable as possible

  7. Sana says:

    I commute only one hour but I have 2 changes on the overground and then a bus ride or 20 min walk to the office. It is challenging because I work 36 hours a week but add the 2 hour commute it feels like 46 hours plus I am expected to do evening work on occassion. It is exhausting but I have no choice. I applied but jobs in my local area but there is too much competition. The only jobs that would hire me were in outer london. I wish I had the choice to commute but I dont, its either this or the dole and id rather work thanks.

  8. Abz says:

    Hi I live in London and I’m a banker and I have an issue travelling for 8 miles to get to work as I used to work 5 mins away from home and I thought I had it bad until I saw people travelling 100 miles to do 10 HRS of work.. I should be grateful if anything haha.

  9. blodwyn says:

    Hi I was attacked by a member of staff in the location I work. Eventually after 7 month investigation she was disaplined and voluntary left the company. I was bullied by her management friends during and after the investigation therefore I placed a grievance and wistleblew to HR regarding behaviours such as lack id confidentiality etc. Obviously there was another 7 month investigation during which I suffered a stress breakdown. My grievance and wistleblowing was not upheld due to they say lack of evidence. 5months later a colleague from a different office location contacted me stating that a folder on our IT system at work had been discovered this folder tiltled ARSE COVERING had been created by the very management I had complained about….it had information regarding my disclosure of stress breakdown, an assessment by the mental health team, info about investigation also identifying me by my full name. I have raised a concern again and immediately signed sick and have stated in sick leave as I was informed that due to restructuring my role I had to now be line managed by management I had complained about this has now taken 5 months so far and i have still not recieved a responce or an apology. Occupational Health have advise redeployment to another location under different management structure….employer has done nothing other to suggest that would accept my resignation. I found a job on our website which I have applied for reasonable adjustment in way of a transfer to a location which is over 300miles a week home to work extra travelling. Employer has taken 3 months to respond and agree to transfer however due to no trained line manager for the area I am to be transfered to they are temporarily transfering me to another location until April which is over 400miles a week home to work travelling. I am concerned of the impact on me finacially and health as i have been diagnosed in 2011 with fibromyalgia and Cfs. Can you advise .

  10. Sp says:

    Hi, September 2016 i have been seconded to a different work location in Milton Keynes making my commute to work from 45 mins one way to a 2hrs. This was only supposed to last 3 month, now i am back there and not a soul can tell me how long i am going to be here for. It is getting frustrating as i am unable to have a life, all i seems to be doing is work, travel. This has affected my sleep patern and more as i have been having some trouble in my sleep (shaking in my sleep as if i am having an electric shock) I have addressed the issue to my manager but nothing has been done yet. This is really affecting my health, mood and i really don’t know what i need to do. Can anyone advise me please?

  11. Jaydee says:

    Hi I see a client 4 days a week with 3 of those days requiring me to drive out to her twice a day. The first visit is at 7:55am, the other is at 5:05pm. This client lives 7 miles away from me and I have no other shifts on these days; my concern is that whichever way I go I encounter traffic because it’s such a busy area at whatever time of day, secondly the amount of time I spend driving to her in the car is hurting my back and has affected my mood and energy levels and thirdly because I have a break in between my visits to her I stay at home to rest and I feel resentful in my company asking me to do any extra visits with this client because of how early I have to get up, how long it takes to get to her and how it has affected my mood etc. Would my manager be the best person to speak to?

  12. T says:

    Hi my work had a fire and now they are saying we have to travel 70miles away to another site and still do our 12 hour shift, making it a 15 hour day. Is this legal?

  13. Johnboy says:

    Hi I have to travel 100 miles to work work for 10 hrs and travel home it is 3hrs a day and I don’t get paid travel I work in construction so I am out on site all day is this legal.

  14. Rose says:

    I agree with the “one-day-at-a-time”, its all I can do. I was happy to find a vanpool since I am not good at driving, so I only drive to the pick up locations at 4a.m. but 6-hours a day when the traffic is good is not how I plan to spend my 30’s. And the 15 other people in the van all being married and at the end of their career, makes me feel like I’m going to be doing this forever and know one will offer me a better position. There is no comfort to being a passenger either, so as my rap myself up with a blanket and cram small pillows behind me, the pain in my back, legs and neck make me want to quit. So far I’ve put on 22-pounds because I’m too tired to exercise in the weekends and its too late to eat by the time I get home. But all I can do is keep adding to my resume and applying to positions in my filed that are closer to home or in an affordable state. (One day at a time)

  15. Munna Devil says:

    I joined in a Multinational company with good salary by attending campus interview. My carrier will get improve by continuing this job but I don’t like this job because I have to wake up at 4.30 am and sleep after 10.30 pm because I am spending 6 hours for to and fro travelling in bus. Next point office job making me increase in weight no time to go at gym. I am feeling very tired and stressed. I don’t want to continue but my family, relations, and my colleagues advising me to don’t leave this good job. Is it good for me. Please help me to overcome this. My dream is to become a entrepreneur but no time to improve myself and plan about it. Please help me.

  16. Berkshire Beast says:

    I had gone through (3) aquisitions and/or plant closings , all within the same large corporation, but each being different Division segments. This company ranks at the top, in terms of almost every employment benefit category. I have (30) years now, with a pension close at hand. For the past decade I commuted (80) miles each way to hopefully “cap off” my career with the same company, while carpooling or flying solo for a few months at a time. Two kids are now through college. I always take it one day at a time.

  17. Annie says:

    In my contract it states that my place of work can be anywhere in UK altough they do try to put us sales people near to home. After working 30 mins everyday I have been told I now have to go to another place of work which is 45 miles (one way) which takes – one way coming home will be at peak time. I have severe back problems so travelling in a car for long periods will not help is there anything I can do

    • Safe Workers says:

      @Annie – If you contract states that your place of work can be anywhere in the UK, there’s not a great deal you can do. Speak with your employer, giving details of your back problems (with medical evidence) and see if they are willing to accommodate this in any way.

  18. John says:

    Hi My boss is ordering me and my work partner to be on site at jobs at 8am however does not pay us travel time and our jobs are not in one set place they could be 20 miles away one day 40 the next so on, I want to know by law the commuting time is between leaving home and arriving at work, bearing in mind we leave at 7 sometimes and don’t arrive on site until 9:30 in London at times due to traffic, I wouldn’t want to be leaving my house at 6 or early, so by law what’s the legal time I have to leave if being paid from 8? Thanks

  19. jaycow says:

    i recently have been told I have to provide weekend cover for my employer . This could entail up to 3 x 40 mile round trips in a 24 hour period .Although I will be paid an hourly rate once I arrive at work they are not prepared to pay me travelling time and or mileage . My argument is that if they are not prepared to pay me travelling I will have to cycle the distance to cut my costs . I am happy to do this as I am a keen cyclist but obviously this would make the response time longer .There is nothing in my contract stating I have to own a car or drive to work .Can they stop me from cycling to work or discipline me for not using my car .

  20. Nate Drake says:

    I’ve recently accepted a temporary job assignment but didn’t really bargain for the fact I’ll be commuting 30 miles each way (getting home late ironically, is the issue). I’ve tried it 3 times this week but if I continue, the strain may start to take its toll and no more life/work balance. Is there any shame in ringing my recruitment consultant in the morning and telling her this? I feel bad because all the paperwork is complete (the contract is only for 6 months due to maternity cover) and renting a place there is out of the question; too expensive. Also, the boss of that dept chose my personality over my ability to do the job (involving millions of pounds and I have no financial experience!) I’ve realised I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Anyone been a similar situation?

    • Safe Workers says:

      @Nate Drake – No there’s no shame in it all, better to admit it now than a couple of months down the line. Check the terms of the contract first. You may also want to find out what notice they want – e.g. they might ask you to work until the end of the week etc.

  21. Mick says:

    my boss is threatening to discipline me for being late after my daily commute. the commute is mainly motorways, there are roadworks on a minor road too. i set off 1 hour before my start time to travel the 26 miles to work but i have arrived 15 minutes late. what can i do?

  22. cat says:

    I have just received a Rejection Letter for flexible working hours. They want me to do night shifts but there is no transport home. I need to write an appeal letter can you help

  23. stan says:

    In my line of work, although we work for a company we travel from home to our places of work, and wherever we are in the country our working day is 06:30-17:00, the company say they will try and keep us within 100 miles of our homes, however this isn’t always the case, for instance on Monday I worked 1hr from home so I was out the house for 05:15, I then did s full shift and had to drive 6hrs to Scotland for the next days work, also our job can involve a lot of driving. Are there laws on time spent travelling to work, the hours spent at work, and the travelling after work. And also there is no break. Please help.

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