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?
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.
- 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 its necessary to make a long distance journey as they wouldnt 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. childrens 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, thats 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!