Smart Transport

Hidden costs of commuting on employee health

A mental health consultancy is advising companies to carefully consider the hidden costs of commuting before asking staff to return to the office.

As companies start to consider the future of business travel and commuting, mental health consultancy Mente is advising companies to consider the cost of wear and tear that regular business travel and commuting can have on employee health and wellbeing.

Post Covid-19, many businesses are expected to review whether travel and commuting are as essential as they once were, with the AA predicting a permanent reduction in demand because people have learned to use home working technology that can be equally as effective as being 'in the room'.

Research by Mente has shown the average UK worker spends 400 days of their life commuting.

Mel Joseph, founder and managing director of Mente, who spent over a decade commuting in and out of London and traveling overseas with her job, believes that the past couple of months of businesses implementing home working could act as a catalyst towards permanently higher levels of teleworking.

How commuting impacts employee health

  • Exhaustion: Spending more time commuting while stressed may cause you to feel more and more tired. This may build up and lead to exhaustion, sleepless nights, and insomnia.
  • Loneliness: Spending large amounts of time commuting alone, may lead you to feel isolated.
  • Higher stress levels: One study found that a high percentage of commuters said they felt more stressed as a result of their travel with anxiety and depression being high on the list of chronic ill health.
  • Declining physical health status: Research has found commuters did less physical activity because of their commute and health status was found to be worse among those who had long commutes.
  • Overeating: One study found that commuters reported that their commutes contributed an average additional 767 calories to their diet each week from food and drink outside regular meals and most said they snacked more.
  • Overall lower levels of happiness and satisfaction: Research has found that people who commute have lower levels of happiness and satisfaction. Spending time away from those you love may also lead to lower life satisfaction.

Joseph advises businesses to be strategic in their approaches towards business travel and commuting and the impact that travel might have on employee productivity and their overall health.

“Whether it's traveling to visit clients on their premises or daily commuting into a place of work it can often leave employees irritated and deflated which can ultimately have an impact on both their physical and mental health with many starting their day stressed before they have even switched on their computer, clocked in, or spoken to their first client,” said Joseph.

“This can reduce productivity, performance, increase absenteeism and presenteeism, and even increase staff turnover.

 “During lockdown, some employees have reported a positive impact on their personal life, with some gaining up to three hours back into their day allowing them the time to exercise, spend more time with family and switch off sooner than previously.”

Joseph advises companies planning to reopen offices and reinstate travel and commuting need to consider how they can mitigate the effects of employee stress:

“Employers need to consider human wear and tear caused by travel, and the impact it has on the business. Perhaps start to ask yourself: do my employees actually need to travel and do we actually still need that office."

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry. Watch his presentation below:


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