How a lack of commuting is affecting UK workers

Egon Hunt

04 Apr 2021

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one in three UK workers are currently carrying out their duties exclusively from home. This major shift to home working has precipitated many changes to the way we do our jobs and live our lives - not least among them being the absence of a commute.

So, how do British workers feel about forgoing their commute? Is it a cause for celebration or concern? To find out, here at Hunts Office, we surveyed 800 workers that have had to give up their usual commute. Here’s what we found.

The majority miss the commute

Many of us have likely grumbled about motorway congestion, road closures, late trains or missed buses at one point or another in our working lives. So it may come as a surprise that the majority of people who are now having to work remotely actually miss the daily commute. In fact, almost seven in 10 of us (69%) miss travelling to and from our places of work

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Results from our survey

Gen Z'ers and Millenials most affected

Gen Zers and Millennials most affected

When we looked at who misses travelling to the office the most, it appears the younger you are, the more likely you are to feel the loss of the commute.

Those aged 24 and under - the so-called Generation Z - are most affected, followed by 25 to 34-year-olds, who form part of the Millennial cohort.

Overall, 72% of survey respondents who said they missed the daily commute were aged between 18 and 34, whereas 23% were between 35 and 54 years old.

Only 5% of the over 55s said they miss travelling to and from work.

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How we normally commute to work

When it comes to how we usually get to work, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The majority of people normally have a sedentary commute, with 50% saying they drive to and from work and 30% reporting that they take public transport. Only 2% ordinarily get to work by taxi or car share. A minority enjoy a more active commute, with 18% saying they walk, run or cycle to and from their workplaces.

In terms of scenery, the majority of commutes (65%) include a combination of views of roads and nature. Almost a quarter (24%) of respondents in Wales described their commute as very scenic, making Wales the most picturesque place to commute in, according to our survey.

The majority of commutes (59%) normally take no more than 30 minutes.

Music, radio, and podcasts - the nation’s most popular commuting activities

When asked what activities they normally do on their commute, the majority of survey takers said they listen to music (68%). Meanwhile, 37% listen to the radio and 20% listen to podcasts on their journey. With half of all commuters busy driving and 18% running, walking, or cycling - this makes sense.

Listening to music is the activity we miss doing the most too, with 45% of people surveyed saying they miss this. 24% said they miss listening to the radio and 12% miss spending their commute listening to podcasts.

One in four missing 'me' time

It seems that many workers use the commute as an opportunity to have some ‘me time’ in normal circumstances, with 29% saying they use the commute to enjoy some time to themselves. A quarter of those surveyed said they miss this element of their travel time.

Almost a fifth miss buying breakfast or coffee

Almost a fifth (19%) of commuters said they’d normally buy breakfast or a coffee during their commute. With all respondents now working from home, the same percentage said they miss this little indulgence.

22 percent miss chatting

Fifteen percent of the commuters we surveyed said they used their commuting time to chat to someone. With many of us working in isolation these days, it seems that the social aspect of travelling to and from work is something many of us long for. Indeed, 22% of respondents said they miss chatting with someone as they go to and from work.

Fewer opportunities to read

A sizable proportion (17%) of commuters normally spent their journey reading a book, with eight percent saying they read while travelling every day. Perhaps, this was the only time some of us found to read, with more than one in 10 (13%) saying they miss this activity due to remote working.

No commute means a longer working day for one in three

According to our survey, one in three (33%) is working longer hours as a result of having no commute. We also found that more women than men appear to be working longer hours than usual. Of those who said they now work longer days, 58% were female and 42% were male.

More stressed and less motivated

It seems that not commuting has had a negative impact emotionally too. Almost 19% of commuters say they feel more stressed and 42% say they feel less motivated to wake up as a result of not travelling to and from their place of work every day. More than one in 10 (13%) revealed that they have trouble winding down after a hard day because of this.

Half of home workers suffering have experienced back pain

It appears that home working may have physical side effects too. Almost half (47%) of homeworkers say they’ve experienced back pain since they started working remotely, perhaps due to a lack of proper office furniture. Meanwhile, 32% have suffered from a sore neck, 30% have experienced worsening eyesight and 8% have developed carpal tunnel syndrome.

More than one in three want hybrid working in future

Our survey discovered that 37% of commuters would like to split their time between office working and home working ideally. Almost the same proportion (36%) would like to go back to working exclusively from the office. The minority (27%) would like to continue working exclusively from home.

Socialising tops the list of missed things about work

When asked what people miss about work itself, the majority (72%) said that they miss socialising. Office perks came in second place, with 28% of people saying they miss the likes of free meals and snacks. 27% said miss the commute.

Struggling with working from home day in, day out? Check out our tips for getting the benefits of the office commute without travelling to work.

How is not commuting affecting you? Have you taken steps to plug the gap left by travelling to and from work? Join in the conversation using the hashtag #MyFakeCommute.

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