Is Your Commute Worth the Pain? The True Cost of Getting to Work

Career Climbers / 13th June 2019

For UK workers, commuting time has increased by 18 hours compared to a decade ago, according to the TUC. A study by Totaljobs shows the average worker is set to spend a whopping £135,000 on their commute by the time they retire.

Following these findings, Instant Offices investigates which cities around the world are the best and worst for commuting and whether a rise in flexible and remote working can finally tip the balance for UK workers.

According to the Department for Transport, London by far has the longest commute with the average worker spending 46 minutes per trip or a roundtrip of 92 minutes each day from the workplace. With so much time spent simply travelling to and from work – around 400 days for the average person – it’s no surprise that the topic of how to reduce commuting time is so popular.

One study by Focus considered various factors, including journey times and cost of travel cards, to rank the best and worst cities for commuting in the world. Unsurprisingly, London tops the list, with Miami a close second.


Best Cities for Commuting

Worst Cities for Commuting

Nice, France

London, UK

Cuenca, Ecuador

Miami, USA

Bilbao, Spain

Cali, Columbia

Toulouse, France

Brasilia, Brazil

 Catania, Italy 

Toronto, Canada


Nice in France took the top spot as the best city for commuting. Travel cards in Nice cost less than four times the amount you would pay in London, and average travel time is around 22 minutes a trip, or just 44 minutes each day compared to over 80 for London.

Regionally, Leicester, Bristol and Edinburgh topped the rankings as the easiest commutes in the UK, with London, Birmingham and Manchester coming in last.

There is a large body of research into the negative impact of long commuting times on employee physical and mental health. One report by the Royal Society for Public Health shows the following:

  • More than half of commuters say travel increases stress levels.
  • Two in five commuters say it decreases the amount of time they are physically active.
  • Over one-third of commuters sleep less.

In addition to the impact on mental wellbeing, excessively long commutes over a long period can also reduce employee happiness and negatively impact health due to lower physical activity.

There is also a loss of productivity to consider among talent. If an employee was given up to two hours of their day back, ten hours of potential productivity could be released back into the workplace each week, which equates to a potential 40 hours a month.

Lucinda Pullinger, Global Head of HR at The Instant Group commented,

“To cut down on stress as well as commuting times and costs, more companies in the UK are introducing flexible and remote working options for employees. An increase in co-working and flexible office space, access to new technology and faster internet speeds have also changed the way we work, and by 2020, a predicted report by HSO shows 50% of the UK workforce will be working remotely.

“While some companies are concerned about the impact remote and flexible working will have on productivity, research by YouGov shows 20% of HR managers believe that their staff work to a slightly higher standard at home than they do in the office, while 7% say the standard is much higher.”

Testing Remote Working in the Workplace

Here are four ways to introduce remote working in the workplace:

  1. Ensure your performance is flawless: a company is more likely to have the remote working conversation with top performers who are good at communicating and can handle the responsibility of progressing deadlines from another location.
  2. Provide reasons why: whether to reduce commuting costs, increase productivity, gain more quiet time or move from one area to another, provide clear reasons to justify your choice when discussing the possibility of remote working.
  3. Research your options: put together a plan to ensure you can do the job remotely. This includes having all the tools you need: fast internet and access to technology or tools when needed. Research different flexible office space options and weigh up the costs and amenities.
  4. Testing remote working: most companies will be more comfortable introducing remote working for one day a week as a test. A trial run is a good way to ensure productivity and work quality remains as high as expected.


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