Here's just how much of an impact long commutes have on health and productivity

 
Rebecca Smith
Londoners play their favourite game: sardines
Londoners play their favourite game: sardines (Source: Getty)

You may have suspected it, now a comprehensive study has confirmed it: long commutes are bad for people's health and productivity.

A study of more than 34,000 workers across all UK industries, developed by VitalityHealth, the University of Cambridge, RAND Europe and Mercer, examined the impact of commuting, along with flexible and homeworking, on employee health and productivity.

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It found those who commuted to work in under half an hour gain an additional seven days' worth of productive time each year as opposed to those with commutes of an hour or more.

And longer commutes appeared to have a negative impact on mental wellbeing too, with longer-commuting workers 33 per cent more likely to suffer from depression, 37 per cent more likely to have financial worries and 12 per cent more likely to report multiple aspects of work-related stress.

They were also 46 per cent more likely to get less than the recommended seven hours of sleep each night and 21 per cent more likely to be obese, according to the study.

“Time scarcity is a significant cause of stress and unhealthy behaviour across UK employees,” said Chris Bailey, partner at Mercer.

“A number of factors combine to create this time scarcity, but carer responsibilities and increased commuting times at peak hours due to a lack of availability of affordable housing close to workplaces, are key issues," he said. "Employers’ can positively impact their employees’ lives by looking at working policies and financial wellness programmes to support those that are juggling multiple commitments.”

And while flexible working and homeworking are on the rise, the study found it was flexible working specifically which brought benefits to workers. Those able to work flexibly were less likely to be stressed or depressed and had an extra five productive days a year, compared to those with no flexible working arrangements.

Those who could work from home but didn't have flexible working arrangements were actually the least productive, losing 29 working days a year.

Shaun Subel, director of strategy at VitalityHealth, said:

Allowing employees the flexibility to avoid the rush-hour commute where possible, or fit their routine around other commitments can help reduce stress and promote healthier lifestyle choices and, importantly, this is shown to actually impact positively on productivity.

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