Growth of homeworking cuts average commute time to 10-year low

The growth of homeworking has helped to cut average commute times to a 10-year low of 47 minutes and 48 seconds per day, TUC analysis of official figures has revealed.

Using figures from the Labour Force Survey, the TUC has calculated that £339 million worth of working time is spent travelling to and from work every day.

The TUC analysis – published to coincide with Work Wise UK’s Commute Smart week (8-12 November) – finds that the average time spent commuting to and from work increased each year from 1998 to 2006, reaching a record 52 minutes and 36 seconds in 2006.

Since 2006, average commute times have decreased by four minutes and 48 seconds, falling to 47 minutes and 48 seconds per day in 2008 (the latest year that times are available), which is the lowest level since records began 10 years ago.

The TUC believes that the growth in homeworking has been one of the reasons for the fall in commute times. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of people working from home increased by 291,000 – accounting for more than half of employment growth during this period. In 2008 alone, the increase in homeworking saved 232,000 commuting hours per day, the analysis reveals.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said it was “great” to see that the number of hours spent commuting to work is falling.

“UK employees already work some of the longest hours in Europe so it’s doubly annoying to lose even more precious spare time stuck in traffic and packed on trains on the way to and from work,” he said.

“Our analysis shows that flexible working and homeworking doesn’t just benefit individuals and their employers. If more people are allowed to work from home we can make the daily commute shorter and more pleasant for everyone.”

However, separate research published by Virgin Business Media today suggests that there is still significant resistance to flexible working from small and medium-sized employers.

Its study of 5,000 businesses employing up to 250 people showed that only 14% allow their staff to work flexibly or from home. More than four in 10 (43%) respondents said they were worried that disconnected teams would be less effective and leave the individuals within them feeling isolated and stressed.

The research was published in the week that the Government indicated that legislation extending the right to request flexible working to all staff is likely to be implemented in April 2012.

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