The Costly Commute and The Five Benefits of Flexible Working.

December 3, 2018    Ann Clarke     ,

With unreliable trains and increasing congestion on the roads, not to mention the time spent traveling to work each week, commuting in the UK is a costly endeavor for employees. But have you considered what it is costing business too?

New research has highlighted that long commutes don’t just cost employees time and money (a total of £135,000 and 400 days over a lifetime); in the end, they cost employers talent too. British workers who travel for 30 minutes or more each day are more likely to be actively looking for a new job than colleagues whose commute is less than half an hour. Adding an extra 20 minutes of commuting per day has the same negative effect on job satisfaction as receiving a 19 per cent pay cut.

The figures are compelling, and to tackle this, progressive employers must identify their rate of employee turnover and acknowledge how it affects an organisation’s ability to achieve its strategic goals. With economic uncertainty likely to continue for some time, it’s time for employers to ensure they have a loyal, focused, capable and healthy workforce. If the commute is costing businesses talent, performance and productivity, something has to change.

Flexible working is almost certainly part of the solution for people-centric businesses and is a strategic enabler of growth, performance and employee loyalty. Here are the five benefits of flexible working for businesses with a commuting-weary workforce:

  1. Improved wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is a real concern for UK businesses as the direct link between employees’ physical, mental and emotional health and productivity is acknowledged. The time and cost of commuting can put additional financial and emotional pressure on employees’ lives – a recent survey revealed that 42 per cent of people already feel they don’t have enough time for friends, family or hobbies due to a busy work life. Flexible working can help to restore work-life balance, improve wellbeing and employees’ ability to cope with stress, improve productivity and reduce the likelihood of talented employees looking for alternative work closer to home.

  1. Reduce property costs

Using technology to liberate employees from fixed location and fixed-hour working not only offers wellbeing benefits, it can help businesses re-valuate their real estate needs. Most desks are only ever at 60 per cent occupancy, so with greater flexible working there may be an opportunity to re-valuate property requirements altogether – perhaps using unused space more creatively, subletting or reducing square footage.

  1. Digital transformation

A commitment to be more flexible can mark the first step on a journey to digital transformation and open businesses up to the wider possibilities that rapidly expanding technology offers, with tools such as AI, augmented reality and collaboration technologies driving efficiency. On a micro level this can vastly improve the employee experience, reducing the need to travel and making once time-intensive tasks easier. On a macro level this can lead to digital transformation, using technology to innovate and deliver financial gains as company travel budgets are slashed, decision making is accelerated, and productivity is boosted.

  1. Reduced absenteeism

Greater flexibility over when, where and how work is done reduces absenteeism as happy, healthy and engaged employees take fewer days off sick. Employees with greater flexibility are able to fit work around the challenges of daily life, such as problems with childcare, medical appointments or transport issues, without being absent and compromising productivity. The cumulative benefit is reduced staff attrition and retained knowledge and expertise within the business.

  1. Meeting expectations

The younger generation expects more than salary from their employers; they want to work for companies with social capital, with whom they share values and ethics and where they can have a good quality of life. Interestingly, a third of UK employees would prefer the option of flexible working to a pay rise and 70% of millennials want flexibility to be an option. Being able to meet these needs will help to set a business out as a model employer and help to attract the brightest and best.

For today’s workers, managing work and home lives can present a very real challenge. Employers that offer flexible working stand to ‘get ahead’ in the war for talent and enjoy significant gains from greater business agility, staff loyalty and increased productivity. In a time of economic change and a skills shortage, organisations must use every tool to unlock the full potential of their workforce. In the words of the US-based Campbell Soup Company CEO Doug Conant, “To win in the marketplace you must first win in the workplace.” For modern employers, flexible working is part of guaranteeing that win.

To find out more about agile working and how you can make the most of it to help your organisation move forward, download our whitepaper “Get stretching – An introduction to agile working”:



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