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Making commuting easier would benefit employers.

Byline: BETH FARHAT

AS November bites, many of us will be commuting in the cold and the dark.

Most weather forecasters are predicting a very cold winter, which is certainly a chilling thought. You don't have to live in Scotland, where the first snow fell back in September, in order to suffer a case of the commuting blues.

New TUC research published last week, as part of Commute Smart Week, shows that commuting is taking up more and more of our time.

Ten years ago, the average commuter spent about 200 hours a year getting to work and back, the equivalent of five weeks' work. Since then, the average commute has increased by 18 hours a year.

And for employees from a black or ethnic minority background, whose average commute is 45 hours longer than other workers, the situation is even worse.

Longer commutes often feel like wasted time and the experience can be frustrating and unpleasant.

Not only is commuting getting longer, but it's getting costlier too. A litre of unleaded fuel is now 14p more than it was a year ago. This is an 11.5% rise. Which is more than three times more than the increase in wages over the same period.

With the jobs market tightening and some employers finding it hard to fill vacancies, this is an excellent time to tackle the problems associated with ever-longer commutes. And Government and employers can play a key part in this.

Government should make transport a high priority for investment, strengthening our infrastructure and making sure that local bus services are properly funded.

Rising house prices and poor real wages growth have also made it hard for commuters to move closer to their jobs. Addressing these problems would also help ease the commuter blues.

Employers should look again at smarter working practices like flexible working and home working.

Introducing flexi-time could help recruit people who find it hard to cope with the traditional nine to five. Flexi-time can also help to reduce transport snarl-ups, reduce emissions and make commuting more bearable. Allowing home working could also draw in people who find it hard to travel, are geographically isolated or are simply in an area with higher unemployment. Home working cuts out the expensive and time-wasting commute altogether and helps ease transport congestion.

Employers should also think more about active workplace travel planning. This could mean encouraging car-sharing, walking, cycling and public transport. This is something that trade unions often agree with big employers, to the benefit of staff and bosses alike.

Rather than giving in to the commuting blues, more employers should set about starting to solve this problem. Those who do will be on their way to becoming employers of choice and will reap the rewards in terms of motivation and loyalty.

And if smarter working was supported by more Government investment in transport, then we could go a long way towards getting rid of commuting gloom. | Beth Farhat is regional secretary of the TUC.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2018
Words:498
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