Commuting and traditional working hours cost employers £1.21 billion in lost productivity, research shows

HR Editorial , 13 Dec 2011


Commuting and the traditional ‘nine to five’ lead to stress, fatigue and a £1.21 billion bill for employers in lost productivity, research reveals.

In a survey of 1,948 office workers by 2e2, the ICT services company, 63% said they feel restrained by traditional nine to five working and felt that they would be more productive if there was more flexibility around the hours they worked.

More than half (55%) admitted to being more productive from working from home as opposed to the office, while 73% said that technology was no longer a barrier to home working.

But the research also revealed that nearly one in two workers felt modern working practices, with the increased use of technology and remote working, has led to the loss of valuable human interaction with work colleagues. When asked about the best forum for discussing business ideas and collaborating with colleagues, over three-quarters felt this was best done away from the boardroom. Just under half (47%) stated that the best ideas come when in a pub or restaurant.

The study went on to look at the impact of commuting on productivity. It was shown that transport problems or delays are causing UK workers to lose on average 1.5 working days each year, costing UK businesses £1.21 billion in lost productivity. Worse still these bad journeys were causing workers to be more tired and stressed, resulting in further productivity losses to the tune of £1.03 billion a year.

This means that the total transport-related productivity losses for UK plc are in excess of £2.24 billion.

Mike Hockey, director at 2e2, said: "Employers often don't realise the impact of working culture on productivity. Different people have different working patterns and the traditional nine to five way of working doesn't suit everyone.

"It's clear that often employees would be more productive if they had flexible hours or could work from home. However, an organisation's culture can often mean that this isn't possible or, if people do work in this way, they are seen as slackers. Bosses need to change this: they need to make it clear that working from home isn't a perk and that it's productivity and effectiveness that they care about, not hours behind a desk.

"Technologies like instant messaging, SMS, web-based meetings and video conferencing have revolutionised workforce interaction and productivity. However, it is vital that organisations educate users on how and when to best use these technologies. They can be great for completing a well-defined task, but aren't necessarily appropriate if you're looking for insight and creativity. This research shows that if you want creativity and ideas from your workforce, then a drink and a chat in the pub might yield the best results.

"The negative impact the daily commute can have on productivity shouldn't be underestimated. If UK businesses can offer employees more flexible ways of working then those businesses stand to benefit massively. You only have to take next year's 2012 London Olympics as an example: people are already being asked to work from home or alter their working routine as a consequence of the expected transport disruption. Certainly with today's increased connectivity and the latest smartphones, tablets and laptops there are far fewer barriers to working flexibly than ever before. This means people can work more effectively at home, in the office or a combination of both.

The survey of office workers was commissioned by 2e2 and conducted by independent research company TNS Omnibus.


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Hernan Moreira 13 Dec 2011

I agree with the idea of workin home. The flexibility te article mentions is quite important because you can manage your own time better than with the pressure you mostly are victim of. Complex things could be done at home where you may fulfil your stuff in a more concentrated way whereas at work you cannot be as focus as you may be so the results would end up successfully.

Commuting and Productivity needs to take account of the type of work.

Peter Hinkson 13 Dec 2011

The study referred to in the above article appears to have a very narrow frame of reference. It paints a picture which would only to work for knowledge workers and office based administrative staff. Production line workers in factories operating 24/7 shifts or just shifts which start and finish at times outside the traditional commuting hours will not be affected in the same way. They need to be at work to take over from their colleagues on the previous shift and therefore their working times cannot be flexible. Of course, companies and workers can agree shift times which avoid peak travel times for everyone. Hotel, catering and leisure industry workers also have shift times which coincide with the demands of their customers. Flexible hours will only assist productivity if there is cover in the office, or from remote work stations which means that clients and suppliers working the standard working times can still get in contact while they are at work. Productivity is assisted by quiet time and the ability to concentrate, but conversations in the office, at Lunch times and breaks or before and after the working day are also a significant source of ideas and information which will assist thinking and delivery. Those who want to be productive will make the time.

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