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Inactive commutes make employees miserable

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Taking up active commutes, like walking or cycling, can positively affect productivity

Almost one in five (18%) Brits who commute by driving or public transport said that their journey is making them miserable, double that of those who have a more active commute (9%), according to a study commissioned by social enterprise free2cycle.

The survey of 2,000 adults found that 10% of people who travel to work by driving or public transport are less productive as a result, compared to 5% of people who have active commutes such as walking or cycling.

The research also revealed that UK commuters spend an average of £135,000 in a lifetime travelling to work, with almost a quarter (23%) of those who do not walk or cycle reporting that commuting drains their finances. These findings come as the TUC also revealed today that rail fares have increased at more than twice the speed of wages since 2008.

When asked about the prospect of cycling or walking to work, 95% of those driving or taking public transport said they have considered it. However, the research found several factors preventing people from switching to a more active commute.

Twenty-two per cent of respondents cited work-related reasons; namely not having the appropriate facilities to get ready afterwards or feeling too embarrassed about colleagues seeing them in activewear. For 12%, money is an issue, stating they don’t have a bicycle and can’t afford to buy one, while 16% said they don’t feel safe enough to choose a more active journey.

Most workers (67%) believe their employers could make allowances to enable a more active commute such as through introducing flexible starting times, access to changing facilities and incentives for equipment, such as cycle to work schemes. However, only 8% of people said their employers have any allowances in place.

Eric Craig, CEO of free2cycle, said the research proves that inactive commutes negatively affect the workforce. “Our findings cement the daily horror stories you hear about the unfit, unproductive and unwell UK workforce. An active commute is a great way to improve health, wellbeing and our environment," he said.

Employers have a duty to encourage workers to take up a more active commute to work, he added.

"As our research shows, the nation is finding the sedentary daily commute physically and mentally straining and is crying out to organisations to provide the facilities and initiatives to switch to a more active commute. This needs to change. UK businesses are responsible for leading a change in prioritising the health and wellbeing of their teams, and for this to be successful they should include considering how [people] get to and from work.”