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Time spent commuting has increased by a third in five years

Posted by: Megan Troster

Oh the joy of commuting. I love trying to get around the slow walkers and the bottlenecks by the escalators. I look forward to people pushing and shoving me when I’m trying to get off the train. And best of all, the regular delays, they are my absolute favourite and I get all this for a very reasonable price of course.

In 2014 the world average commute stood at 40 minutes. But within Europe, workers in London and across the UK endure what is known as the ‘marathon commute.’ Research has shown that the commute for workers in the West Midlands has increased by a third in the past 5 years, and workers in the region now travel for an average of two hours or more each day. Moovit, the world’s number one travel app has recorded that the average journey in this area is typically 25-32 minutes longer than commutes in Paris, Berlin and Madrid.

When considering a new job, too few of us take into account the travel time connected with it and the toll a long commute can have on not only our physical health, but our mental well being. Committing to a long commute often means having to sacrifice time out of our personal life in order to travel to work and is often down to choosing to pursue a career that can’t be harnessed locally, or to earn an income that supports a certain type of materialistic lifestyle. But are other factors like health, personal relationships, social connections outside of work and time for hobbies being neglected?

More and more people are travelling incredibly long distances to and from work every day, with some journeys meaning an average working day is 12-16 hours long, door to door. Currently men still account for the majority of long commutes; with 61% making journeys of 2 hours or more. But women have experienced a 35% increase in commuting times since 2010. This is further reflected in an increase of 46% in commuting times to jobs in traditionally female dominated sectors including education, health and social care. Whereas sectors that are typically more male dominated such as finance and insurance, have 29.3% of employees are travelling more than 2 hours a day.

Common problems for commuters include gridlocked roads, delayed trains and long waits for buses, leading to exhausting and stressful journeys and resulting in less time spent at home relaxing and/or with families. Health issues associated with a long drive to work include high blood pressure, increased anger and resentment at work, and decreased ability to concentrate and perform to the same standards as those who live in a much closer proximity to the workplace. Long commutes can also increase the risk of heart attacks, flu and depression.

Other factors that are contributing to longer commutes include stagnant wages and increasing rent or property prices. The cost of housing in cities often leaves many people with no choice but to live outside and travel the longer distance in. Whereas some choose to live outside of a city for a better work/life balance and a more suitable environment for family life. Not to mention cleaner air and a more peaceful lifestyle.

For a large portion of us there is no escaping the daily commute, so how do we cope? If your daily commute is long then preparation is key. Sorting out clothes and lunches the night before can prevent any panic rushing in the morning. Research has shown that a family breakfast in the mornings can relieve stress, if you have the time. More and more companies have gyms within the office or hand out free or subsidised memberships which can be good for those of us who suffer with stiffness after a long commute to work. If you travel by train/bus and can switch off to your surroundings, try and use this as your “me” time - read a book, listen to music or even catch up on your sleep.

In UK the long commute has become apart of our working culture and clearly the government, public transport providers and employers need to address the negative impact this is having on the economy. The average British worker spent an extra 10 hours commuting in 2016 compared to 2015. But with services continuing to disappoint and the cost constantly increasing, no wonder we are all so disgruntled. When you have a government that allows situations such as the Southern rail strikes to continue, when they could in fact change the law, then you understand where commuters fit into their priority list. I should imagine the reason they continue to ignore the issue, is on the base premise that people need a job and therefore people will continue to have no option but to travel to where the jobs are located.

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