Commuting after COVID-19: a dying trend?

July 13, 2020 Updated: April 23, 2021
Commuting. That daily rush hour grind that little of us have missed during the pandemic. As working from home becomes the new normal, we ask: will commuting ever bounce back?

Over the course of the pandemic, we have seen many typical business trends fade away. As online meetings become that ‘new normal’ we often talk about, employees have enjoyed the benefits of remote working.

While the country has largely returned to work, it’s still encouraged to work from home if you’re able to. This means that workplaces up and down the country are collaborating from the comfort of their home and avoiding the frenzied dash to work.

Of course, there have been teething problems as companies get to grips with the practicalities of remote work – makeshift offices and intermittent homeschooling to name a few – but many workers are enjoying the benefits of working from home.

The shift towards remote working will trigger long-term change across many industries. As companies reconsider paying for expensive office space, it’s likely that many companies will encourage working from home. In addition, the need to social distance in a COVID-secure workplace will mean that less people will be in the office at one time – meaning less of us will be on the roads or cramming onto public transport.

As HR consultant Emily Draycott-Jones says:

“As we start to return to workplaces and find a new normal, alternative working patterns will also help reduce commuter traffic and with social distancing measures”.

So whether you’re intending to introduce remote working on a flexible basis or permanently, we take a look at the reasons why a commute-free life could lead to a brighter future.

A greener future

COVID-19 has thrown up many questions about the way we live. In particular, we’ve noticed the immediate environmental effects our different routines have caused. As road use hit an all-time low during April, there were noticeable effects in air pollution – an effect we’d all like to see continue in a post-COVID world.

Interestingly, a survey recently revealed that a majority of Brits think tackling environmental problems is the biggest issue the world needs to address once the pandemic is over. Our daily commute is clearly a huge contributing factor to our carbon footprint. As we’ve stayed at home, the roads have been virtually empty – and consequently, we’ve seen positive environmental effects.

While greater awareness of climate change has meant companies have been considering green initiatives for some time, the arrival of COVID-19 has forced us to take more immediate action. For example, many employees are concerned about social distancing on public transport – which has led to more companies adopting cycle to work schemes. And with bike sales set to top £1 billion by 2023, it certainly looks as though greener commutes are here to stay.

What green initiatives are available?

As businesses look to reduce company miles, there are a range of green initiatives you can get involved with. For example, the Green Commute Initiative allows your employees to hire a bike and repay the sum with a salary sacrifice. Schemes like these can help you boost employee satisfaction, minimise the need for on-site parking, and lower your company miles.

Joining our own Work Miles Movement is another way you can keep track of your emissions. By setting out a company miles budget in the same way you’d create a financial budget, you can easily improve your carbon footprint. Having a benchmark or a goal to work towards means you can continue to lower company miles, year on year.

Higher employee satisfaction

According to a survey conducted by the University of the West of England, there is a strong link between the time a person spends commuting and how satisfied they feel. The study claimed that ‘each extra minute of commuting time reduces both job and leisure time satisfaction—though not overall life satisfaction—and increases strain and worsens mental health for workers’.

An unexpected silver lining of the pandemic has been the increased time spent at home with family. As working from home has been mandatory, employees have enjoyed a fuller day without a lengthy commute eating into their leisure or family time. And since over half of UK workers are more productive during this time, it seems natural that businesses will be happy to continue offering remote working – at least on a flexible basis.

If your employees faced a tricky commute post-COVID, it could pay to allow them to continue working remotely. As the pandemic has prompted many individuals to reassess their priorities, it only makes sense to promote a healthy work-life balance going forwards.

Diversify your team

Put simply, the length of a commute can make or break a job offer for many potential employees. If your company is over an hour away from an interviewee, it’s likely that they’ll think twice about applying.

The pandemic has shown us that distance isn’t the obstacle we once thought it was. More and more companies are offering remote work, with only occasional office visits necessary.

While being around the team can promote morale, offering the option to work from a distance can only expand your company’s potential and skill set. If there’s outstanding talent on the other side of the country, you could still benefit from their expertise – without forcing them to commute, relocate, or decide to work somewhere closer to home.

The COVID-19 outbreak has meant we are all reassessing the way we travel to work. Our Decade of Courage Manifesto seeks to look beyond the pandemic and explore how you can adapt your company to suit global trends. Download your copy for absolutely free.

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Categorised in: Digital workplace, Future of work, Remote working during COVID-19

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