Travel & Commuting - The cost of wear and tear on employee health
Many people have an idealised view of commuting into prestigious city venues for work or hopping on planes for business travel.
The reality is, the novelty soon wears off, it isn't as fun or glamorous as it may seem and the impact it can eventually have on our health simply makes the job unattractive. Many who travel internationally with work many don't have the time to explore interesting cities but instead may find themselves living out of suitcases and answering endless emails on their phones from their soulless hotel rooms. Those who find themselves constantly on trains or on the motorway driving to meetings or commuting into centrally based office spaces, simply to sit at a desk to be seen by management, are hoping for change.
Over the years research has shown the average UK worker spends 400 days of their life commuting. However, post Covid-19, many businesses will start to decide if travel and commuting are as essential as they once were, with the AA predicting a permanent reduction in the demand because people have learned during the crisis to use home working technology that can be equally as effective as being 'in the room'.
As companies start to make their own decisions on the future of work and cost-effective ways to not slip back into old routines, it's also beneficial to consider the cost of wear and tear that regular business travel and commuting can have on employee health and wellbeing.
Mel Joseph, founder and managing director of Mente, who spent over a decade commuting in and out of London and traveling overseas with her job believes that the past couple of months of businesses implementing home working could act as a catalyst towards higher sustained levels of using technology to conduct business meetings.
Mel advises that businesses should be proactive and strategic in their approaches towards business travel and commuting and the impact that travel might have on employee productivity and their overall health. She commented, “With a Uk transport system that is most known for its failings more than its qualities, employees who traditionally traveled to a place of work or to visit clients premises have recently had the pleasure of still succeeding in their job without the need to battle constantly with public transport delays, and cancellations. Not only that, but they have also experienced a positive impact on their personal life with some suggesting gaining up to 3 hours back into their day allowing them the time to exercise, spend more time with family and switch off sooner than previously.
She continued, “whether it's traveling to visit clients on their premises or daily commuting into a place of work it can often leave employees irritated and deflated which can ultimately have an impact on both their physical and mental health with many starting their day stressed before they have even switched on their computer, clocked in, or spoken to their first client. This can reduce productivity, performance, increase absenteeism and presenteeism, and even increase staff turnover.
How commuting can impact employee health?
▸ Exhaustion - Spending more time commuting while stressed may cause you to feel more and more tired. This may build up and lead to exhaustion, sleepless nights, and insomnia.
▸ Loneliness - Spending large amounts of time commuting alone, may lead you to feel isolated.
Higher stress levels - One study found that a high percentage of commuters said they felt more stressed as a result of their travel with anxiety and depression being high on the list of chronic ill health.
▸ Declining physical health status - Research has found commuters did less physical activity because of their commute, and health status was found to be worse among those who had long commutes.
▸ Overeating - One study found that commuters reported that their commutes contributed an average additional 767 calories to their diet each week from food and drink outside regular meals, and most said they snacked more.
▸ Overall lower levels of happiness and satisfaction - Research has found that people who commute have lower levels of happiness and satisfaction. Spending time away from those you love may also lead to lower life satisfaction.
If you decide to reopen offices and have your employees reinstate their travel and commute, it is important for businesses to consider how they can mitigate the effects of employee stress. Provide employees with education, tools, and resources, so they can maintain healthy lifestyles while commuting and offer them tips on staying positive while traveling and commuting.
Employers need to consider human wear and tear caused by travel, and the impact it has on the business. Perhaps start to ask yourself: do my employees actually need to travel and do we actually still need that office?!