Longer Commutes Are as Bad as Pay Cuts
05th April 2018
It's now taking the average London commuter over an hour and twenty minutes to get to work. That's according to a study published late last year by the Trades Union Congress. In fact, we're pretty much all taking longer to get where we're going each day than we did 10 years ago. We don't seem to be happy about it, either. In fact, in the job satisfaction stakes, it really does look like every second counts.
How long does it take you to get to work?
Commuters in London and the South East have the longest journey times, even if they aren't travelling all that far to work. The 80.6 minutes a Londoner spends on average is miles ahead of places like the West Midlands and Wales (51 and 49.2 minutes, respectively). In the whole of the UK, only Northern Ireland has seen a drop in journey times since 2006. Average commutes there have gone down slightly, from 46.2 minutes to 45.8.
Another study, conducted by the University of the West of England, puts this all in perspective. Essentially, for every minute a British worker's commute goes up, their job satisfaction drops by 1%. With 1 in 7 of us now travelling for 2 hours or more each day, that makes for a lot of unhappy people. To put it in financial terms, if you're making the UK's average salary of £21,600 a year, 20 minutes added to your daily journey is the same as losing £680 a month in income. Buses and trains are among the worst culprits here. People who walk or cycle to work are less likely to resent their travel times.
Longer commutes affect more than travel time, and women more than men.
Women are more likely than men to find longer travel times a problem. According to the study, this is probably because they're shouldering more of the burden of household and family responsibilities.
It's not just about being happy at work, though. Longer daily commutes are thought to have a range of damaging impacts on people's lives. Over the long haul, the loss of free time can put a strain of people's mental health and increase their stress levels. However, the whole issue isn't as cut and dried as it might appear.
Even though people's job satisfaction drops as travel times rise, their overall “life satisfaction” stays pretty stable. On top of that, you've got to look at why those journeys are on the rise in the first place. A lot of people accept longer commutes for better jobs or to get the house of their dreams. Factors like that can really bump up those life satisfaction scores.
Younger workers are happier to make longer commutes
The younger you are, the less a tough commute seems to trouble you. The same, oddly enough, is true for those on lower incomes. There's some overlap in those 2 categories, naturally enough. Even so, it's notable that the younger crowd are generally more likely to take longer travel times in stride.
Given the more flexible ways people are working these days, it's a little surprising to see travel times still on the rise. Some are suggesting that our struggling transport systems are to blame. Others argue for more businesses to open up to flexible hours or work-from-home opportunities.
Are you due a tax refund for your travel costs?
Either way, it's important to ensure you're getting the most out of your work travel. About 5 million of us are overpaying our tax each year. That's 16% of the whole UK workforce, and the main thing they're missing out on is their travel tax refunds.
HMRC sits on a huge pile of unclaimed tax rebates every year. If you travel to temporary workplaces, don't let the refunds you're entitled to get added to that mountain. It only takes a few seconds to answer 4 simple questions and it's free to find out. We can also help you file your tax return too.