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Commuting can make you unhappy, says ONS

Commuters are less happy with their lives and work than those who work from home, according to a large-scale study from the Office for National Statistics.

The study surveyed more than 60,000 people to investigate the relationship between commuting to work and personal wellbeing.

It found that on average, commuters were less satisfied with their lives, rated their daily activities as less worthwhile, and reported less happiness and higher anxiety than non-commuters.

Commuting times

Negative effects of commuting were found to rise after just the first 15 minutes of travel time, with dissatisfaction levels peaking for those whose journey to work took 61 to 90 minutes.

Surprisingly perhaps, the impact of the commute disappeared for the small number of people who spent three hours or more journeying to work.

It was suggested that this was because the long journey allowed them to use the time more productively. This group also had a higher mean wage on average than those with a shorter commute.

Mode of transport

Some modes of transport were associated with significant increases in anxiety, including travel by car, minibus or works van; travel by bus or coach for between 16 and 30 minutes; cycling for 16 to 30 minutes; travelling by train or underground for more than 30 minutes; and walking for more than 30 minutes.

Cycling for more than 30 minutes; riding a motorbike or scooter for up to 30 minutes; travelling by taxi; and taking a train or tube for up to 30 minutes were found not to affect personal wellbeing negatively.

The authors said that results suggested that higher income or a larger house may not fully compensate commuters for the impact of their daily journeys.

Working from home

People working from home were the happiest and most satisfied group, and the most likely to find their work worthwhile.

Other research seems to support the findings. One study found that people work from home at least three days a week are more satisfied with their jobs because they have less work-life conflict, less stress, less time pressure and fewer interruptions.

Commentators have suggested that employers would be well served if they allowed people 'to work around their lives rather than the other way around'.

In return for providing greater flexibility on hours, and offering opportunities to work from home, employers can often expect to see improved loyalty, engagement and productivity from their employees.

Acas publications and services

Extensive advice for employers on flexible working is given in the Acas Advisory booklet - Flexible working and work-life balance .

Acas experts can visit your workplace and help you develop effective flexible-working policies; see Parents and carers: how Acas can help for details.

If you need free and impartial advice on family-related workplace issues, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100.

Acas also runs practical training courses on Flexible working, including developing family-friendly policies in the workplace.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

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