How much time do we spend commuting to work? We all need to get to work from home and back, but for many of us, this daily commute is having a serious impact on our time management, productivity, and general happiness.
Some mobility statistics:
1. A Belgian employee spends an average of 54 minutes a day driving to work, with two out of three employees in Belgium driving a car to get to work. For people working in the city centre or for those who use public transport, the number goes up to an average of 96 minutes a day in traffic.
2. Brussels is the 8th most congested city in Europe. If you commute in Brussels, your trip will take up to 38% longer due to traffic. “We note that the duration of the trajectory and not the distance is a crucial point in evaluating the quality of the commute,” says Hermina Van Coillie, an expert in human resources related research for Securex.
3. There is a number of health risks connected to long commutes. Researchers from the University School of Medicine in Saint Louis and the Cooper Institute in Dallas noted that people with daily commutes of 32 km or more have a higher tendency toward depression, anxiety, high blood sugar levels, and social isolation.
4. Car is not the only culprit. For those who bike or walk to work, which generally indicates a shorter distance, average commuting time is likely to be around 30 minutes per day. However, a research from the Office of National Statistics in the UK shows that people with any commute at all still show lower happiness and general life satisfaction, with the lowest dip reported by people who ride a bus to work for 30 minutes or more. Even if you’re lucky enough to bike and enjoy the beautiful outdoors, your satisfaction takes a nosedive proportionally to how long you spend doing it.
Possible solutions to spend less time commuting?
Work from home: 65% of Belgian employees find that their employer doesn’t do enough to tackle the mobility problem: Only 1/3 Belgian employees can work from home once in a while (compared to 1/5 in 2010 and 1/10 in 2003). 86% of people say that they hit maximum productivity when they work from home.
Finding a job that is closer to home: 33% of the capital's inhabitants want to change jobs in order to work closer to home. In Wallonia and Flanders, these rates are respectively 25% and 20%. More than half would choose a job closer to home to reduce stress, and one-third in order to spend more time with their children.
Dare to change
At least one out of four Belgians consider changing jobs in order to work closer to home. One of them was Mieke, a mom of two, who used to commute from Antwerp to her place of work as Office Manager in Brussels.
“It took me one and a half hour every morning to drop off my kids and get to the office. By the time I made it through the traffic, I was often too stressed to start working."
Mieke is now working in a large construction company in the outskirts of Antwerp, a mere 8-minute drive from her home. She gets to sleep longer in the morning and can pick up her kids earlier.
“It's a tremendous improvement in the quality of my life. The only thing I regret is that I didn’t do it sooner."
Mieke, Antwerp, age 37
Do you feel a pang of envy reading about Mieke’s experience? You might be onto something. There are significant health benefits connected to shorter or no commutes and overall happiness tends to increase when the duration of the commute goes down.