Work Smart To Cut Congestion

Fifty per cent of home workers have wiped out weekly road commutes of between 50 and 100 miles and all of them claim to achieve more than they did when office based* according to new research released today.

Speaking at the Work Wise Summit - Creating a Smarter Working Britain today (May 3) to launch Work Wise week, an initiative to promote smarter working and better work-life balance, Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, will tell delegates that flexible working could potentially cut the worst peak traffic by up to ten per cent within five years.

Achieving a reduction of this size in commuting, business travel, shopping and personal business trips would save 14.5 billion miles a year. This equates to 17 million cars foregoing a trip from Land’s End to John O’Groats or about three years’ growth in car and taxi traffic at today’s rates.

An on-line survey released today by Enterprise Nation - which encourages and supports those currently running businesses, working from home full or part time or considering doing so - also shows that the majority of home workers spend the time that they save on commuting with family and friends although more than a third use it to do more work.

The survey results reveal that the two biggest factors which would make home working more attractive would be tax breaks from the Government and more accommodating attitudes from employers.

King will tell the conference:

“The number of home workers - defined as 'people who work mainly in their own home, or in different places using home as a base' - is estimated to be 3.1 million, or 11 per cent of the total workforce.

“But the potential for millions of other workers to worker smarter - either spending some or all of the working week at home, in another location or simply by varying their working hours to allow staggered journey times - is considerable. If enough companies adopt it then rush hours would ease, road congestion reduce and overcrowding on public transport lessen, cutting travel time for everyone and making it a less stressful part of the day.”

“We know from Government figures** that commuting distances are getting longer, journey times are increasing and congestion is worsening.

“Yet the RAC Foundation’s “Motor and Modems” research established that if each employee could work from home just one day per week we would see a twenty per cent cut in traffic, equivalent to removing the school run. Today's technology is better and cheaper so more employees have the chance to work some of the time from home.”

King will add that many workers now spend more than three extra working weeks each year just travelling to and from work - with those in London and the South East often enduring twice that.

“Even those essential workers who will never have the choice of working from home may be able to negotiate more flexible working patterns and for those whose job makes this impossible - then at least by removing some of the congestion, it may might make their journey a bit easier.

“Friday (May 5) is National Work from Home Day. Its aim is to let staff, and employers, see just how it could work and how productive it could be. I hope that many employers use it an experiment, which they can build on to consider other flexible working methods.

“Workers in the UK have the longest commute in Europe and it’s getting worse. No wonder we have so many stressed, unhealthy and unhappy employees. We have to replace the highways to hell with the smart superhighways.”

The RAC Foundation Motors and Modems Fact File shows:

  • UK workers spend the most time commuting in Europe at an average of 45 minutes a day - almost twice as long a commute as the Italians and Swedes.
  • In the last decade, commuting passenger miles have increased by six per cent.
  • The average distance travelled has gone up 17 per cent to 8.5 miles.
  • The average worker in the UK commutes 2,906 miles pa by car.

Within five years teleworking and technology could achieve:

  • A cut in commuter traffic by up to 10 per cent
  • Video and audio conferencing could cut business travel by up to three per cent.
  • Use of information technology could cut lorry journeys by up to 16 per cent
  • Teleshopping could reduce car trips to the shops by five per cent.

Within 10 years, teleworking and technology could achieve:

  • A 15 per cent reduction in commuter traffic.
  • Five per cent reduction in business travel
  • 18 per cent reduction in heavy goods vehicle journeys
  • Ten per cent reduction in car shopping

The benefits to the economy in reduced congestion costs could be up to £1.9 billion by 2010.

The RAC Foundation has called for:

  • The Government to fund more publicity measures to highlight the advantages of teleworking to both employers and employees and introduce more policies to encourage flexible working practices.
  • More firms to offer flexible working hours or full or partial home working to parents of young children and also extend the right to all parents of dependent children and to the UK’s six million carers.
  • More research into the present extent of teleworking and potential future benefits.
  • Development of smart card ticketing so that transport suppliers can offer more flexible tickets, for example, three-day season tickets, to encourage teleworking.
  • Tax incentives and a clarification in legislation to allow easier home working.
3 May 2006 Staff

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