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UK workforce less productive due to stressful commute

Only 8% of employers making allowances for a more active commute

  • A quarter of people who drive or take public transport to work say their journey makes them stressed, three times more than those who have a more active commute
  • Driving to work or taking public transport makes one in ten of us less productive
  • Sixty-seven per cent of people believe their employer could make allowances to enable a more active commute
  • Only 8 per cent of people say their employers are making allowances for a more active commute

08 August 2018

New research[i] released today has shown that Brits who drive or take public transport to work are so stressed by their journey, it’s having a serious impact on their mental and physical health and making them less productive at work.

The study, commissioned by social enterprise free2cycle, showed that driving or taking public transport to work is significantly more damaging to our wellbeing than choosing a more active commute such as walking or cycling. A quarter (26 per cent) of people who travel to work by car, motorbike or public transport feel stressed by their commute; that’s almost three times more than people who walk or cycle (9 per cent).

Almost one in five (18 per cent) Brits who commute by driving or public transport say their journey makes them miserable, double that of those who have a more active commute (9 per cent).

£135,000 over their lifetime travelling to work, which could explain why almost a quarter (23 per cent) of those who do not walk or cycle say commuting drains their finances. People with a more active commute may be feeling smug, as not only do the majority enjoy their commute (60 per cent), only 6 per cent say they feel an impact on the wallet.

Ninety-five per cent of those who don’t cycle or walk to work have considered it, however, there were factors stopping them from switching to a more active commute.

Over one in five (22 per cent) respondents have work-related reasons; namely not having the appropriate facilities to get ready afterwards or feeling too embarrassed about colleagues seeing them hot and sweaty or in activewear. For 12 per cent of people money was an issue, stating they don’t have a bike and can’t afford to buy one. Sixteen per cent of those surveyed said they didn’t feel safe enough to choose a more active journey.

Sixty-seven per cent of people believe their employer could make allowances to enable a more active commute such as introducing flexible starting times, access to changing facilities and incentives for equipment such as cycle to work schemes. However, only 8 per cent of people said their employers have any allowances in place.

free2cycle, the organisation behind the study, is a social enterprise committed to transforming wellbeing through cycling. It does this by working in partnership with organisations, retailers, suppliers and particularly those who don’t currently cycle, to incentivise regular bike use.

Perhaps surprisingly, it isn’t Londoners who are feeling the strain of their commute the most; it’s the West Midlands; 30 per cent of Londoners say commuting makes them stressed, far less than places such as Walsall (43 per cent) and Birmingham (37 per cent).

Brits with a less active commute are also finding they put on weight as a result of their daily routine; almost one in ten (9 per cent), compared to a slim 2 per cent of more active commuters.

Contrary to what you might expect, it’s not the active commuters who are feeling the need for a hot soak after their commute; just 5 percent of cyclists and walkers find their journey physically uncomfortable, whereas over double the amount (11 per cent) of drivers and public transport passengers often have aches and pains, such as backache and leg cramps, as a result of their commute.

Tips for enabling a more active commute in the workplace

Professional cyclist Alex Dowsett gives his top tips for employers on how to engage employees regarding a more active commute:

Encourage a bit of competition – set up a leader-board at work and introduce prizes for the most miles covered per week

Introduce incentives – cycle initiative free2cycle enables employees to cycle miles in return for a free bike; meaning you enable a healthier workforce, plus you can offset a load of carbon (so the environment wins too!)

Improve facilities – providing showering facilities, or even just washing products and towels for a quick freshen up, will make people feel more comfortable with pre-work activity

Flexi-time – if possible, a rota allowing people to start and finish a little later to avoid heavy traffic, could encourage those slightly nervous of an active commute to give it a try


Notes to editors

About free2cycle

For more information, please contact:

Fiona McAra:


01865 770381 

[i] *Survey of 2000 UK adults conducted by 3GEM RESEARCH & INSIGHTS in July 2018