FRIDAY 23 JUN 2017 11:32 AM


In 2016, a study published by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) highlighted the startling number of commuters taking two hours or longer to travel to work. In the five years from 2010 to 2015, the figure rose by 900,000 to 3.7 million. This statistic, among other findings, shows just how long many employees are sitting, standing and waiting before they even enter the office – a part of working life shown to significantly lower workplace morale.

Perhaps, given the insular nature of a commute by car or train, it is therefore unsurprising that a further study of 1,000 employees, carried out by market research company OnePoll on behalf of ‘Cycle to Work’ scheme providers Cyclescheme, highlighted that cycling to work leads to generally happier and more productive employees. Those who use public transport or drive are more likely to be pessimistic about the daily challenges they face. However, about half of bicycle commuters respondents said their mental and physical energy was high and saw them through a working day; of those driving or taking the train or bus, these figures dropped to 49%, 39% and 37% respectively.

Furthermore, tactics long considered by some companies to increase workplace productivity, such as team lunches, after-work drinks and company away days are also demonstrably less effective than first thought. While employees appreciate perks such as free alcohol on Fridays or a chance to network as a team around the breakfast table, the findings from OnePoll and Cyclescheme indicate that so-called ‘quick fix’ benefits were not conducive to alleviating their concerns around major issues such as Brexit.

Indeed, from 1,000 respondents, a mere 15% of employees surveyed said more quick-fix benefits would improve workplace contentedness. A greater work-life balance, the ability to exercise and more time to switch off mentally were instead the more popular replies, attributed to 37%, 34% and 28% of employees respectively.

Adrian Warren, director at Cyclescheme, says, “It’s clear that not enough employers are helping employees get the right benefits that make a genuine impact on their health and happiness. In an uncertain economic climate, companies must do more to listen to what employees want and give them initiatives that will have a lasting impact on their well-being.”

And, Warren continues, adopting often simple, everyday policies proven to raise employee happiness is one of the most effective ways to retain an engaged workforce and see a return of investment “Often leaders think that giving staff ‘popular’ perks like team drinks or a company lunch are what employees want most, but it’s having initiatives that will help them adopt healthier behaviours over the long term that are of the greatest value,” Warren explains.

“With a new government, we’d like to see better efforts to promote sustainable modes of transport to work, which we know provide huge benefits not only for the environment, but for our health, too.”

With digital distractions taking the place of the traditional commuter’s tool, the book, perhaps time away from the screen is truly the crux of commuter dissatisfaction. The survey showed 50% of cyclists had enough time away from screen, significantly higher than train (38%) or bus (39%) commuters. Replacing the added screen time with an outdoor-based, fun and healthy activity such as cycling could be an easy first step to improving employee happiness. With research suggesting that an active commute is key to creating an optimistic environment, replacing the train in favour of bicycles might be the answer in balancing workplace motivation levels.