Is commuting driving you mad?

Is commuting driving you mad? (photo credit: Thinkstock)

Picture the scene – it's wet, it's dark, it's rush hour and you are stuck in the middle of it.

After a long day at work, when all you want to do is kick back and unwind, it's the last thing you need.

Unfortunately, this is the scenario regularly faced by millions of us in the UK – and, truth be told, it's not good for us.

This is hardly a surprising revelation, but at the same time one that we should really be doing something about. In modern life, when you can speak to someone on the other side of the world at the press of a button, why – according to the TUC – are we still spending an average of 55 minutes per day getting to and from the office?

This time soon adds up. In fact, the TomTom Traffic Index found that those who use their car to commute are stuck in traffic for an average total of nine working days every year. Not good for the environment, not good for your wallet and certainly not good for your stress levels.

Overcrowded, under-equipped

In fact, whether you drive to work or take the train, it seems as though you're in for a raw deal.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), nearly one in five rail commuters has to stand during peak travel times as a result of overcrowding. 

Not enough seating isn't the only problem. A report by the Daily Mail found that in the summer it's made worse by the fact that trains actually cut their speed dramatically in hot weather (from an 85-125 km/h limit to 35 km/h) – meaning you're spending longer in that cramped, humid sardine tin than you need to be.

Think a sardine tin is an unfair analogy? The London Underground is used by 3.5 million people every day – roughly half the population of the UK's capital city. In addition to this, the DfT reckons some services are working at around 60 per cent over their capacity.

Commuters in London seem to get the rawest deal, with nine-tenths of the most overcrowded journeys being made through the region. However, at least the issue of stifling heat on the tube is being addressed and Transport for London has said that it is now rolling out air-conditioned trains across 40 per cent of its network. That won't be completed until 2016 though – can you really go through at least two more summers in such poor conditions?

Going off the rails

It's no surprise, then, that people are feeling the effects of these far-from-relaxing journeys to and from the office.

The Close Brother Business Barometer recently revealed that staff absenteeism is on the rise; with a quarter of firms surveyed saying they have experienced an increase in the number of employees taking time off due to illness.

Could this be helped by avoiding the germ-ridden hand rails and stained seats of the 
daily train journey? Of course, while there's nothing to say that this is directly to do with the stressful travelling conditions many have to endure, they certainly won't be helping.

According to the National Audit Office, around 150,000 business-related trips are postponed or cancelled every year because of travel disruptions, adding further pressure to workers who are already being pushed hard in the aftermath of tough economic times.

To add insult to injury, the cost of travelling isn't getting any cheaper. Following the rail fare increase that was introduced on January 2nd, some commuters will now pay £5,000 a year on the journey between their home and their office. Similarly, research by QuidCo found those who drive are spending an average of £161 per month on fuel, fares and parking.

The solution? Cut it out

The answer to this ongoing problem is so simple that it's hard to believe many have not thought about it sooner. Fed up with the daily commute? Don't do it!

While this may once have resulted in a prompt P45 from your employer, modern technology means that this is no longer the case.

For example, many employees and employers alike are becoming comfortable with utilising conference calls to allow businesses to communicate with their workers or clients on a more regular basis.

This, coupled with advances in remote working and superfast broadband, means it is a real possibility that, for many, that sweaty, crowded journey you've grown to loathe can be a thing of the past.

Is commuting driving you mad? Take the road to a healthier, happier way of working.