The usual resolutions for the New Year typically include plans to do more exercise, drink less, give up smoking and spend more time with the children, although well-intended, invariably last for a few months at best and then dissipate with the memories of Christmas Day itself. However, one resolution for the New Year, which everyone should make and keep up, is to work smarter.
Phil Flaxton, chief executive of Work Wise UK, which has been promoting smarter working for almost two years, explained: “The work culture in this country has changed in recent decades, catapulting the UK up the league tables not only to have one of the longest average working weeks in Europe, but also the second-longest daily commutes on top.
“The social and health costs of this huge amount of time spent working and travelling are difficult to assess but rising road congestion and public transport overcrowding, higher than inflation fare increases, rising fuel prices, not to mention growing concern of the harm we are doing to the environment, are all more easily identifiable.”
Smarter working covers how, where and when work is done, how and when to travel to work, and the time spent working. It comes in various forms including flexible working, working from home, working remotely and mobile working. In the UK, 25 million people commute to and from work every day with 71% using a car. Workers in the UK have the second longest average daily commute in Europe: in many cases adding an entire working day each week with one in ten having a daily journey in excess of two hours.
Work Wise UK, which is not-for-profit and backed by the TUC, CBI, British Chambers of Commerce, BT, Transport for London, RAC Foundation and Association for Commuter Transport, has produced some interesting facts and smarter working suggestions:
- Travel at a different time – while the majority of rush hour commuting happens between 7:30am and 8:30am, peak commuter hours get earlier as the week progresses – we get up earlier but also leave work earlier with the weekend on the horizon.
- Try two wheels instead of four – commuters could shave up to three hours off their weekly commutes by switching from four wheels to two, according to the RAC Foundation’s analysis of government statistics which shows that in almost every region of the UK, motorcycle and scooter commuters are spending less time travelling to and from work than workers travelling by car, bus or coach.
- Try pedal power instead – Why not combine exercise with commuting? The average commute is 8.7 miles – most people could cycle this distance in under an hour.
- Work from home – nine million UK households now have broadband, while new mobile systems such as wi-fi make it possible to securely access business networks from almost anywhere. If all commuters could work just one day a week at home, commuter numbers would fall 20%.
- Work better by not going to work – BT’s home working policies have resulted in a 31% increase in productivity, with savings of £69 million each year from reduced accommodation and overhead costs.
- Don’t travel to the meeting – Use online tools to replace conferences and meetings, to cut back on travel during the business day.
- Cost of travelling – The CBI estimates that road congestion costs the UK economy some £20 billion per year. Even a limited take-up of smarter working could save £1.9 billion per year within five years. Flaxton continued: “If you stand back and look at the way we work, it is not the most sensible or logical way to go about it. We spend far too long travelling, and all at the same times in the day, and same days during the week – how stupid is that?”