A new study has shed light on changing attitudes towards commuting among UK employees, with a significant drop in workers prepared to travel beyond a certain distance.
The analysis by recruitment firm Forward Role – which examined the commuting preferences of 2,660 participants and compared it with data from nine years ago – found that in 2014, a substantial 72% of workers expressed a willingness to commute more than 20 miles to their workplace. However, by 2023, this figure had declined sharply, with only 26% of participants indicating a willingness to travel beyond 20 miles.
The study also highlighted age-related differences in commuting preferences. In 2023, individuals aged 25 to 35 were found to be the least likely to consider commuting more than 40 miles for work, with less than 1% expressing such a willingness. In contrast, those over the age of 55 were more open to longer commutes, with 33% prepared to travel more than 40 miles.
Unsurprisingly, the biggest shift observed by the study was an increase in remote work options offered by employers. In 2014, only 28% of employers provided their staff with the opportunity to work from home but by 2023, the figure had surged to 79%, with 5% of respondents reporting that they worked entirely remotely. The most popular work arrangement was to work from home twice a week, chosen by 34% of participants.
Despite the growing availability of remote work options, the study also found that a majority of respondents (66%) felt pressure to work from the office more frequently than they currently did.
Commenting on the findings, Brian Johnson, managing director at Forward Role, said: “The pandemic has clearly had a lasting impact on the UK jobs market, putting flexibility and remote working right at the top of the list for both those established in the workforce and those entering it. Employers who can recognise the new landscape have a chance to capitalise on it – but only if they’re willing to compromise.”
According to Johnson, the “resounding message” from the data is that “being stuck in an office five days a week is simply an outdated mentality”. He added: “These findings put innovative, agile young brands at a major advantage that wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago, which is really exciting.”