Cost of a London Commute Study – 2021
When I set up Tyto in 2017 I wanted to develop our business around a new location agnostic operating model. This model means that we have an entirely remote team that works as one across Europe. Our employees can opt to work from home or in a co-working space.
I had three reasons for adopting a location agnostic model. First, I wanted to build a fast-paced dynamic agency but without my previous three-hour round-trip London commute. Second, I saw a fixed office as the greatest constraint on access to talent as it limited the catchment area to recruit the best people from. Third, I wanted to build a one team culture across multiple European countries and I saw offices as building barriers between people.
The benefits to our employees, our clients and our business of a location agnostic model have been significant and satisfying. Without the shackles of costly London commute, we achieved my goal of having a talented, connected and productive agency team who can live anywhere, and work anywhere, and deliver outstanding service to clients.
The strength of our location agnostic model of working has been very much confirmed during the Covid pandemic, as it prompted safety measures that saw employees and companies forced to overcome location as a barrier to work. At Tyto we have been fortunate that this way of working has been ingrained in our day to day since the beginning, meaning we were able to continue to work with little disruption to our regular operations. Other companies working in the traditional central office model had to spend time grappling with the challenges of connecting a newly scattered team and infrastructure while the economy was hemorrhaging and society hurting. We were also able to share tried and tested best practice advice with our clients and collaborators. During the Covid-19 crisis, I am delighted to confirm that not only has Tyto not suffered a business downturn, but we have been growing at our fastest pace ever, proving the validity of our PRWithoutBorders™ model. In fact, you can explore what it is like to live a location-agnostic PR agency life in our series of blogposts featuring our amazing team members.
As we had anticipated last year, working from home remained in place a while longer, as the government advised travelling to your central office only if you absolutely must. However, we also forecasted that in the not-so-distant future workers would be required to shrug off their trackpants, dust off their travel cards and contemplate travelling back into a central office. With only a small percentage of people in the country vaccinated, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak were already suggesting UK workers had had enough “days off” and urging companies to reopen offices when the pandemic eased.
After spending some time experimenting with a new way of working, both enjoying some benefits while equally experiencing frustrations, workers are likely questioning the validity of their daily commute into the physical, central office. Many actually reject the idea of going back to work from an office all week long – over half of staff say they will quit their job if not provided post-pandemic flexibility in where and when they work.
We created this annual study into the time and financial costs faced by London-bound commuters to shine a light on the costs they likely bear, and to raise the level of debate about considering the newly tested alternative ways of working that are better for employees and better for business.
This study looks at the cost of a commute when travelling to London from the most popular commuter towns. We’ve anchored our research around a nominal London central station of King’s Cross, one of the city’s busiest underground stations. The costs measured in this study are time and financial but there are undoubtedly significant health and welfare costs which impact employees and their energy levels at work which are hard to objectify. These include:
- Greater restrictions on where you choose to live because you need to commute each day to London
- Higher property costs and less flexibility when securing schooling and childcare for children
- Less time with friends and family
- Less time for leisure and exercise
- Less time to focus on eating a fresh and healthy diet
- Less time to rest and recharge
- More stress from travelling during peak hours
- More apprehension about being exposed to viruses in cramped commuting spaces
It is not difficult to estimate that the impact on employee happiness is considerable. Most employers will agree that there is a direct correlation between a person’s happiness and their level of productivity and enjoyment of their work.
I hope you find this study valuable and we welcome feedback on how we can make improvements to it next year.
- Over the course of a year, the average cost of a commute to London from a popular commuter town would equate to £5,294, 13.9% of the average post-tax UK PR salary. A flexi season ticket, which allows for 8 days of travel per month, plus the daily London Zone 1-2 travel cost would total £4,580 a year on average and 12.1% of the average net PR salary.
- The average daily time spent commuting is just shy of two and a half hours at 143 minutes, which accounts for the rail commute, travel to/from home to the station, and connecting London Underground travel to the office.
- Over the course of the year, the time spent commuting is the equivalent of doing an average of £13,531 of unpaid overtime.
- The average total commuting time over the year would be 558 hours, or 23 and a half full 24-hour days. Over a ten-year period, this would accumulate to a full working year’s worth of time spent commuting at 232 days.
- For some parents, commuting time requires additional wrap around childcare time and costs. The average cost of wrap around childcare for London commuters is £12.60 per day and £2,937 over the course of the year. This means that 7.7% of employees net salary is spent on childcare.
- Travel and childcare average costs total £8,230, equating to 21.6% of the average UK PR salary after tax.
The numbers presented above show the undeniable reality that workers who commute to London have it much worse than those who don’t for so many different reasons. Having to slog through the unpleasant journey on crowded trains which increases the risk of catching a virus or other illness, the financial burden of spending nearly one third of the average PR salary on transport costs -if wrap around childcare is necessary-, not to mention the fact that the average commuter to London spends nearly 24 days in a year commuting. In short, a year of commuting equates to a significant loss of the average salary whilst simultaneously spending over £13,500 worth of overtime just getting to the office. Even when working fewer days in the office, flexible season tickets with London travel still equate to over £4,500 per year, with some flexible tickets costing more than a regular full-time season ticket.
To us at Tyto, this does not seem to support the idea that employees are at their most productive when working from an office every day due to the considerable financial, time, health and welfare costs outlined above.
If the last year and a half of working from home during the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that for many, working from home is a preferred option that does not inhibit productivity, and in many cases increases it. While there are undeniably those who prefer not to work from home, the technology is leading the way for those who do. So as a forward-thinking PR agency, we believe it is about time the industry follows the lead of the most innovative companies that have implemented flexible employment practices for the benefit of their employees as a permanent option for a new way of working well after the threat of coronavirus has passed.
We believe happier, healthier, and more financially secure employees are a great thing for any industry. In our case as a PR company, we believe that the real winners are our clients because they get to work with the very best people we can attract, not just those who can do a daily London commute.
And we are not the only agency that sees the benefits to alternative methods of working: research from the PRCA outlines that the vast majority of PR leaders now favour a hybrid working model with only 5% of those surveyed planning on returning to a five-day week at the office.
It’s time for change, it’s time for action, and it’s time for less costly and wasteful commuting.