By Claire West
The growth of home working has helped to cut average commute times to a 10 year low of 47 minutes and 48 seconds per day, a TUC analysis of official figures reveals today.
Using figures from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), the TUC has calculated that £339 million worth of working time is spent travelling to and from work every day.
The TUC analysis - published to coincide with Work Wise UK's Commute Smart week this week (8-12 November) - finds that the average time spent commuting to and from work increased each year from 1998 to 2006, reaching a record 52 minutes and 36 seconds in 2006.
Since 2006, average commute times have decreased every year by 4 minutes and 48 seconds, falling to 47 minutes and 48 seconds per day in 2008 (the latest year that times are available), which is the lowest level since records began 10 years ago.
The TUC believes that the growth in home working has been one of the reasons for the fall in commute times. Between 2006 and 2008, the number of people working from home increased by 291,000 - accounting for more than half of employment growth during this period.
In 2008 alone, the increase in home working saved 232,000 commuting hours per day - precious time that will have alleviated road traffic and freed up seats on trains.
Other factors reducing commute times include better traffic management by government and local authorities, and greater use of flexible working by employers, the TUC says.
TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: 'After years of increasing journey times, it's great to see that the number of hours spent commuting to work is finally falling.
'UK employees already work some of the longest hours in Europe so it's doubly annoying to lose even more precious spare time stuck in traffic and packed on trains on the way to and from work.
'Our analysis shows that flexible and home working doesn't just benefit individuals and their employers. If more people are allowed to work from home we can make the daily commute shorter and more pleasant for everyone.
'We know there is still plenty of untapped demand for flexible and home working. And with commutes still costing a staggering £337 million of working time every day, there's plenty more money and hours that can be saved by smarter working practices.'
Work Wise UK Chief Executive, Phil Flaxton said: 'Thousands of employers are already seeing the benefits to themselves and their staff by implementing a smarter working policy.
'Policies such as staggering work journeys, home working, and encouraging cycling and walking, are enabling staff to get to work in a better way and in the process saving time and money whilst improving health and wellbeing. Now, being green and commuting smart have never made more commercial sense.
'Apart from business and transport benefits, there are also environmental impacts of reducing the need to travel. The average commuter driving an average car, covering the average commute distance will produce almost one tonne of CO2 per person per year.
'With 25 million people in the UK commuting, that is the equivalent CO2 emissions that would fill almost 50 billion one litre water bottles every day, or enough to fill 89,000 typical three-bedroom homes, which is a city of some 200,000 inhabitants!
'I urge all employers who receive flexibility requests to consider them seriously and do all they can to make flexible working a reality.'