wAs workers are forced further out into the suburbs, and commutes grow longer, the UK’s 25.9 million non-home workers are cumulatively missing out on £148bn a year in the unpaid time it takes to get into the office.

If UK workers valued the time they spend getting to work as highly as they value the time they spend at work, then the average commute would be worth £5,722, according to research from global recruiter Randstad UK. This lost value represents 19.1% of their average annual salary.

UK Region Average commute time (minutes) Average commute distance (miles) Lost value of commute Commute value as % of annual salary
London 49 16 £7,789 19.5%
South East 43 23 £6,526 18.5%
Scotland 49 25 £6,477 18.5%
North West 54 33 £6,431 23.5%
UK Average 43 22 £5,722 19.1%
South West 41 27 £5,240 18.0%
Northern Ireland 43 27 £4,953 19.1%
East Midlands 41 22 £4,840 18.3%
East of England 33 18 £4,656 22.6%
Yorkshire & Humber 40 23 £4,619 18.0%
North East 36 18 £4,045 14.7%
West Midlands 35 19 £4,024 15.3%
Wales 27 14 £3,320 12.2%

Workers in the North West have the longest commute of any region, travelling for an average of 54 minutes each way, over a distance of 33 miles. This lost time is worth £6,431 a year, equivalent to just under a quarter (23.5%) of the average annual salary in the North West – the highest proportion of any region.

Even Welsh workers – who have the shortest commutes in terms of both distance and time – are still missing out on more than £3,000 a year.

In terms of average lost value, Londoners are missing out on the most (£7,789) – despite having some of the shortest commutes in terms of total distance – as they have the second longest commute time and as their time is worth the most.

The research was carried out as part of a Randstad partnership with Williams Martini Racing team, which compared the speed of travel of F1 drivers Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas to the speed at which UK commuters get to work.

In total, F1 drivers travel an average of 3,791 miles for work over a season, over which time they will complete twenty Grand Prix in locations ranging from Australia to Abu Dhabi. The average UK commuter would cover 895 miles over the equivalent twenty day period.

And while F1 drivers can reach top speeds of 230 miles per hour on the race track, the average commuter travels at just 31 miles per hour.

Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK, comments: “British workers are embracing longer commutes to work, particularly as the housing crisis nudges them further out into the suburbs. But there is a lost value to the time they spend snarled up in traffic. The value of time is significant – it adds up to nearly £6,000 per worker – and totals £148bn across the whole UK workforce. Some employees will choose a longer commute while increasingly others are valuing their time more highly and looking for a job closer to home. For those looking for a new job, it’s becoming more important than ever to consider the value of the time it will take them to get to the office, as well as the actual cost of the transport, and the new salary. Employers also need to consider the impact of location, as a lengthy daily commute can be enough to persuade workers to look elsewhere – particularly more senior members of staff.”

Work-life balance one of the keys to staff-retention

The latest Randstad Award research found that poor work-life balance is one of the top five reasons behind workers choosing to change employer – contributing to just under a quarter (22%) of job moves.

Furthermore, when looking for a new employer, a good work-life balance was cited as a top five factor for 45% of workers in 2015 – compared to 39% in 2012.

The Award research also discovered that having a lengthy commuting time is more likely to adversely affect senior, more experienced members of staff. In total, 21% of workers in the 45-65 age group said a too-long commute time was one of the top five factors contributing to their decision to move jobs, compared to just 16% across the UK workforce as a whole.

Mark Bull, CEO of Randstad UK, continues: “Maximising work on the go – through the use of modern technology like tablets – can help to recover this lost commuting time. Efficiency is key. And as our commutes get longer, flexible working is coming into its own – helping workers to reclaim some of their lost time and maintain a better work-life balance. This, in turn, encourages them to work harder, and stay longer in a role.

“Some of our most highly regarded employers – such as John Lewis and British Airways – already recognize and cater for the growing trend to flexible working. They have built their enviable reputations as great employers, because they make it easy for their workers to make the best use of their time. This also helps to make their workforces more efficient and productive, which drives forward economic growth.”

Lost value by industry

UK Industry Average commute time (minutes) Average commute distance (miles) Lost value of commute Commute value as % of annual salary
Financial Services 60 29 £23,032 26.5%
Accountancy 38 17 £14,653 16.9%
IT 42 22 £8,398 18.6%
Construction & Property 56 27 £7,228 25.1%
Engineering 46 25 £6,868 20.4%
Transport 49 35 £6,386 21.9%
UK Average 43 22 £5,722 19.1%
Social Care 55 36 £5,194 24.5%
Manufacturing 38 20 £4,805 17.0%
Marketing & PR 48 25 £4,347 21.5%
Legal 27 14 £4,308 12.0%
Education 37 19 £3,545 16.4%
Health 29 15 £2,762 13.0%
Secretarial & Admin 30 9 £2,649 13.1%
Retail 36 21 £2,509 16.1%
Customer Services 25 11 £1,736 11.2%

Breaking down the average lost value of a commute by industry reveals that Financial Services professionals are most severely hit, missing out on £23,032 a year.
At the other end of the spectrum, Customer Services professionals – who have some of the shortest commutes in terms of both time spent and distance covered – are missing out on £1,736.

Workers keen to find out how long their commute to work would take if an F1 driver was behind the wheel, should try out Randstad’s F1 competition