Workplace Health & Safety

Commuting to work can increase stress levels and make people eat more: Report

Dominic Powell /

Commuting to work could be affecting your diet and increasing your stress levels, with a study undertaken by the Royal Society for Public Health in the UK showing employees who commute consume an average of 767 more calories every week.

The report is based on a survey of 1500 British workers, reports Fairfax and the hike in calories is a result of increased food consumption and sedentary behaviour on public transport. The survey found commuting is also increasing workers stress levels, with 55% of those surveyed finding themselves more stressed due to journey delays and overcrowding.

A third of respondents reported they were snacking on their journey, contributing to the extra calories in their diets. Time on public transport also reduces how long employees have to prepare healthy meals at home, further contributing to unhealthy habits.

Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, said in the report an increasing number of workers are finding the daily commute to have “a damaging effect on our health and wellbeing.”

“As the length of our commute increases this impact is getting worse, including by contributing to rising levels of stress, adding to our waistlines, or eating into time we could otherwise spend doing activities which enhance our health and wellbeing such as sleep, exercise or time spent with friends or family,” Cramer said.

“Taking public transport should be encouraged and made as attractive as possible, so there needs to be greater consideration given to supporting passenger’s health and wellbeing.”

Bianca Monahan, executive assistant and nutritionist at WattsNext HR told SmartCompany commuting to work can give workers the illusion of being active, where in reality very little exercise was being done.

“A lot of people don’t realise this; they think they’re being active by walking from train to office, or from their house to the train station,” Monahan says.

“In reality, sitting on a train or in a car all day is not good for you.”

Forty-four percent of respondents to the survey revealed they spent less time with family and friends due to increased time on public transport, and Monahan says working from home could be a solution to this. However, out-of-office work does not necessarily lead to people doing more physical activity.

“The benefits of working from home are huge, but it can be a double edged sword,” Monahan warns.

“On one hand you can see your family more, and there’s no worry about the stress or cost of public transport. On the other hand, employees tend to move less when working from home, as they’re not forced to walk out to lunch, or walk to meetings.”

Monahan says businesses can encourage employees to be more active in an attempt to offset the unhealthy workplace commute.

“Encouraging people to take walking meetings, and facilitating stand-up desks are easy ways to increase workplace wellbeing,” she says.

“Even simple things like sending out a weekly wellness email can have big benefits for employee’s health.”

Advertisement
Dominic Powell

Dominic is the features and profiles editor at SmartCompany. Email him at [email protected].

FROM AROUND THE WEB