Telecommuting 2000

The social costs of commuting


Transport and health

Road accidents

Every year 45,000 people die on Europe’s roads. In Britain, 3,000-4,000 die each year, with around 45,000 seriously injured. It is a high cost to pay for the freedoms and economic benefits which are associated with car use and ownership.

As many of the tasks for which we travel can be done remotely using ICT, telecommuting is also a health and safety issue. Perhaps every car should be fitted with a recorded message asking "Is your journey really necessary?" every time the door is unlocked.

Asthma

Asthma is on the increase and is associated with air pollution. The National Asthma Audit estimates that 3.4 million people in the UK suffer from asthma. 1.5 million of them are children aged 2-15.

In 1993 GPs recorded almost five times as many new episodes of asthma in children under five compared to 1979. The number of adults seeing their doctor about asthma has more than trebled between 1971 and 1991.

There is some debate as to whether air pollution is a major cause of asthma, or whether it is due to other aspects of modern living. Few however doubt that poor air quality triggers asthma attacks and in urban areas vehicle pollutants are the prime cause of this poor air quality.

Alongside the increase in traffic in recent years has been a dramatic rise in the incidence of asthma. The costs of this are borne not only by the health service, but also by companies. The number of working days lost due to asthma doubled between 1982 and 1992, and rose by a further 50% over the next 3 years.

Stress

Stress too is on the increase, and travelling to work is related to this in two ways:

  • commuting is often stressful in itself, with long or difficult journeys adding to stress and fatigue
  • the rigid divide between the workplace and the home brings about competing demands and a poor work/rest-of-life balance

Employers could improve their bottom line by accommodating the reasonable requirements of employees who wish to lead more balanced lives by telecommuting. Employees with difficult journeys would thus be more productive, less stressed and ill less often, while employers would benefit from higher levels of productivity and fewer problems of high turnover of staff or absenteeism

 
"Perhaps every car should be fitted with a recorded message asking "Is your journey really necessary?" every time the door is unlocked."

 

The costs of asthma

Prescriptions £121 million
Other NHS costs £160 million
Working days lost 17 million
Total annual costs £1,000 million

 

 

"The rigid divide between the workplace and the home leads to stress from competing demands and a poor work/rest-of-life balance."

 

 

 

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