Opinion: Transport – time for a home-working revolution?

The weekend is often over in the blink of an eye, and come Monday morning it’s off to work for the masses. The daily commute, whether it be by any means of transport, is often chaotic, crowded and frankly rather unpleasant for many.

It is a self – evident truth that our transport network is overcrowded. Even now with unemployment rates not seen for a generation, many of us will struggle for hours every day to travel to our respective workplaces.

Can the government help?

The government could assist by offering business rate reductions for employers willing to facilitate their employees working from home.

Business rate reductions already exist for charities, voluntary organisations, rural organisations, and discretionary reduction relief for businesses in times of hardship.

The potential advantages of a home workers rate reduction policy are numerous. Easing congestion on our roads and rail will reduce depreciation of national assets, contribute toward lowering CO2 emissions and set aside office space for housing, all of which are in the governments’ interest.

Businesses will be able to find alternatives to expensive relocations by using technology already widely available to allow their employees to work remotely.

Individuals would save thousands of lost commuting hours, have more leisure time, be able to schedule their breaks around family commitments, and save money on the spiralling cost of commuting.

Not to mention the collective benefit of negating the unintended consequences of peak – time collisions, and associated costs to our emergency services responding to road side incidents.

Not everyone can work from home, but those who can should be encouraged, with the Olympics on the horizon and the UK population projected to reach 73.2 million by 2035, we will have to think of alternative ways to work and travel.

* Mark Hofman is a Lib Dem member in Harrow.

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  • Good thinking. If anyone in government in Britain care in the least about reducing congestion and emissions, they’d come up with a way to encourage home working. Most people now sit at a desk with a computer and a phone. They could save a lot of trouble and do that where they live.

  • What’s wrong with government support for public transport? More trains, more buses, more trams, less cars…

  • jenny barnes 31st Oct '11 - 9:02am

    Working from home may be difficult for many people. Even if you have a home, it’s often small, has no space to set up an office (I assume we’re talking about office work) and often has children that will not understand that you’re not-really-there even though you are, and demand attention. Oh, and the meter reader, postie, etc etc. Far better to set up shared local office space close at hand, say within a 15 minute walk or cycle ride. Then you could have some people to chat to in the breaks, possibly somewhere local to buy sandwiches and a separation between home and work. Rather than being chained to your mobile phone email thing 24/7

  • Sadie Smith 31st Oct '11 - 9:28am

    It cavn be done carefully.
    A modest group of Council jobs had, mostly work from home, though they all met in a Council office regularly. Now they were doing work using computer systems. There was communication and there were rules about families, but it was highly successful.
    They were enthusiastic, so was management as the productivity was very good.
    You have to pick the kind of work which is most suitable.
    Most of us have done some work from home though!

  • I think a lot of people find working at home very isolating, and you miss the opportunity for meeting people from other departments, better understanding what they do, sharing ideas informally, and so on. But encouraging it a day or two a week might make sense.

    Another idea is encouraging flexible hours. My employer has a core hours system where you can work 8-4, 9-5 or 10-6, as long as you’re around between 10 and 4. If this were adopted more generally it could seriously ease congestion, and I really can’t see any disadvantages. Hard to see anything government can do to promote it, but don’t see why it hasn’t been adopted more generally by employers – it makes employees happier at very little cost.

  • Adam Corlett 31st Oct '11 - 11:29am

    As you mention, commuting is also often unpleasant. I believe there is a large body of evidence about the link between unhappiness and length of commute. So another benefit would most likely be happier people (and – dare I say – a well-being index might help verify this)!

    Jenny’s idea (2nd comment down) is very intriguing.

  • From experience commuting to London the most exasperating feature is the lack of flexibility on ticketing prices – although able to work from home 2-3 days a week it meant buying day tickets for the remaining days – which then menat that the cost would come to more than a weekly ticket. So although the technology was there and the work could easily be structured the cost to the employee was more – until the mad ticket pricing structures are sorted out then this situation remains – although present government policy towards London commuters seems to be to price them off the railways completely until they realise they are better off resigning and having a life.

  • Mark Hofman 31st Oct '11 - 7:32pm

    There are a finite amount of trains, buses, cars, trams etc (emitting CO2) that the transport network can support, with an ever expanding population we also need more space for residential developments.

    A home working policy would be an inexpensive solution to the aforementioned issues.

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