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Research Suggests Home Workers’ Travel Habits are Unsustainable 

Research Suggests Home Workers’ Travel Habits are Unsustainable 
16 September 2020
 

Research examining the travel patterns of home workers has revealed that working outside the office can encourage unsustainable transport patterns, increased car dependency and reduced physical activity. 

The research has won the Early Career Researcher Award at the 2020 Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Research Excellence.

The paper, “Telecommuting and other trips: an English case study”, examines the implications of non-work travel on the sustainability of telecommuters’ travel patterns by comparing the travel behaviours of those who work from home at least once a week with other working adults.

The researchers conclude that by proactively addressing the accessibility of non-work destinations, planners can help telecommuters travel more sustainably.

“The counter-intuitive findings of the research concluded that the impact of online access to work, which allows for living in more dispersed locations, results in more unsustainable transport patterns, including increased car dependency as well as reduced physical activity."

–Janet Askew MRTPI

Consultant Town Planner and RTPI Awards Judge

 

Travel Patterns More Dependent on Accessibility of Activities Outside of Work Than the Commute

 

Research for the paper was conducted by Dr Hannah Budnitz MRTPI from the University of Birmingham with Professor Lee Chapman, also from the University of Birmingham, and Dr Emmanouil Tranos from the University of Bristol. 

Their research proposes that the sustainability of home workers’ travel patterns is more dependent upon the accessibility of non-work activities, than on the distance to the workplace for less frequent commuting journeys. 

Using the National Travel Survey for England 2009-2016, the travel of those who identify themselves as working from home at least once a week are compared to other working adults by measuring and modelling the number and purpose of trips within a week's travel diary, independent of distance or mode.

This suggests that the proliferation of home working in light of COVID-19 may have less of an agreeable impact on sustainability than first thought. However, previous research has suggested that reducing your commute by just one day per week could save 379.2kg of CO2 emissions.

 

"Counter-Intuitive Findings"

 

Announcing the award, judge Janet Askew MRTPI said: “The judges considered that this very relevant piece of research has the potential to make a vital contribution to policy-making for the post-COVID era.

“The counter-intuitive findings of the research concluded that the impact of online access to work, which allows for living in more dispersed locations, results in more unsustainable transport patterns, including increased car dependency as well as reduced physical activity.

“The work carried out was thorough and robust, offering the potential for further research into sustainable land use and transport planning, with wider application internationally.” 

The judging panel for this year’s Research Awards comprised 30 public and private sector representatives as well as academics. The winners of all four categories were announced on 7 September in an online ceremony.

Picture: A photograph of an empty London underground train carriage

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 16 September 2020

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