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Coronavirus to change how commuters travel, new research finds

London bus on Westminster Bridge

A loss of confidence in public transport looks set to change how employees will travel to work as the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown eases, new research has found.

A survey by private hire company Addison Lee has found six out of 10 London commuters will change the way they travel when the return to work begins after lockdown.

Meanwhile, recruiter Robert Walters discovered 34% of UK employers surveyed are considering changing working hours to avoid busy commuting periods.

The Addison Lee research of 1,000 commuters across the capital’s 32 boroughs found 55% of commuters plan to change the time of their commute to avoid peak hours, 49% plan to use their own vehicle (up from 23% pre-pandemic), while 28% plan to complete at least part of their journey on foot.

It also found 40% plan to use private hire vehicles as part of their journey.

Liam Griffin, CEO of Addison Lee, said: “Our research shows a clear shift away from commuting on public transport due to safety concerns.”

It reports 69% of respondents say that, even with the introduction of face coverings, taking public transport to and from work makes them feel anxious, while 72% say they will avoid using the tube during their commute unless essential when they return to work.

In response to the research, Addison Lee is asking the London Covid-19 Transition Board to make the safe return to work a priority and actively work with all the capital’s transport providers on a common set of safety standards.

It says this will give commuters confidence to return to work using a variety of means of transport that respect social distancing and the capital’s environmental needs.

The Robert Walters survey found 49%of employers are planning to stagger return to work based on employees’ own health risks related to Covid-19, while 46% will be staggering their return depending on how critical their role is to the business.

Its full findings are:

What strategies are UK employers considering (or have implemented) to bring employees back to work

Staggering return to work based on employees’ own health risks related to COVID-19 (e.g. respiratory or chronic conditions)


Staggering employees return depending on how critical their role is to the business


Creating smaller workgroups to limit mixing of employees/groups in the workplace


Changing working hours to avoid busy commuting periods


Offering employees the opportunity to volunteer to come back to the office


Splitting employees into shifts based on specific criteria (e.g. by name A-M and P-Z work different days)


Returning to work strategies will be based on local infection rates and risk (e.g. different strategies by location)


Not sure, we have not yet considered a return to work strategy



Lucy Bisset, director at Robert Walters, said: “What the research highlights is that despite the success of home working, employers are keen to start encouraging their staff back into the workplace and are happy to take necessary steps and put procedures in place to help enable this.

“A return to office brings about many perks, including social inclusion, better workplace collaboration, a separation of homelife, and a reinforcement of company values.

“What employers need to do is merge the perks of office-life with what people have been enjoying about working from home; for example - flexi-hours, a relaxed atmosphere, and avoidance of busy commute times.”

Robert Walters also found 87% of employees would like more opportunities to work from home post-return, with 21% stating they would like to work from home permanently.

While 83% of firms have stated that the experience of Covid-19 will encourage business heads to have employees to work from home more often, they also cite concerns over employee productivity (64%), senior leadership preferring traditional ways of working (57%), and the nature of the business e.g. face-to-face sales (36%), as the key barriers to achieving this.

A recent Fleet News survey, reported in the latest digital issue of the magazine, found more than half of fleet managers were working from home.

They also expect the long-term impact of coronavirus on operations to include reduced mileage, greater use of technology and fewer company cars.


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