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Heading back to the office is on the cards for businesses across Europe once lockdown restrictions lift, but will the return of the commute be welcomed back with open arms? New research by Targus, the computer peripheral and tech accessory brand, looks ahead to how office worker commutes will change post COVID-19: over half of British, French and German office workers are ready to reintroduce the commuting routine back into their lives.

The research of office workers in the UK, France and Germany, conducted by Censuswide, has revealed Germans are the keenest to get back into the rat race. As many as 61% want to re-establish the familiar routine and see people again. 52% of the French also feel positive about commuting again. Surprisingly, it’s the over 55s in France who are craving that journey to and from the office the most (61%). This is a stark difference to the 22% of British over 55s who are the most negative towards the prospect of commuting, traffic jams or getting a seat on the train again.

Commute time has historically been an essential factor in choosing where to live and this is set to change along with rest of the new-look working week. The flexible ‘work from anywhere’ approach has influenced employee decisions over location and journey time, which could see a new trend of deurbanisation as people move away from crowded city centres with higher rents to more suburban areas. Over 40% of British employees might consider a longer commute if they didn’t need to be in office every day, with just under a third saying they definitely would (29%). However, over 55s in the UK do not want to be extending their commuting time at all, with 41% giving this response.

Out of these employees who are willing to commute for longer, 43% are happy to extend their journey time by 10-20 minutes, 39% are willing to travel for 21-40 minutes longer and 16% are even willing to add as much as 41 minutes to an hour to their commute.

In France comparatively, 38% might consider longer commutes, most likely 10-20 minutes longer (56%) or 21-40 minutes longer (29%). Similarly in Germany, 39% might consider a longer commute and 30% definitely would. 52% would extend their commute by 10-20 minutes and 28% by 21-40 minutes.

So how will people choose to get to work? We saw a significant drop in vehicles on the road during the pandemic, but cars are expected to be the most popular mode of transport for Brits (67% of respondents will travel by car) compared to 30% who will either walk or cycle. Travelling by car is also the expected to be the main form of transport in France and Germany, 73% and 71% respectively. Only 22% in France would opt for public transport, 24% in Germany, and 26% in the UK. This is in contrast to predicted eco trends 12-18 months ago where the public were signalling that they would want to make greener choices and walk or cycle more.

These figures suggest respondents are opting for more secure or open-air transport methods due to concerns about catching COVID-19 whilst commuting. 32% of Brits and 29% of Germans expressed catching COVID-19 whilst commuting is as a key consideration before returning to the office.

Impact on travelling for business 

83% of office-based employees in the UK travelled for business before the pandemic, more than France and Germany, ranging anywhere from daily to once a year. They are still prepared to travel post-pandemic too – only 13% aren’t. But the frequency that they are prepared to travel has dropped:

  • Daily travelling: 17% down to 15% of Brits prepared to travel daily
  • 4-6 days a week: 27% down to 20% of Brits prepared to travel 4-6 days a week

The pandemic has proved that it is possible to work from anywhere and be productive. Virtual meetings can work rather than flying to different locations. However, having the right tools for the job to ensure businesses remain effective will be essential, whilst enabling people to retain the flexibility they want and need.

Dave Crew, Commercial Director EMEA at Targus says, “Hybrid working patterns have changed the way we think about commuting forever. Commuting was always seen as a necessary evil, but with workplaces closed for over a year for many office-based employees across Europe, the routine and structure it provided has been, perhaps surprisingly, missed.

“Longer commute journeys means mobility, protection and connectivity are paramount, and employers need to ensure workers are equipped with the right tools for the job, so that they can work effectively and efficiently at any desk. From products with infused antimicrobial protection to prevent and eliminate germs and bacteria on surfaces to biodegradable components to reduce our carbon impact, Targus is founded on enabling people to carry, protect and connect their tech wherever they may be. We have reimagined new ways to support people and our planet in this new, changed world.”

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