Transport and Commute

THE EUROPEAN COMMUTE: calm and relaxed or stressful and inefficient?

Do employers need to address commuting to work in newer, more innovative ways to attract the best candidates and retain talent? Is the commute to work a key part of a candidates’ criteria when considering or accepting a new opportunity?

The daily commute is an event that divides opinion. For a select few, it’s a great opportunity to boost productivity and get a head start on tasks before arriving to work. However, for others it is a stress inducing nightmare that has a significant impact on their well-being.

In our PageGroup study we asked over 12,000 professionals about their commute. We discovered not only how Europeans across the continent commute and which mode of transportation they use but how they feel beforehand, their stress levels according to mode of transportation and how they rank their overall work-life balance. 


What time the average day start for European?

39% of Europeans wake up before 6:30am. In particular, 59% of professionals in Austria and Germany overwhelming said that they woke up before 6:30am. Spain and Portugal both rank significantly low at 21% and 15% respectively. This doesn’t mean those in the Southern European countries are unwilling to work, as our study found that even though these countries wake up later, they tend to start their working day later too.

The message? Northern Europeans are early risers. Southern Europeans wake up later but also begin their day later. 


Does commuting calm the mind?

In those countries where professionals wake up earlier, they also feel calm. 84% of the respondents in the Netherlands and Austria recognise that they wake up calm. These countries rank significantly calmer than the European average, which is 76% - indicating that on the whole Europeans feel calm when they wake. Only Turkey and France ranked significantly below the European average at 66% and 63% respectively.

Europeans are relaxed – 76% of them feel calm when they wake up.


From over 12,000 respondents, we found that 39% of Europeans spent more than 45 minutes commuting one way, door to door. The country where professionals commuted the shortest amount of time was Portugal at 34 minutes which also ranks among the least stressed in Europe. This is in stark contrast to Turkey – where employees have the longest commute, spending on average 48 minutes travelling to work.

Both Italy (45 minutes) and Turkey have the longest commuting times and are the countries where employees work most while commuting and are the most stressed. There is a further correlation when looking at the impact this has on work-life balance as the same countries rank in the bottom 5 in Europe. Working professionals in Italy and Turkey don’t relax during their commute but they do want to take advantage of the time they spend commuting. The impact that such long commutes have on companies include: reduced number of applicants for a position, in addition to job offers being rejected.  Employers need to increasingly consider this when reviewing compensation and possible working models for positions where the commute is effectively too long.


66% of working professionals said they used private transport to make their way to work where 34% said they used public transport. The more efficient a country’s public transport is, the less stressful people found their commute to be. This really affects how people feel when they arrive to work and therefore is a contributing factor to not only attracting new talent but to retaining staff. Where the commute is more efficient employees are more likely to arrive to work on time, in a better mood and boost productivity.


Overall, public transport is efficient in Europe. The European average is 75%. The countries with the most efficient transport systems are Switzerland at a significantly large 94%, Austria at 89% and Poland at 88%. Both Switzerland and Austria were less stressed, perhaps as a result of the efficient transport system but they also spend less time on public transport than the average. France and Italy’s efficiency unfortunately came in at the bottom with 64% for France and 54% for Italy. It is worth noting that Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Turkey are all ranked significantly lower than the average


How stressful do employees find the commute to work by train, bus, tram, etc?

Here, we asked respondents how stressful their public transport system made them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Italy and Turkey’s public transport systems were found to be significantly higher than the European average of 38% ranking at 68% and 57% respectively. Such figures opens up a dialogue whether or not companies need to start seriously evaluating flexible working models - to better manage negative impact and relieve their employees of such side effects. This would allow employees to either work from home or have the option to start at a later point in the day. The European average indicates that on the whole public transport isn’t necessarily stressful.

The key factors attributed to people’s stress are the number of people using those systems and the technical issues.


Do employees find commuting to work by bicycle, car or walking stressful?

On average, 34% of employees found private transport stressful indicating that having one’s own method of transport is less stressful than using public transport. The countries which found private transport most stressful are Italy and Turkey who found both methods stressful ranked at 49% and 46% respectively. Netherlands is the country which finds using private transport the least stressful at 19%. It is also worth noting that more than 20% of Dutch people reported to regularly use a bicycle on their commute. It is no surprise that the population is less stressed than others on their daily commute. This perhaps indicates that the bicycle should be seriously considered as a mode of transportation to work for some cities, as it ensures employees are active, arrive to work less stress and are more likely to be more productive at work.


Does the commute to work affect wellbeing?

44% of Europeans arrive late to work. Despite this, however, 70% of those who arrive late still feel calm when they get to work. Interestingly, we found that professionals who commute using public transport usually arrive late to work more than those who used their own car. The same professionals also consider their public transport systems to be inefficient; they are stressed when using the public transport and even wake up feeling less calm on average.

Does this mean public transport needs to improve its reputation? 


We conducted this extensive pan European survey to discover how exactly employees felt about their commute. Through our investigation, we were able to gauge how stressful professionals are and how calm they are when it came to their commute.

Commuting can be stressful. If you want to reduce yours, relocate or try something new, view our jobs listings here!