In the last two years, both work and fashion have changed. Together, it would seem unsurprising that workwear has also changed. Previous attire codes and workplace inflexibility have been dropped, favouring comfort, versatility, and accommodating culture.
But while employers continue to strike a balance between onsite and remote work, and how it is carried out, there remains one part of the working day that has changed without much attention: commuting.
According to a study by TUC, the average daily commuting time was 59 minutes. For the 251 working days of 2022, our commuting time totals to over 10 full days of travel per year.
For those who work from home (WFH), a commute from the bedroom to a makeshift workspace in the kitchen may take less than a minute. It leaves people who have remained or return to workplaces asking: “Is there a better way to do this?”
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Bringing some of that WFH style back to the office, the age of the comfortable commute is here: achieving a sharp balance between the cosy nature of home offices and the professional mindset of onsite workplaces.
30 per cent of people believe that the way they travel has changed since the start of the pandemic. Evidence from the Office for National Statistics also suggests that this is true. Daily transport use in the UK has been tracked since 1st March 2020 and the use of cycling continues to show increased popularity, even two years on. The use of cycling peaked in May 2020, up 284 per cent against its use only two months earlier. However, in March 2022, the use of cycling remains up to 47 per cent more popular than it was at the same point two years ago. We should expect this number to increase with the spring and summer months getting closer and temperatures getting warmer.
Of course, with this shift from motors to pedals, so does the need for more flexible, comfortable, and active clothing for our commutes to work. Encouraging people to use better transport for work begins by allowing workers to wear clothing that is suitable for both activities. In the summer, smart and stylish cargo shorts give flexibility for riding, while also being appropriate for the workplace.
Comfort isn’t just about how we feel sat at the desk, other factors, including how we get to work should be appreciated and considered when choosing our outfits.
Of course, commuting times and our choice of clothing differs between locations in the UK. People in the North East have the quickest commute, totalling only 49 minutes per day, 10 minutes shy of the national average. On the other hand, workers in London have the longest commutes, exceeding 79 minutes per day.
With varying commuting times, one thing is clear: it’s time that the trip to work should be more comfortable. 28 per cent of Brits want to loosen smart-casual or formal office dress codes, saying that a “relaxed” attire would be favourable.
However, not everyone wants to go for full loungewear on the bus and at work. 48 per cent said that a move to a smart-casual dress code would be ample. This could see transitions from suit trousers to khakis, blouses to t-shirts, and leather shoes to smart trainers.
But a comfortable commute is not just about feeling cosy at the back of a bus or train. The morning commute, especially, can be the biggest factor in deciding how the rest of the working day goes.
One study from the University of the West of England found that "every extra minute of commute time reduces job satisfaction, leisure time satisfaction, and mental health." The journey into work could have a greater negative impact on mental health and working attitude than we previously thought.
However, we could be using our commute to have the opposite effect. Appreciating the time we use to travel to work is essential, according to Felicity Morse, a writer and confidence coach. Felicity says: “There’s a real issue with boundaries when you work from home. So, your commute can be a really useful exercise; moving from one space to another, moving from ‘work you’ to ‘home you’. We should see our commuting time as a chance to shed our work skin and come back to who we are at home, who we are away from work.
“It’s a good opportunity to come back to yourself. It’s a chance to let things go and be present. At work, we complete a lot of task-orientated activities, whereas when we’re travelling home, we’re not. We’re almost waiting to get home or get to work. On a train or a bus, we can use this time to reach a level of mindfulness, just be present with the sensations in your body, and consider how your surroundings are affecting you.
“Comfort on your commute is also important. Whether that’s wearing comfortable shoes or wearing comfortable clothes that aren’t restrictive. Breathing is really important for your well-being, and some work clothes can restrict the ability to breathe deeply into your diaphragm. So different clothes on your commute and when you’re at home, clothes that are soft, can help us feel much more at home in our bodies.”
Reminding us that commuting is an essential transition between work and home, Felicity assures that clothes can help, “Clothes are something you can put on or take off when you come or leave the office. Commutes give you time to move from one state of mind into another. If you have clothes that help you make that transition, you can begin to build boundaries between home and work life. Recognise the moment when you put a hoodie on and recognise that you’re now officially out of office.”
If you’ve returned to the office, the message for your commute is simple: mind the gap. Use the time and space between your home and work to transition between a relaxed lifestyle and a working mind frame. Use what you need to fulfil this transition, whether that’s clothes, a good podcast, or just a moment of silence as you are carried from one place to another.