Car share might be a comedy that gives millions of us a good laugh. But in the real world it can leave passengers feeling as stressed out as drivers. The sit com starring Peter Kay follows the twists and turns of two colleagues forced into commuting together. However, new research has revealed that a commute of just 20 minutes can be so stressful it may cause professional burn out. And in a car share situation, it’s the passengers who are more likely to feel the heat than drivers.
The study concentrated on nearly 2000 commuters who were working at 63 organisations in Quebec, Canada. It found that even people not doing the driving in a car share situation could feel the strain of travelling to work. Annie Barreck, of the University of Montreal said: “Car share reduces passenger commuters’ sense of control, which causes them more stress before they have even arrived at work.”
The researchers compared different types of transport such as car, underground, bus and bike. This enabled them to make a link between the journey to work, emotional burn out, cynicism towards their work and how effective they felt in their job. The bigger the city, the more stressful the commute for drivers while those travelling in rural or suburban areas were likely to feel less pressure.
Ms Barreck said: “A correlation exists between commuting stress factors and the likelihood of suffering from burnout. Managing employee commuting flexibly would increase employee efficiency and moreover enable organisations to attract or retain workers.”
People commuting in rural areas are likely to be as affected, particularly if they take long trips. “Public transport implies bus or train connections, and as rural regions are less well served, the risk of unforeseeable and uncontrollable delays is increased. This causes stress that is carried over into the workplace,” said Ms Barreck. The opposite is true for bus and train users in major urban areas.
The length of commute also affects how workers feel: the longer the journey to work, the greater the risk of burn out. This increases significantly when a commute lasts more than 20 minutes. If it’s more than 35 minutes there’s a much greater risk of cynicism towards work.”
This latest research backs up a study carried out in the UK. This compared the heart rate and blood pressure of 125 commuters. It found they can experience greater stress than riot policemen, or fighter pilots going into battle. A different study by the University of East Anglia discovered a link between the type of transport commuters use and their weight. The sample of 4000 showed a trend towards losing weight by drivers who switched from a car to walking, cycling or using public transport. On average people lost around 1kg.
And a new report carried out by Direct Line and road safety charity Brake found that drivers in towns and cities are less exposed to danger than those on country roads. Car occupants are twice as likely to be killed on a country road as on an urban road. And cyclists are almost three times more likely to die on a country road than an urban road.