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How far is too far? Commuting for work in 2024

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How far is too far? Commuting for work in 2024

​Commuting for work is largely unavoidable for almost 50% of the population, whose job roles mean they need to be based in a particular location at any given time. But for the rest of us, the engineering, surveying and other technical professionals we work with included, the last couple of years has seen moving goal posts when it comes to remote or hybrid working patterns, which has in turn affected commuting.

The question is, as our working patterns shift, has our willingness to commute changed?

Adam Butler, Team Leader working in the highways sector, works largely with design engineers look for roles with smaller consultancies.

“We haven’t seen any noticeable pattern with the distance that candidates are willing to commute, although I would say that people will travel slightly further afield if they are only required to be in an office one or two days a week. What is more noticeable from our side, and this is more specific to London, is that candidates are making job decisions based on the cost of commuting rather than the distance. This means they are not just looking at the number of days they need to travel by public transport into London, but also the time of day. Flexible hours that allow people to buy off peak tickets are as attractive as a reduced number of days in the office or the distance travelled.”


It is a similar story in the architectural sector, where remote working is not considered the norm. Abbi Kelly, Lead Consultant working with London architectural firms, notes,

“I've definitely seen candidates willing to commute further if they can be in the office for fewer days a week. But in our sector there is an expectation that you have a presence in the office, and commuting relatively long distances has always been something candidates are willing to do, such is the pull of the projects and prestige of central London practices.”


Theo King, Consultant in our nuclear team, says the nuclear sector hasn’t seen any major change in commuting patterns.

“Those working in AWE and at Devonport and similar set ups for example have always had to be based onsite, even during the pandemic, so we have seen very little changes. Candidates will commute longer distances because they know where the jobs are, and they make lifestyle decisions based on where they want to live, and find a balance. There has also been little change at the other end of the spectrum, where design engineers and project managers have always worked from home, even pre Covid. The remote nature of the sites or the lack of design friendly office space onsite meant that there is just no need, the work can be done with occasional visits as necessary. So overall commuting, or lack thereof hasn’t changed. What is more challenging from a recruitment perspective, is that the sector is growing so where employers are trying to attract engineers from other industries, there is a disconnect with candidate expectations. The roles which are 100% site based in nuclear, may not be elsewhere for example.”

Here we have looked at three sectors we work in, and I think it is already possible to conclude one size does not fit all. This is the challenge for employers. Commuting has always been a factor candidates consider when deciding whether to apply for or accept a job offer. Anecdotally, whilst we are seeing some people willing to commute further as they are not onsite/in the office every day, we are seeing equal numbers wanting to reduce commuting for work/life balance and cost reasons.

Let us know what you think by getting in touch today.

See all live vacancies in the highways, nuclear, buildings, and built environment sectors.