Bernardo Caldarola and Steve Sorrell
The global pandemic has revived debates about the contribution of teleworking to reducing travel, air pollution and carbon emissions. However, previous research suggests that the availability of teleworking may encourage people to move farther from their place of work, creating the risk that longer commutes will offset the benefits of fewer commutes. In addition, teleworking may encourage additional non-work travel by the teleworker, and/or influence the travel behaviour of other household members. These complex interactions make the overall impacts of teleworking difficult to predict.
In this context, we use data from the English National Travel Survey to estimate the impact of teleworking on the travel patterns of English households over the period 2005 to 2019. We compare the number of trips and distance travelled by teleworkers each week with the number of trips and distance travelled by non-teleworkers, controlling for a range of socio-economic, demographic and regional variables. We estimate the impact of teleworking on travel by purpose (commuting, non-work and business) and by mode (car, public transport and active travel) and investigate the impact on the travel patterns of other household members.
Our results provide little support for the claim that teleworking reduces travel. Indeed, after controlling for a range of variables, we find that the majority of English teleworkers travel farther each week than non-teleworkers. This results from a combination of longer commutes and additional non-work travel. There appears to be a ‘tipping point’, however. If people telework three or more times a week, their weekly private travel (commuting + non-work) is less than that of non-teleworkers. We also find that the total weekly travel of all household members is greater in households where one member is teleworking, suggesting the presence of intra-household effects that further erode the benefits of fewer commutes. We additionally find that teleworkers engage in more business travel than non-teleworkers, although the reasons for this association are unclear. We discuss the factors contributing to these results and indicate priorities for further research.
Caldarola, B and Sorrell, S. 2022. Do teleworkers travel less? Evidence from the English National Travel Survey. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 159: 282–303. doi: Opens in a new tab10.1016/j.tra.2022.03.026
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