Peak Car and the Workplace: A look at potential changes in commuting and the office

David Levinson provides an interesting look at the concept of Peak Car, painting a picture of how society might look in 20 years time predicting people become less dependent on the automobile.

The blog post puts forward the view that we will be working significantly less hours in the office and spending less years in the workforce. Accommodating this change in office hours would be a further blurring of the boundaries between work and home, more flexible working practices and the adoption of technology to enable communication and collaboration outside the office (eg Yammer, Tibbr, Huddle etc).

This obviously has plenty of advantages for consumers, with long commutes associated with increased amounts of stress, divorce and other social ills.

Whether we see this come into play remains to be seen. Figures from the OECD point to a moderate decline in the average working hours in nearly all member countries including the United Kingdom — although this doesn’t amount to anywhere close to the days off work that Levinson suggests. We are also not seeing a drop in the age that people retirement among OECD countries and this is not likely to be something encouraged by governments faced with a drop in their work force dependency ratio.

We have seen the Department of Work and Pensions advocating for flexible working practices, pointing to the advantages of falls in absenteeism, increased retention rates and productivity, easier recruitment and greater employee loyalty. But this position is not necessarily unanimous given recent policy changes at Yahoo! and Hewlett Packard although discussions with Jacob Morgan suggest that these companies introduced these measures to address company specific problems.

As for the current picture,there is definitely evidence to suggest that we’ve seen a crest in traffic volumes with Transport for London showing that 1999 saw a peak in traffic flows. Whether this holds when United Kingdom returns to robust growth remains to be seen.

Traffic levels on major roads in Greater London 1993 — 2010, Transport for London, March 2012
Traffic levels on major roads in Greater London 1993 — 2010, Transport for London, March 2012