Employees fear contracting COVID-19 if using public transport to get to work

Three-quarters of employees among 500 people surveyed across Ireland are concerned about contracting COVID-19 if they use public transport to get to work.

That is one of the headline preliminary findings of the 2020 edition of a longitudinal study examining attitudes to working from home and choices of transit when commuting.

Conducted by researchers led by Professor Brian Caulfield in Trinity College Dublin’s School of Engineering, the survey was first conducted in 2019 and again in May 2020.

The latest results paint a telling picture of how work practices and commuting choices are likely to change once the government lifts travel restrictions and more and more people currently working from home are asked to commute again.

Attitudes to working from home – key results

  • In 2019, approximately 25% of people said they would be strongly in favour of working from home one or two days each week
  • In 2020, this increased to almost 80% of participants indicating they would prefer to work from home once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted
  • In both 2019 and 2020 the main motivating factors cited for working from home were for people to save time and reduce costs
  • The 2019 results demonstrated that, on average, 0.15 tonnes of carbon could be saved per annum if employees worked from home one day a week

 

Attitudes to commuting (and using public transport) – key results

The 2020 wave of the survey also asked the employees in the sample how their mode of commuting would change once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

  • 25% of people said that they would travel to work by public transport less often
  • 32% said that they would walk to work more often
  • 75% indicated that they were concerned about contracting COVID-19 while traveling by public transport
  • The vast majority felt driving alone, walking and cycling would result in a much lower risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to using public transport

 

Brian Caulfield, Associate Professor in Trinity’s School of Engineering, and project coordinator, said:

The current results from the study show that between the two survey periods working from home has become much more acceptable and that in a post COVID-19 world this might become the norm. The findings related to public transport echo those that have been reported internationally and demonstrate the concerns people have about using public transport.”

“One of the positive findings is the potential shift towards working from home, which is shown to provide both personal benefits related to travel time saved but also emissions reductions contributing to our climate change targets.”