Working 9 to 5

Working 9 to 5


Nina T. W. Schaap, Netherlands Institute For Transport Policy Analysis (KiM), Peter Jorritsma, Netherlands Institute For Transport Policy Analysis (KiM)


This paper describes ways to “stretch” commuters' desired mobility behaviour in order to reduce congestion levels in the Netherlands. It is based on an extensive literature study, statistical analyses and a number of focus groups with different stakeholders.


Many commuters experience it on a daily basis: in order to arrive at the office in time, they rush through their morning routine, drop their children off at school, and sit in a traffic jam. And by the end of the day, they repeat the same steps in the reversed order. The fact that most people work during fixed hours -9 to 5- and at a fixed location not only leads to stress and a need for structural organization within the family (SCP 2013), it also has a real effect on congestion levels during peak hours. One could argue that congestion (and possibly even the related stress level) could be (strongly) reduced by adopting flexible working hours, e-working, or other new ways of working.

Not surprisingly, policy makers have high expectations for the mobility effects of e-working and other forms of work-related mobility solutions. However, it has proven difficult to demonstrate their effects on congestion. This might not only be because of a lack of actual effects of e-working, but also because the focus of some of the studies does not allow conclusions to be drawn on congestion effects. Although many studies have been done into the effects of varying new ways of working, the link between e-working, mobility and congestion effects is often very weak. Many studies are either focussed on the work-life balance (e.g., Isik & Lemmens 2012) or they do not distinguish between working at home as overtime or during office hours (e.g., PwC 2011), which both limit the options for linking e-working with mobility.

This paper explores the possibilities of changing habitual commuting behaviour through a different organization of working hours. The Dutch “Better Use” programme (Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment 2011) aims to reduce congestion levels in the economically important regions in The Netherlands. In order to achieve this goal, the programme tries to influence the mobility choices of frequent car users, such as reducing the number of days per week that commuters drive to work during peak hours. To get more insight in the effects of this approach, one should have more understanding on how a change in habitual mobility behaviour (such as commuting) can be triggered, which subgroups of car commuters drive during peak hours, and which of these would possibly change their behaviour in reaction to the chosen triggers. This paper attempts to answer these questions and thus relate a different organization of working hours to car use effects.

At the start of the study, literature research was performed into the possibilities for changing habitual mobility behaviour in general, and into the different types of commuters. It was concluded that stretching or expanding existing, desired behaviour is more promising than completely changing existing behaviour (such as switching to a different mode of transport). Therefore, the rest of the literature research focussed strongly on the opportunities and barriers for stretching further the desired behaviour of commuters that already avoid peak hour periods in their commutes. Expanding or stretching desired behaviour appears to be a very promising direction of behavioural change, especially for habitual behaviour such as commuting. However, to the knowledge of the authors, this is the first paper in which this approach is discussed.

The literature on different types of commuters and the levels in which they already show the desired behaviour revealed, among other things, that employees that work in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and in finances already e-work relatively often (TNO/CBS 2011) and that these employees relatively often experience congestion problems (TNO/CBS 2010). Apparently the preconditions for avoiding rush hours by organizing working conditions differently are already present in these sectors.

The second step in this study consisted of statistical analyses of the National Questionnaire of Working Conditions 2008-2011 (TNO/CBS). These analyses revealed that the percentage of e-workers increases with commuting time, irrespective of employee age, gender or region, including for the promising sectors of ICT and finances. Furthermore, larger companies generally employ more e-workers, and these employees generally have a larger say in their own working hours than non-e-workers. We will further elaborate on these results and on their consequences for mobility policy.

The full paper will also include the results of focus group sessions with employees, employers and other stakeholders, which will be performed in the first half of 2013. These focus group sessions are aimed at understanding the opportunities and barriers that different stakeholders experience in all aspects of the daily mobility patterns, such as in their personal lives and working conditions. The final results are expected mid 2013.


Association for European Transport