Scots ready to pay the price for more sustainable travel, finds PwC study

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SCOTS are preparing to return to the daily commute when Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, with many willing to pay extra in travel costs to protect the environment, according to new research from PwC.

With restrictions still in place, 40% of Scots are currently spending at least one day a week working from home, with 21% at home every day. When restrictions are lifted however, more are aiming for flexibility with 45% saying they hoped to work from home at least one day a week although the collaborative and social aspects of office working remain a draw, with just 10% hoping to work from home permanently.

As the recovery gets underway, Scots are also willing to pay more in travel costs to maintain environmental improvements seen during the pandemic, such as reduced pollution, with 57% supporting long-term social measures to reduce the effects of protecting the environment even if it led to increased transport costs. This was ahead of the UK overall, where there is 50% support.

More people are confident than last year that Covid-19 will not have a long-lasting effect on how they travel on public transport, with 70% saying that they will travel in the same way as they did before the pandemic. This is an increase from 55% at the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Around half of Scots (49%) said it was important for social distancing measures to remain in place on public transport, along with a series of other measures. Increased cleaning and availability of hand sanitiser are the top measures commuters want post-pandemic, with around two-thirds of people (66% and 64% respectively) saying these are important once restrictions are lifted. These measures came ahead of enforced mask wearing (52%), travelling at less busy times (42%) and walking rather than using public transport (44%).

Matthew Hall, Net Zero Leader for PwC in Scotland said:

“As we emerge from the pandemic it’s clear that there is a willingness among the Scottish public to sustain the positive environmental effects we have seen during the pandemic, even if this comes at a financial cost to them.

“The recovery from the pandemic provides an opportunity to re-examine how we commute and how often. Many workers who are able to are expressing an interest to continue to work more flexibly, with hybrid working, where people split their time between home and office, being a popular preference.

“With new ways of working, and a greater focus on our environmental impact, we can expect to see travel patterns change. This provides fantastic opportunities for national and local governments to accelerate environmental schemes like ultra-low emission zones and adapt to meet the growing demand for cycling and the introduction of new modes of transport such as e-scooters. However, with these opportunities also come challenges, in particular the significant investment in infrastructure that is required to realise these environmental benefits.”

Following extensive consultation with employees, PwC announced changes to the way the firm’s 1,000 people in Scotland work, allowing for greater flexibility for post-pandemic working.  Called the ‘Deal’, the announcement reflects the firm’s commitment to supporting its people and responding to changing working patterns accelerated by the pandemic. The changes will help embed a hybrid working model and align with PwC’s Net Zero commitment.

Stephanie Bloor, director in PwC’s hybrid workforce strategy and culture team, said:

“A significant increase in flexibility won’t work for every organisation or job role but it’s a huge opportunity for some and we’re seeing a real range of responses, both across and within industries. Many employers are rethinking the technology, skills, and spaces they need, while juggling the sometimes conflicting demands of employees, clients and customers, and the bottom line. 

“Some interesting data is emerging – for example, on the role of employee personality type in successful remote working and the level of intervention employees will invite to feel safe. These insights combined with technology that’s deployed over the next six months and beyond will bring further possibilities for evolving how, when, and where we work.”

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