Tube delays are hitting London's productivity
18 April 2001 - According to a 'snapshot survey' by the Industrial Society, almost 9 in 10
managers in the capital feel that the performance of the London Underground
has a negative or very negative impact on their workplace.
50% complain of reduced productivity because of late running, disrupted
and cancelled services. 83% say that employees are arriving late for work
more frequently, and 44% say that there is less time to complete vital tasks.
Other consequences highlighted by survey respondents include:
- increased staff absenteeism (41%)
- increased problems with recruitment (11%)
- retention of staff (15%)
- directly reduced income and profit (9%)
- worsening customer service (31%)
- overall rise in staff stress levels (81%).
These problems are eroding reputation London's standing as a
modern business capital. As one manager commented, "London as a financial
and commercial centre is in serious danger of decreased productivity and
effectiveness due to the impact of the service from the Underground. The
city will not be taken seriously enough if the current abysmal service
continues. It is no coincidence that morale amongst London's office workers
is decreasing and stress levels are rising."
The survey of over 200 managers shows how firms have responded to the tube crisis.
Around 71 % said there has been more demand to
work from home, with a further 65% citing an increased demand for working
flexible hours. More employees are commuting in their cars (29%) - adding to traffic
congestion - and there is an teleconferencing and on-line meetings (28%).
Stress levels are soaring. As one respondent comments, "Staff are leaving
home earlier in the morning but arriving home later at night - this cuts
into their leisure time. They return to work unrested and stressed."
Another says, "Staff who have to work with childcare are under great
pressure as they cannot come to work very early and have to return at a
certain time. Often the tube is fine very early and deteriorates. Parents
are then late for work, but still have to leave at a specific time due to
Theo Blackwell, policy specialist and transport analyst at the Industrial
Society, says, "Clearly London's firms and other organisations feel they are
being hit hard by the current level of service on the Tube. Currently it
reduces productivity and increases the burdens on managers planning their
time and their staff."
He continues, "Managers' concern over reliability adds tangible burdens on
organisations' in terms of managing the consequences of staff of all levels
arriving late or being absent. It affects staff morale by impinging on
their work-life balance, particularly so with parents. It also undermines
stress management and general well-being in the workplace."
"In the absence of a settlement on the future financing of the Underground
and extra investment in the network, government should recognise and assist
employers and managers to deal with the added burdens placed upon them."