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Travel between home and work: current situation and perspectives for action for companies

BSI synopsis

Notes de la rédaction

This is the press release related to the article from Thomas Ermans, Céline Brandeleer, Michel Hubert, Kevin Lebrun and Florentine Sieux, published on July 2nd, 2018. Read the article.

Travel between home and work structures the daily life of many workers in Belgium. Given that Brussels is the place of work of almost 710 000 workers, i.e. 15,6 % of national employment for only 10,5 % of the population, we understand the crucial role played by these journeys in the Region's mobility challenges. And all the more since the number of jobs in the Brussels-Capital Region increased by 8,2 % between 2000 and 2016. But the mobility of workers is also a metropolitan problem, as the capital receives 345 000 commuters from the other two Regions: 31% of workers in Brussels live in the Flemish Region and 17,6 % live in the Walloon Region.

Of course, travel between home and work represents only part of the total number of journeys, but it is characterised by specific constraints, namely a spatial constraint (between one or more places of residence and work) and a time constraint (relatively fixed working hours), and has a strong impact on travel for other reasons. It is therefore crucial to understand how this mobility related to economic activities is organised as well as the factors which influence workers' choices of mode of transport. In particular, this involves determining the levers which influence these choices, and the role of companies in this area.

These questions are at the heart of the work carried out by the Brussels Studies Institute in the framework of the “Companies and Sustainable Mobility” interuniversity research chair, set up with the support of 11 private and public stakeholders from the sector. Two researchers from Université Saint-Louis – Bruxelles – geographer Thomas Ermans, and political scientist Céline Brandeleer – have combined their research and the contributions of colleagues from Université libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel to write this synopsis for the 125th issue of Brussels Studies.

This synopsis reviews the current situation of the mobility of workers by gathering the pertinent indicators from various sources of information. It is organised in three parts. The first deals with the general framework of travel between home and work, in order to place it in its geographical and social context with respect to mobility as a whole. The second part examines the modal evolution of these journeys, the deciding factors as regards the mobility of workers and the measures implemented at company level in favour of more sustainable mobility. Finally, the third part identifies three levers for public action as well as for companies, which are likely to reduce the congestion of transport infrastructures.

This synopsis shows that travel between home and work is not only a transport issue, but is also the result of people's residential situations and land use planning. Action in this area suffers because of the institutional division of Belgium, calling for more coherence and dialogue between stakeholders. Despite this context, the purpose of this synopsis is to underline the fact that the room for manoeuvre of companies is far from being insignificant, via three areas of action: the organisation of work, the management of the mobility of workers and accessibility.

Firstly, companies may have a significant impact on the rationalisation of the number of journeys made by workers. The main tools for this rationalisation are telework and flexible working hours. Although these tools cannot be applied to all sectors, their implementation is making progress in the world of work. At the risk of unintended consequences (deterioration in working conditions, isolation of workers, etc.), it must be carried out voluntarily and with support.

Secondly, given the growing number of measures taken in the framework of company travel plans (CTPs), economic stakeholders seem to be more involved in the management of their workers' mobility. While the main measures taken still concern the promotion of car sharing and alternatives to car use, the researchers mention the existence of more restrictive measures (limitation of parking spaces and decrease in the number of company cars), which are also part of the range of tools for the management of workers' mobility, but which are not often implemented at company level. New technologies probably provide new means of action in this area, facilitating car sharing, vehicle pooling and the management of parking spaces.

The different measures taken at company level must also be modulated according to the location of the place of work, which leads to the third area for action – the most cross-cutting – which concerns accessibility. It is also the one which is played out over the longest term as it concerns the location of places of work and the policy for the recruitment of workers.

The authors therefore conclude that companies are full stakeholders in the mobility of workers. Their actions alone will not be a solution to the drudgery of commuting or traffic congestion problems. This takes place via a coordination of actions between the stakeholders involved and via appropriate public policies, in particular in the area of taxation and land-use planning. Nevertheless, a strong-willed policy at company level is already possible. It may make a true contribution to the development of more sustainable mobility for workers, as well as to the improvement of the competitiveness of companies, thus favouring the economic development of Brussels and its metropolitan area.

Ermans, Thomas, Brandeleer, Céline, Hubert, Michel, Lebrun, Kevin et Sieux, Florentine, “Travel between home and work: current situation and perspectives for action for companies”, Brussels Studies [Online], BSI synopsis, No 125, 02 July 2018. URL:
Benjamin Wayens, Senior Editor: bwayens[at]

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