Study found that those leaving work at 7pm travelled 20mph faster than those leaving at 5pm.
Commuters could speed up their journeys by around 10 miles per hour if they moved their working back by one hour, according to new research.
A study by Highways England, the government-run agency responsible for the country’s strategic road network, looked at a nine-mile stretch of the M62 between the M6 junction near Warrington, Cheshire, and the M60 junction near Manchester, and found a decrease in journey times for those joining the road after 9am and 6pm.
The route, which is currently used by around 120,000 drivers a day, sees average speeds of just 36 mph between 5pm and 6pm, when almost 9,000 drivers use the road to get home from work.
Those who wait until 6pm before leaving the office were likely to travel around 10 mph faster than those leaving at 5pm, while those who hold on until 7pm could see average speeds rise by 20 mph – potentially cutting journey times by one third.
Overall, the study found that commuters travelling 20 miles each way and working the traditional hours of 9am to 5pm would spend an hour longer on the road every week, compared to those who worked from 10am to 6pm.
Mike Bull, Highways England’s smart motorways programme manager for the North, said: “We all know that our roads are at their busiest during the morning and evening commute but it’s surprising that shifting our working days by just one hour could have such a significant impact on journey times.
“Many people won’t have a choice about the hours they work, but if some are able to start and finish work an hour later then it could benefit everyone – and save some drivers around an hour each week.
“We’re also doing our bit to improve journey times for drivers at Highways England by converting some of our busiest stretches of motorway into smart motorways, adding extra lanes and using technology to prevent tailbacks caused by sudden braking.”