On Mar 30 2022 / by Wyoming Paul

The science of commutes: How painful mornings affect staff retention and recruitment

Plus, how businesses can turn the problem around

Sitting in traffic. Searching for an elusive parking spot. Missing the bus. Standing for forty minutes on a crowded train.

For many people, the morning commute is a daily low point, and for those with long commutes, there’s an added risk of obesity, loneliness, divorce, stress, and insomnia.

Not only does the commute affect your employees’ general health and happiness; it also has a significant impact on recruitment and retention. For existing employees with particularly painful commutes, it can be the primary reason for quitting a job, while for those in the job market, a long commute with no employer compensation may mean passing on an offer.

The effect of commuting on your employees

According to the OECD, commuting to work is the least enjoyable daily activity. Even if most of your staff only have a 25 or 30 minute commute, which is around the average for Americans, Britons, Australians, and New Zealanders, that means at least 9 days of driving to and from work each year.

“For people with jobs outside of the home, travel to and from the workplace can significantly extend the working day and eat into leisure and family time. Furthermore, commuting does not just take up time; it can also be stressful, tiring and expensive.”
- How’s Life? Measuring Well-Being, OECD

As work-life balance becomes increasingly important to people, and Millenials choose flexibility over extra income, businesses are seeing that painful commutes are affecting both retention and hiring success.

Commuting and staff retention

Research in the US has found that 23% of people have quit a job because of the unpleasantness of their commute, with even higher rates for those between the ages of 18 and 34.

This phenomenon has also been picked up by individual companies. Xerox, KeyBank, Gate Gourmet, Workday, and various others have found that commute time is predictive of staff engagement and retention, and at one workplace, the likelihood of quitting the job increased to over 92% for employees with a commute time of 30 to 45 minutes.

On the flipside, employees with short commutes remain with their employers on average 20% longer, leading companies like Facebook to offer staff a $7,000 annual bonus for living within a mile of the office.

"Commutes can have a major impact on morale and, ultimately, an employee's decision to stay with or leave a job. In today's candidate-driven market, skilled workers can have multiple offers on the table. Professionals may not need to put up with a lengthy or stressful trip to the office if there are better options available."
- Paul McDonald, Senior Executive Director for Robert Half

Commuting and recruitment success

The commute is also a significant consideration when people are choosing whether to accept a job offer. A long, expensive, or stressful commute is especially unappealing if it isn’t acknowledged and compensated for by the company. If part of the problem is the expense of parking or public transport, and your company doesn’t offer an additional transport allowance, that effectively reduces your employees’ discretionary incomes and makes your salary offers less valuable.

Similarly, workplaces that have rigid work policies, such as not allowing employees to work from home or start and finish their days at flexible times, can alienate potential candidates and create the impression of a less compassionate work culture.

Make your attitude to commuter pain an advantage, not a drawback

By reducing the pain of the commute and showing that the company cares enough to actively supporting employees, your business can attract and retain great staff. Luckily, there are a number of options for companies wanting to do this.

  1. Promote flexible start and finish times, so that people don’t have to travel during peak traffic
  2. Allow employees to work from home part of the time
  3. Provide an annual bonus to cover expensive parking or public transport
  4. Encourage and enable alternative modes of transport like cycling, for example by buying e-bikes that employees and book and use
  5. Take commute length into account when hiring new staff

However, the first step for most businesses is to become more aware of how commutes are affecting staff.

For many businesses there will also be more specific commuting issues, such as stress and time-waste caused by parking scarcity, or a sense of unfairness over which employees have access to an on-site car park. This is the case for many CBD and city-fringe businesses, such as European Motor Distributors and Dentsu Aegis.

If these parking problems sound familiar, you can find out how Parkable can help you by clicking here.

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