American work culture is notoriously known for the long hours, limited vacation time, and grueling commutes. It’s no surprise that traffic is a pain, but as congestion grows worse, how much more will workers take before they search for positions that are either closer to their home or that offer remote work options? If you’re an employer that doesn’t offer flexible work options or benefits specifically for commuters, you may risk losing some of your best employees. As remote work becomes more popular, it may be time for you to modernize your benefits, especially when push factors like commute time play bigger roles in employee satisfaction. After all, spending time on the road means you aren’t spending time with your family or being productive which may lead to a stress on your work life balance.
How Much Commute Time Is Too Much?
The average one way commute for a US worker is currently about 26 minutes. Although that may not sound like a lot on it’s own, that totals more than 4 hours per week on average. When you add up the tremendous amount of time workers spend in their car, the numbers aren’t just huge, they’re kind of concerning. Using those numbers, the average American commuter spends 212 hours a year in their car driving to and from work. The harsh reality is that many commuters spend even more time commuting throughout their lives, especially in larger cities. Some studies have shown that commutes over 10 miles can have negative effects on your health, from higher blood pressure to increased stress. Other studies show that people with shorter commutes are happier.
How Bad Is The Commuting Situation?
If your physical office location is located in an urban area or possibly a far drive for most of your employees, it’s likely that some of your team suffers from a tough commute. In fact, a survey conducted by The Zebra revealed that 35% of Americans said that they would take a pay cut just to have a shorter commute. How much were they willing to give up? Twenty percent were willing to give up 1–5% of their salary in exchange for a shorter commute.
Looking at the median salary, that’s close to $3,000 that the U.S. workforce would willingly give up just to avoid the stress of highway traffic! Five percent of those polled even agreed that they would give up nearly half of their salary in exchange for a shorter commute. This may seem extreme to many, but for those sitting in hours of traffic, it may seem pretty reasonable.
This time spent also comes at a major financial cost. Taking a look at the national median salary, we see the shocking truth that U.S. commuters spend almost 10% of their salary on commuting costs. In effect, commuters are essentially paying to go to work. So, what’s the endgame here? It’s no secret that American commuters are unhappy with their daily trek to work but what possible solutions are there?
Ways To Make Commuting Easier on Your Employees
As an employer, you may feel like there isn’t much you can do about traffic conditions or where your employees live. Luckily, there are some benefits and options you can introduce to help support a better work life balance for your employees by either eliminating their commute or lessening it.
(1) Consider remote work options
Technology, internet speeds and the ease of communication are all conditions that have led to the growth in remote work. Even if you currently work in a traditional office space, many companies allow their employees an opportunity to work from home at least 1-2 days a week. This time at home will improve your employee’s work life balance as well as cutting commuting costs. As an added benefit, you can save on utility costs at your office space on those days or even grow your workforce by allowing flex desks. It may be a long shot, but more remote workers may even help the traffic situation in the future.
(2) Offer flexible hours for improved work life balance
Companies with employees and clients in different time zones are already stretching the usual business hours. Consider allowing your employees to come in later or earlier in the morning so that they have some autonomy in their schedules. Some workers may want to skip rush hour or work late according to when they are most productive. Offering flexible work hours in itself promotes better work life balance and your employees will be happier knowing they have some control over their daily schedule.
(3) Reimburse transportation expenses
If you aren’t already offering transportation reimbursements, you may be costing yourself a valued employee. While many office spaces may have ample parking, others require fees to park in crowded garages and some employees are paying the expenses themselves. Negotiate a way to cover most or all of those expenses to keep your team happy. For workers who take public transit, offer to reimburse their passes or tickets to ease the burden.
(4) Encourage carpooling
Co-workers can become even closer by starting a car pooling program. It only takes a little bit of asking around and planning to figure out if this will work for your office. There are also third party services that will run an employer-sponsored carpooling program for you!
In the 21st century, time is a commodity. In fact, research shows that as we progress in our professional lives, we have less and less time for our family lives and other pleasures outside of work. Since commuting is a source of major stress for many Americans, finding solid solutions to this problem is key to the mental and physical resilience of our workforce. Even those who do have to commute can utilize more effective driving routines to make the most out of their daily trek to work. The truth is, our work culture is only going to continue to become more fast paced. As business continues to grow, our focus must shift to the sustainability and wellness of our workforce. Listening to your employee’s needs is a sure fire way to improve work life balance and even boost job performance. Happy employees make for even happier (and more profitable) companies.