By Mark Swartz
Even if your company is centred in a big city, chances are some of your employees commute quite a distance to work. Also your recruiting might attract new workers from an hour or more away.
Longer travel times tend to be a hindrance in luring and retaining top talent. That means you’ll have to lower the disincentives of extended treks.
This could mean providing workhour flexibility, telecommuting options, travel subsidies or more. It has to be worth an employee’s while to go the extra kilometers.
The Toll of Long Commutes
Anything more than 30 to 45 minutes each way can be stressful. There is less time before and after work for personal activities. Personal wear and tear occurs from uncomfortable (or unreliable) public transit, or if driving in traffic jams, bad weather, or in the dark.
If an employee arrives at work irritable – possibly drained too – they may start resenting the travel. Productivity and the moods of surrounding coworkers can suffer. Plus in severe weather, or if feeling somewhat ill, extended-commuters may avoid coming in. When absenteeism rises disruptions are a problem.
Reducing Time Spent Commuting
The distance between an employee’s home and your workplace is generally fixed. Unless they move more than 40 kilometers closer they can’t write off relocation expenses. In any case subsidizing moving costs is rarely cheap.
So what can be done to reduce time spent commuting? Offering a telecommuting option, for one thing. Working from home one day a week, several or almost always, provides relief from gruelling trips. Providing the equipment to do so (or reimbursing those purchases) is a related incentive.
If having people physically present is your preference, there are two ways to reduce commute times. Flexible hours enable people to arrive and leave when traffic isn’t at peak. Even a half hour earlier or later than normal could make a big difference.
In the same vein, compressed work weeks eliminate at least one day of commuting. Employees can put in 40 hours on-premise over four days rather than five.
Lowering the Cost
The expense of longer commutes is an oft-heard complaint. Higher gas and maintenance costs when driving. Additional fare zones for some public transportation. It’s like a tax levied on those who don’t live closer.
You can minimize that bite by subsidizing transportation. Drivers might get a monthly stipend for automobile outlays. An extra amount could be given to drivers who have to frequent toll roads. People who use public transport could receive an appropriate amount for monthly passes. Check to see if these are taxable benefits in your situation.
A different approach is to help organize carpooling. Passengers contribute an agreed sum that’s usually less than going it alone.
Decreasing the Stress
Carpooling also lowers the strain for passengers on long commutes. Decreasing the stress on other long-travellers is a priority as well.
So allow them a bit of decompression when they first arrive. Try not to schedule important meetings for the moment they get in. Considerate meeting scheduling also applies to your flex-timers. Choose times when they’ll be at work, otherwise you lose their input (and leave them feeling devalued). As for your teleworkers? Include them via teleconferencing whenever possible.
Another relaxer during commutes is audiobooks and custom radio services. Consider subsidizing those too.
Make the Commute Worthwhile
Providing perks becomes futile if you treat people poorly once there. Conversely, you may not need as many incentives if you’re an outstanding employer.
The company’s reputation goes a long way to mitigating daily-travel reluctance. Build a loyal workforce by demonstrating loyalty to them in concrete ways. That way no matter where you’re located, employees will arrive primed to do their best for you.