Overlooked by employees and employers alike, commutes have a profound impact on how employees feel about their jobs, their performance, and how long they’ll stay in their current role.

Researchers at the University of the West of England conducted a study that surveyed 26,000 employees about their commute to determine its impact on satisfaction and engagement. The results? Longer commutes have a distinctly negative impact on job satisfaction and retention. Research leader and associate professor of travel behavior, Dr. Kiron Chatterjee, found that a 20-minute longer commute had the equivalent impact on overall job satisfaction as a 19% pay reduction. Additionally, the opportunity cost of that time takes a significantly negative toll on the individual’s well-being.

U.S. workers want time over money

Here in the U.S., LinkedIn released findings from their recent survey, echoing the sentiment of our colleagues in the U.K. Specifically, 85% of employees would choose a pay cut in exchange for a shorter commute, and 77% of the unhappy commuters disliked the time spent commuting because it limited the time they could spend with family and friends. Unsurprisingly, 75% of job seekers consider the commute to be a “key factor” when searching for a new job.  

The commute is such a significant factor in both employees’ lives and in consideration of job opportunities that LinkedIn released a new job search feature, Your Commute. This new feature provides job seekers with commuting estimates based on their home and the organization’s address.

Take action

Any decline in job satisfaction, performance, and retention are tough for organizations to swallow, but fortunately, there are ways to alleviate the pain. By understanding and managing your employees’ commuting mode, you can mitigate the impact it has on their well-being, both at work and at home. For those who walk or bike and those who carpool, the negative impact all but disappears.

Before you can develop an action plan, you have to first understand how the commute is impacting your people and your business. You can use the following four steps to help you gain the insights you need to get started.

  1. Learn how your people get to work. Update your new hire, employee engagement, total rewards, and exit surveys to accommodate commute length. Also, consider running a full employee commuter survey if you haven’t done so already.
  2. Identify attrition risk. Understand the risk the commute poses to your organization. Use talent analytics to track attrition potential allows you to inform risk management conversations better.
  3. Equip managers. Provide management with adequate resources to identify and mitigate risk. In doing so, managers can pinpoint individual employees who might need more proactive intervention regarding the commute.
  4. Review your transportation offering. Once you identify employee needs, take steps to address transportation internally. Consider a portfolio approach to transportation modes across your workforce, and don’t forget to evaluate alternatives against impact, not just cost.

Once you’ve completed your research into the commute, you’ll be prepared to reduce attrition risk and address the commute for your people and your key business metrics.

Charlie Knuth

Charlie Knuth

Charlie Knuth is Head of Commuter Insights at Scoop, overseeing research into how the commute impacts individuals, businesses, and communities across the country. Outside of the office, you can find him on ski slopes around the world.

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