What can employers do to help employees beat commuter blues. And what can employees do to help themselves? Find out in this month’s article.
Battling the Commuting Blues
For many of us, a long commute to work is seen as a necessary evil. It’s frustrating, sometimes downright infuriating, but it’s seen as an expected part of the business day. However, research shows a growing segment of the workforce is deciding no job is worth battling rush-hour traffic for hours every week. And we’ve found in the last couple of years that “the right location” is almost always in the top two or three requirements for the HR job seekers we’re working with.
It’s also no surprise to learn that commuting can negatively impact health. Recent research has repeatedly shown that sitting behind the wheel for long periods leads to higher blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol levels, higher blood pressure, increased anxiety, risk of depression, accumulation of excess body fat around the middle and other health concerns. Commuters also often eat fast food as they travel.
A commute that doesn’t suit your personal situation can also lead to unhappiness. And an unhappy employee not only affects productivity, but also work culture as a whole. Conversely, a happier workforce will improve the productivity of your organisation.
So what can employers do to ease commuting pain and help retain staff?
Understand your employees
To start with, employers and managers should acknowledge that long commutes can have negative physical and emotional effects. The best way to understand your employees is by talking to them. Remember, not all employees have the same experiences. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to understand their travel issues, and help improve commuting to make it easier for your employees.
Offer commuting benefits
If it’s difficult to reduce the commute, employers can offer commuting benefits. This could be providing a carpark, covering public transportation costs or subsidising petrol costs. Whether you fully reimburse employees for their travel to and from work or simply offer resources that help them save time and money, incorporating commuter benefits into your total compensation package can drastically increase employee happiness.
Consider allowing employees to move their working hours away from peak commuting times. Some staff naturally like to start earlier or finish later. Flexible hours can have a big impact on reducing the time spent behind the wheel.
Laptops, mobiles, email and the internet let employees work remotely like never before. If their jobs don’t absolutely require their presence in the office, let them work from home. This doesn’t have to be fulltime. But it could be around special projects or report preparation, when working quietly, alone, without office interruptions is actually more productive. If you’re not sure that will work, at least consider a trial period.
Focus on health
To combat all that sitting down and traffic stress, employers can help counter the effects by placing a stronger emphasis on health. This could be providing healthy snacks in the office, subsidised benefits like gym memberships or yoga classes, or afterwork activities like indoor soccer or, in summertime, touch rugby in the local park.
What can employees do to improve their commute?
Switch to public transport
Ditch the car. You’ll avoid the anxiety of having to navigate the traffic, save on parking and gas and have time to read more.
Turn your commute into a workout
If you can, switch to walking or biking to work. Take the stairs instead of the lift. Incorporate short walks into your day by parking farther away or get off the bus a few stops early. Even these small steps can improve your fitness, well-being and mood.
Play nicely with others
When another driver cuts in front, keep your cool – it will help avoid unnecessary stress. Being courteous to other commuters – even when they aren’t – will help promote a positive mindset.
Make the most of your commute time
Listen to a podcast, audio book or learn another language. That way, this downtime is now productive time. Plus, your commute will fly by.
Take water with you
Being even slightly dehydrated can make you sleepy, which is the last thing you need during a commute (especially when driving). Invest in a quality reusable water bottle and fill it before hitting the road.
Pack a snack
Traffic jams and public transport delays can mean going from happy to ‘hangry’ before you get to work. Always carry a healthy snack that travels well. Trail mix, fruit and nutritious snack bars are easy options that can be popped into a purse, pocket or laptop bag.
Relaxed and happy
If your employees arrive at work relaxed and happy, they will hopefully leave work in the same spirit without worrying about tomorrow’s commute. That way, we all win.