Extreme commuting and the hidden cost of employee productivity


With the sprawl of suburbs increasing with each passing year, there are millions of commuters who are traveling two hours plus each way to get to work and back. Given a choice between relocating and spending hours in traveling to work many of these people would actually choose extreme commuting.


There has been a distinct shift in values in recent years, a growing distaste for city life for many, and the practicalities of having to accommodate a working spouse and school going children that makes the decision difficult.


Add to all this soaring real estate prices and rentals, most people find it practical to commute long distances rather than uproot their family to a new location. But they are slow to realize the real costs of the daily extreme commute.


Studies in America, where there are close to 3.4 million extreme commuters, show that they pay a high price for it. Gas guzzling cars and long distance traveling means spending a huge chunk of the salary on fuel and transportation costs, besides their vehicles also wear out quickly.


But the physical and emotional wear out take a little longer to manifest. Long hours behind the wheel or in crowded buses and trains with high noise and pollution levels raise blood pressure, and cause workers to get sick and stay home more often. These people are more prone to headaches and chest pains, and likely to be psychologically stressed out from the hassles of traffic and lack of rest. Fatigue also leads to risk while driving, making them vulnerable to road accidents.


No wonder then that commuters are much less satisfied with their lives than non-commuters. People tend to overrate the value of what they obtain by commuting – a savings on rentals as against what they lose – time, health and a social life.


So what can companies do if they value their human resources and their business?


Encourage employees to relocate. It is not something that concerns the employee alone, and companies cannot afford to ignore the matter because the employee comes in on time and does his job well. It is better to provide help with relocation, even if it is only at a local level. Consider the possibilities of alternative work options for the worker.


Flexi time, telecommuting or a compressed workweek could save employees the everyday stress of extreme commute and help him or her achieve better work-life balance.


At the end of the day, the worker will be happier and more productive working from home, or working flexi time. It is also better for the business; after all, a happy employee is a productive employee.

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