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The daily commute is a fact of life for millions of employees across the country. But there is research that indicates that if you hear staff members grumbling about too much time spent in traffic or on the train, that could be a red flag for your company.

The workforce is growing and commutes are getting longer. These two factors are coming together in ways that can affect everything from worker productivity to employee turnover. This means it’s in any company’s best interest to understand the factors influencing these changes and devise ways to overcome any potential obstacles that could be impeding staff output.

Commutes are getting longer
If you think that it seems like you’re spending more time sitting in traffic than ever before, that may not just be your imagination. Human Resource Executive Online noted that the number of jobs located within the so-called typical commute distance across 96 of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas declined by 7 percent between 2000 and 2012. In other words, employees are having to travel farther to get to work. This trend was more pronounced in lower-income fields – as city-dwellers move to more suburban areas, they increase the time spent commuting to work.

This impacts employers directly
These changes may seem minor, but they can have a significant impact on one of the most important areas of concern for every employer – engagement. Longer commutes may leave more employees disgruntled. Even worse, it can be a major factor in driving staff members to seek other jobs that are more geographically convenient for them. Tlnt reported that one company was experiencing a new-hire turnover rate nearing 50 percent, and commute time was found to be a major factor. In fact, by changing its hiring criteria to put more attention on applicants with shorter commutes, the company was able to reduce its turnover to 27 percent.

What can employers do?
With this information in mind, it’s important that companies find ways to overcome the potential disadvantages of longer commute times. Some organizations have had success with more flexible working environments. Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular, and it has a dual benefit of eliminating commute time while simultaneously correlating with higher employee engagement. Companies whose work doesn’t allow for working from home can make adjustments to their hiring practice that place emphasis on an applicant’s distance from the job site or access to reliable transportation. In these instances, working closely with PEO companies can help small-business owners get access to the HR expertise needed to adapt hiring strategies.