When discussing work-related stress, we immediately think of stress at work and may neglect to consider the factors contributing to stress before the office. As recent studies show, the commute to and from work is a leading source of stress among employees.
A 2019 study by Robert Half, which surveyed 1100 office workers and senior managers, revealed that more than a third (35%) of Canadian employees find traveling to and from work to be too stressful and too long. Findings show that the average work commute is 53 minutes, with more than a quarter of professionals saying that their travel time exceeds an hour each way.
"A professional's commute often sets the tone for their day,” says Robert Half’s senior district president David King. “Dealing with a lengthy or frustrating trip to the office can have long-term effects on employee morale, performance and retention”.
More recently, studies report that “nearly a third of Canadians want a commute of no more than 15 minutes,” with 29% of survey respondents saying that they “would look for another job if they are required to commute five days a week”. Going from a pandemic “commute” of less than a minute from bedroom to desk back to a longer commute is a tough sell for most employees.
So not only can the threat of long commute times affect the productivity and satisfaction of employees, but it can also potentially harm retention, with employees willing to leave for a role closer to home or one that offers hybrid work options.
Companies can help their people save valuable time and money during a stressful work commute by offering transportation benefits and perks.
“Commuting can be a significant expense and supporting employees with this can really make a difference," King states. "This will improve their engagement with the brand and as such increase employee retention."
Reducing commute stress can be accomplished through many cost-effective, eco-friendly, and/or communal-oriented initiatives. By providing transit subsidies, employers can motivate employees to take advantage of public transportation, with the company committed to covering a portion of their fare.
Companies can also support ridesharing among employees by helping facilitate carpools. From minimizing gas emissions and conserving energy to fostering connection among team members, there are a number of benefits associated with going the rideshare route.
Employees who live in close proximity to the office can choose to bike or walk to work. With obvious financial and physical health benefits, this option doubles as a cost-saving and exercise-inducing activity for your people.
The stressful work commute doesn’t have to be that way. By communicating the benefits of walking or biking to employees and ensuring that your workplace supports these modes of daily transportation (such as by ensuring that your headquarters have ample storage for bikes), cycling and walking to and from work can be part of the norm in your work culture.
In the Robert Half survey, respondents said that their employer had flexible hours and off-peak commute options, which makes a significant difference in decreasing stressful work commutes.
Offering the option to work different hours to avoid a stressful work commute—rush hour traffic—is a great way to get people into the workplace without having to deal with a chaotic commute. Additionally, many organizations are now allowing for hybrid work where employees are in the office part-time and at home part-time. This empowers employees to take charge of their schedule and only come in as they need to for meetings or to collaborate on projects.
Research has continually shown that employees are seeking greater flexibility in their roles and are willing to leave if they can’t get it. Robert Half reported recently that 60% of employees looking for work were searching for full-time remote positions.
As King states, "as workforces become more dispersed, organizations need to proactively offer solutions to help address and alleviate commuter stress… companies that provide support to help workers get more out of their lives, both inside and outside the office, cultivate better focused, motivated and more loyal teams".
In this constantly changing and evolving state of the modern workplace, employers need to have an approach of adaptability and accommodation in order to provide a stress-free work environment for their people. In doing so, employees will be able to give their absolute best at work and beyond.