In a poll of 2,800 workers across 28 U.S. cities, the average commute time was 48.4 minutes, and nearly 20 percent reported they have an hour-long commute. Half of employees surveyed said their commute causes them to feel stressed out, and nearly half think their commute is too long.
Workers in D.C. have the longest commutes with the average employee spending 65.8 minutes traveling to work. New York and Houston had the next highest commute times with employees traveling an average of 60.8 and 59.2 minutes respectively. Additionally, more than 60 percent of workers in Los Angeles, Austin, and Miami reported their commute was too long. Miami workers reported having the most stressful commutes, followed by workers in San Diego, Austin, Los Angeles, and Phoenix.
The stress associated with a long commute does not end when an employee reaches the office. Frustrating or lengthy travel times have a negative impact on employee productivity, morale, and engagement. This can present long-term problems for employers including employee turn-over and damage to company culture from stressed workers.
Some organizations offer flexible schedules or telecommuting options to their employees to alleviate the stress associated with long commutes. Experts recommend taking similar action if your employees are frustrated over their commute. "Long commutes stressing out U.S. workers, survey shows" safetyandhealthmagazine.com (Dec. 02, 2019).
So, the question for our readers is: Are your workers stressed about their commute?
Please take the poll. Here are some opinions of the McCalmon editorial staff:
Jack McCalmon, Esq.
Commuting time is a primary driver for cyber working relationships and one reason our office went cyber several years ago.
As for the above article, what it does not capture is how commute times dictate how an employee works when he or she is at the office. In addition to the mental exhaustion, employees have to plan for their commute and that too often is prioritized over production. So, employees may arrive two hours early, but no one else is present for collaboration. They then have to leave early when others are present to catch a train or bus when others can collaborate, so meetings are postponed.
Leslie Zieren, Esq.
Commuting times should be a serious consideration for employers. I have three personal examples of the impact a commute can have on employees and employers.
1. A friend's small (200 or so) high-tech company in the Bay Area of California was acquired years ago by a huge corporation headquartered in the upper mid-west. At the first meeting in California with the new owners/management, the new employer's representative said, "Now, our organization's working hours are 8 to 5 … so some changes need to be made here." Everyone looked at each other, and one worker spoke up and said, "It's actually not possible to start work at 8:00 with the way the traffic is out here. We can get here by 6:00 a.m. or about an hour to two hours after 8:00 a.m., but no one working in the Bay Area at any organization can actually start work at 8:00 a.m." Eventually, the new employer got the picture and relented.
2. A family member recently sat on a jury in Austin, Texas. He said that much of the casual conversation among the jury pool while waiting for a courtroom assignment was about how what they dreaded the most if they were picked for a jury was the commute to get to the downtown courthouse and the lack of sufficient parking. The drive to and from would add a couple of hours to an already long day and would make any kind of catch-up work at their jobs impossible. In recognition of the dire parking problem, the judge even fixed all the parking tickets of everyone in the jury pool who was eventually dismissed from jury duty.
3. And, a friend of mine worked for a large oil company based in downtown Houston. The company required – as a "safety" measure – that those who live in the Houston suburbs use the Park N' Ride, which means driving to a designated pick up location in the area of the suburbs they live in and leaving their car outside all day. It takes about an hour or longer to get downtown on the Park N' Ride shuttle. At the end of the day, if an employee misses the scheduled ride and has to wait until the next one, this can mean it will be closer to two hours before the employee gets home – a total of three hours spent commuting. If an employee has a doctor's appointment during the day or a work meeting with people outside the office, the employer has to give prior permission to the employee to drive their own car to work that day. While any drive in Houston is a traffic nightmare, at least on those days, an employee is in control of their own schedule.
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