Are you familiar with that weary feeling of a long commute?
You’ve been on the road since 6:30 a.m. You’ve already listened to two episodes of CANADALAND; the paper cup sitting in the centre console now outweighs the liquid inside—and you’re still 15 minutes from the office.
Does this sound like your daily commute? Do you feel stressed and frazzled before you even get to the office? Do your employees seem tired and uneasy before they get to their desks? You and your employees can take comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.
A 2016 Census study of commuting times revealed some intriguing data. During that year, 1.5 million Canadians spent at least 60 minutes commuting to work. Of these, 854,000 spent at least 60 minutes in a car. Even if your employees aren’t spending more than an hour in the car every morning, they are spending a lot of time coming and going from the office. The survey indicated the average commuting time for all Canadians, and all modes of transportation, was 26.2 minutes.
Perhaps you are asking, “So what?” How does time spent on commuting impact an employee’s productivity while at work?
To answer that, let us take a careful look at some research on the topic. A 2001 study conducted by scientists at the Center for Psychotherapy Research in Stuttgart, and the University Clinic of Ulm in Germany, underscores the detrimental effects of long commutes. Of the 407 German commuters studied, 90 percent had trips of more than 45 minutes each way.
“The psychosomatic condition of these people was terrible,” said Steffen Haefner, who headed the study. Complaints of pain, dizziness, exhaustion and severe sleep deprivation were twice as high in the commuters than in a control group of non-commuters.
A 2015 article “Commuting: ‘The Stress That Doesn’t Pay,’” published in Psychology Today adds to our understanding of the negative impact commuting can have on an employee’s psyche. According to Marlynn Wei, M.D., author of the article, commuting “can be a major cause of stress, due to its unpredictability and a sense of loss of control. Commuters can experience boredom, social isolation, anger and frustration from problems like traffic or delays.”
It’s clear: the stress of a long daily commute can take a toll on an employee’s productivity and morale.
So how can you, as an employer, help ease the strain of your employees’ daily commute and related stress? What role can you play in increasing employees’ morale and productivity?
Here are five suggestions to help employees beat commuter stress:
1. Allow employees to telecommute part-time
Does the thought of allowing your employees to work from home conjure up images of them mowing the lawn, doing laundry or binge-watching Netflix? Don’t panic. A study by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom will help put your worries to rest. The two-year study of 500 employees indicated telecommuters had a productivity boost equivalent to a full day’s work.
2. Give employees an hour toward their office time if they take public transit
If your employees have a laptop, they can complete tasks on the train, bus or subway. Let them count the extra hour at the beginning of the day, or the end. They will thank you with increased productivity and concentration while in the office.
3. Provide a flexible schedule.
By allowing employees to have a say in their schedule, they can avoid the heaviest traffic times in the morning and evening.
4. Offer support to relocate employees.
When push comes to shove and an employee decides to relocate to be closer to the office, help them by covering moving expenses or offering them additional paid time off to relocate.
5. Promote active commuting
Run. Walk. Bike. Whatever active forms of transportation an individual employee might prefer should be encouraged. There are many health and well-being reasons to be more active that can carry over to the office as positive benefits. Give your employees credit for office time when they choose human-powered commuting options.
Woody Allen once famously said “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” Consider ways to help your employees succeed by easing the burden of getting to the office. These tips, along with workplace wellness programs can increase engagement, focus and employee satisfaction.
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Employee Wellness 101: How Healthy Employees Lead to Healthy Returns
Discover how you can improve the well-being of your employees and improve your company's bottom line with a wellness program.