Commuting Sucks

After spending hours on the road each day visiting clients in Toronto and Montreal last week, I came the unsubstantiated conclusion that commuting long distances sucks and will take years off your life. There are so many factors you cannot control that create stress and anxiety. Sitting in hours of traffic, I thought about how this impacts employee job satisfaction and employee retention rates.

I decided to look for some research on this and found that University of the West of England, analyzed the impact of commuting on more than 26,000 employees over a five-year period. In the UK, workers spent on average 60 minutes commuting round trip and in the U.S. it is 50 minutes. In our densely populated, geographically sprawling, weather impacted, under transited, and car obsessed major Canadian cities, I’m sure commuting times can exceed these averages. Researchers found that each extra minute of commuting time reduces both job and leisure time satisfaction and increases strain and worsens mental health for workers with the exception of those who walk or bike to work.

Most candidates will commute longer distances for a higher paying job. They seem to not fully appreciate the psychological, emotional, and physical costs of longer travel times in calculating their employment decision. For employers, you probably don’t need a lot of data to know that long commute times frequently increase new-hire lateness and absenteeism rates. Large firms like Xerox and Gate Gourmet that have studied this have found a connection in many jobs between commute time and new-hire retention and new hire success. Research by consultant Jeff Parks found that at one manufacturer “at 13 miles, which is about a 30-45 minute commute, the probability of quitting jumped to more than 92 percent.” Innovative companies like Facebook have offered a yearly bonus for employees who live within a close measured proximity of their headquarters as an incentive to offset the environmental impact of driving, a reduction in job satisfaction, high employee turnover rates and to increase worker productivity. I personally think the ROI for that incentive will pay off in spades. That was clear to me sitting idly on Toronto’s 401.

When clients are under pressure to fill roles or candidates are anxious to secure employment, commute times and issues are unfortunately often overlooked. Service industry roles often require extended hours of operations, late nights, and social demands. Long commutes can be dangerous in these circumstances.

We’ve heard both client and candidate objections based on location and residency and we take them seriously. We search local or do our best ensure the candidate is willing to move to be close to work to ensure the best possible employment outcome for all parties.