Picture this: it’s 7:30 A.M. outside the suburbs of Denver and after you make your cup of joe, it’s high time to make it to the train station to catch the 8:15. Just as you are on your way, traffic hits and by the time you make it to the station you’re late and have to wait for the 8:45. Just like that; your day is already off track before the clock even strikes nine.
For some, this scenario may sound all too familiar and unfortunately may be an everyday part of life as a commuter. With millions of Americans enduring the dreaded daily commute, it’s high time we take a moment and evaluate just what our commute is doing to not only us but also our families and our work. This involves evaluating how commutes have changed, and its effects as a result, on our workers our health, family life, and professional life.
Say Hello To A Longer Commute
No matter who you are or where you live odds are your dreaded commute has increased. Furthermore, if you reside near the Denver area you may be feeling your stress levels and commuting time increase more than ever before. According to a human-resource consulting firm Robert Half, Coloradans rate the Denver commute as the 13th most stressful in the country which was tied with Chicago Boston and the 17th longest, coming in at an average of 46 minutes. Additionally, the number of commuters who travel over 90 minutes deemed “super commuters” increased by almost 10,000 between 2005 and 2016 according to an Apartment List study.
With the development of Denver as a tech hub and overall appeal as a metropolitan area, I think its safe to say that we all expected the commute to increase. Denver is a very desirable place to live. However, when you look at how much it’s changed in the last 10 years all that extra time you’re putting towards your commute, may start to chip away at that appeal.
The Real-Time Cost
Alright, let’s rewind and look at the average commute in 2008 to see exactly just how much commute times have changed. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2006-2008 2008 American Community Survey, the average commute in Denver was 26.6 minutes. Now, fast-forward to present day where it’s 20 minutes longer and think what does this mean, and more importantly what does this add up to?
For starters, let’s focus on the commute in 2008 and use 220 days as the multiplying factor as there are 220 working days in an average year. Then let’s take it one step further and divide the number by 1440, which is the number of minutes in a day. So, in 2008 the total commute time adds up to about 4 days spent on commuting in a given year. Nowadays, with a 46-minute commute that’s about 7 days, which is 3 days longer than it was ten years ago! That means at this rate by the time 2038 rolls around Denver commuters will be spending over 13 days a year just commuting. To put it in perspective that’s over 315 hours in a given year, that you are traveling just to go to and from work!
What This Commute Really Means For Workers
When you see the numbers in black and white, it definitely makes you stop and think about all that extra time, but what may be more important is focusing on what this means for your worker’s health and family. For many workers, increasing these distances may involve various health risks, and could negatively impact their quality of life. According to a study conducted by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine commutes longer than 15 miles a day are associated with a higher BMI, elevated blood pressure, along with higher stress levels. Additionally, commuting this long may contribute to a more sedentary lifestyle, which as we all know, also increases health risks such as diabetes, cancer, and many other health complications.
The hustle and bustle of everyday life involve one thing, the battle for time and as we get older we realize that time is our most coveted resource. Long commutes impact our available time and make our lives even more challenging. When it comes to the impact of commute on a family, not one but many factors are at play. From the pick-up- and drop-off dilemma facing many families with children, to getting dinner on the table, to ensure you don’t miss out on any important family events, are just a few things that long commutes put in jeopardy.
The Working Problem
When it comes to the role commuting has on work performance many employers may deny the impact if any at all, but is that really true? While commute and its effects on work performance are often unstudied and lack data, companies should look more closely at employee turnover. In a recent study across all industries, by ADP, the longer the commute, the higher the risk was for employee turnover.
I can tell you that at Living Talent, commute is #2, right behind compensation, as the reasons for leaving a job. The truth is your employees already know how much of an impact this is having on them, and most likely it’s also affecting their work. Less sleep, more stress, and being stretched too thin all adds up and could help drive down productivity more than you think.
When looking at what employees really want it’s important to look around at recent findings and see what priorities matter when it comes to work and a commute. For instance, when you look at recent employee survey such as this one, from LinkedIn, it reveals how much workers hate commuting and would even take a pay cut in order to have a shorter commute.
Mediate The Commute
Despite the commutes rising and eating up much more time for everyone, it’s important for companies to focus on what can be done. Allowing employees to work from home or alternating their schedule, or creating a flex-time environment could help alleviate the burden of the commute. With employees able to cut out the commute altogether or work around rush hour you may find your workers less stressed and more productive as they won’t be spending all of their time in traffic.
Again, most Americans feel they have too little time for the things in their life that matter. So, a gift of time from their employer could really go a long way in building loyalty at a time when people are changing their jobs faster than ever.
There are an alarming amount of studies and statistics that have recently emerged centering around commuting and how it impacts our life. With having the option to work from home or offer flex-time it may be just what your workers need in order to achieve a better work-life balance. The movement toward a higher quality of life is only going to pick up momentum as each generation enters the workforce. Choice, time, and quality of life is the new currency out there, and an investment in your employees might just produce an unexpected windfall for you.