Employee Retention and Commuting: How a Better Commute Supports a Happier Workforce

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Employee retention has emerged as one of the defining business issues of the 2020s. As back-to-office policies became the post-pandemic norm, millions of commuters returned to their previous routines. Now, the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, but the daily experience of a difficult, draining commute is as much a pain as ever.

A recognition program for sustainable commuting is a simple yet powerful way to make the commute more rewarding, while also engaging employees in your sustainability mission. It can make a dramatic and positive difference in the lives of your team members by fostering a culture of recognition for sustainable commuting. 

Over the long term, this can translate into a more appealing workplace culture, higher employee retention rates, and less spending on recruitment and hiring.

What factors impact employee retention rates?

Happy employees tend to stay with their employers, making job satisfaction a critical part of employee retention. Human resources experts cite a dynamic set of related factors as key drivers of employee satisfaction.

Pay rates have historically been viewed as the most important such factor. However, money is far from the only relevant element. In fact, a surprising 2019 survey found that 35% of workers would take a pay cut in exchange for a shorter, less painful daily commute.

Other factors influencing employee retention and job satisfaction include:

  • Career advancement and professional development opportunities
  • Workplace culture and the working environment
  • Appreciation and acknowledgement of positive contributions
  • Flexibility and work-life balance

Commuting relates most directly to the “work-life balance” element of the employee retention equation. As a person’s commute becomes longer and more difficult, their work-life balance and job satisfaction suffer.

How much of an impact does commuting have on employee retention?

Labor market disruptions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic began to thrust employee retention into the spotlight in 2021, when U.S. workers began quitting their jobs at record rates. By 2023, the “Big Quit” had made its way into Europe and beyond.

Experts have advanced various theories to explain the trend. One thing that research has clearly shown is that commuting—and the difficulties associated with it—has been one of the main drivers of the global Big Quit:

 

These research results point to an important lesson: Employers need to offer meaningful forms of commuter support to succeed at recruitment and employee retention.

How and why difficult commutes negatively affect employee retention

Beyond negatively affecting work-life balance, commutes can have damaging health effects:

  • Commuting by car can adversely affect a person’s cardiovascular health.
  • Solo driving can also raise levels of cortisol, a stress hormone linked to a long list of maladies and health risks.
  • Driving is a sedentary activity that costs commuters critical hours they could otherwise spend exercising or being productive.

 

The negative effects of long and difficult commutes on employees’ mental health is also well-documented. These can include:

  • Sleep disturbances
  • Reduced memory and mental acuity
  • Increased levels of depression and anxiety

 

Grueling commutes also have an exhausting effect that can impact a person’s social life. Tired and moody commuters often do not feel like socializing with friends or family members at the end of a long work day. Over time, this can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.

When people deal with these struggles on a daily basis, they become more likely to associate their dissatisfaction with commuting. Without strong commuter support or commuter benefits, employers become more likely to lose workers who begin to seek out other opportunities—even if it means taking a pay cut.

Mode shift: a win-win solution

Driving a single-occupancy vehicle is a major source of stress and health risk for commuters. It also has damaging effects on the environment. 

Research increasingly shows that employees want to work for organizations that share their personal values. A 2022 study found that 56% of job-seekers would not consider working for an employer whose values clash with their own. 

By guiding employees toward sustainable modes, employers can simultaneously advance their social responsibility commitments while improving recruitment efforts and employee retention rates. To these ends, effective commuter support strategies shift employees away from single-occupancy vehicles towards such modes as:

Active transportation

Active modes like walking and cycling offer multiple benefits. They get commuters moving, improving both physical and mental health. These modes also remove cars from the road, easing local traffic congestion and reducing emissions.

Carpooling

Like active commuting, carpooling carries environmental benefits by reducing emissions and congestion. It also offers a social element, which can help ward off the feelings of isolation that can result from solo car-based commuting.

Public transit

Commuters who use buses and trains liberate themselves of the stresses associated with driving. They are also free to engage in entertaining or productive activities during their journey, which can dramatically improve the way they perceive commuting.

Build a culture of sustainable commuting with Pave Commute

Pave Commute leverages behavioral science, community-building a superior user experience to excite your team for a culture of sustainable commuting at the workplace. 

Pave Commute’s turnkey app empowers individual employees to try out sustainable modes of transportation and collect rewards for sustainable trips to work. You can launch Pave Commute for your entire team with just a few clicks.

Sign up your team & try it today

Try Pave Commute with your team free for 30 days. No credit card required.

Picture of Richard Preißler
Richard Preißler
COO Europe
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