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

Happy multicultural group of male and female business people taking a selfie together outdoors at workplace. Chinese businesswoman making a photo with her work colleagues.
Gigi Delgado - stock.adobe.com.

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. For many, this doubled as a painful reminder of just how difficult and draining a long commute can be.


Pave Commute provides employers with powerful, science-driven tools for making commutes easier. When used as part of an organization-wide commuter support program, they can make a dramatic and positive difference in the lives of your team members. 


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 2021 survey found that employees would be willing to take a pay cut of up to 50% 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?

Pandemic-related pressures 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 forwarded 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

Solo driving 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.


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.

Additional commuter support measures for boosting employee retention rates

Employers can build in additional policy-based commuter support measures to elevate employee morale and improve retention rates. Examples include:

Counting an employee's commute as a form of workplace attendance

Some experts have proposed systems that would allow commuters who travel to work on public transportation or mass transit to count part of their commute toward their daily office time. 


Hands-free commuting allows employees to spend their journeys productively—a factor employers may consider recognizing. This strategy has the additional benefit of incentivizing stronger employee shifts to more sustainable modes of commuting.

Supporting flexible scheduling

Return-to-office policies have been difficult for employees in the post-pandemic environment. Employers can respond by offering team members the option to work from home for part of the week, as practical factors allow. 


Businesses can also shift their working hours so days begin and end during off-peak times, which helps ease commuters’ congestion-related stresses.

Offering commuter benefits

Employers can build commuter benefits into employee compensation in many ways. Common examples include reimbursements for using sustainable modes of transportation, and subsidizing or covering monthly public transportation passes. 


Commuter challenges and gamification programs offering prizes and other perks also spark and sustain shifts toward alternatives to driving.

How Pave Commute can help

Pave Commute leverages tools including behavioral science, artificial intelligence, and a superior user experience to deliver powerful solutions that build a better journey to work. By partnering with Pave Commute, employers gain access to our powerful, practical tech tools that build a better commute.


Pave Commute’s turnkey, app-based program empowers individual commuters to access personalized information and route-planning services that deliver practical and efficient alternatives to solo driving. The platform also supports tools for rewarding commuters who make and stick with more sustainable transportation modes.


Clients can launch Pave Commute for their entire people teams with just a few clicks. Pave Commute offers fixed-rate plans that fit any organization or budget level.

Read more about how Pave Commute can help employers improve employee retention rates, or get started with a personalized commuter support program today.

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