The Drive To Be Unproductive: How Long Commutes Affect Workplace Efficiency
According to an article in Yahoo! News, there is one thing that all employees have in common: a burning dislike for their morning commute. Let's face it, it's not the actual commute that most people dislike, it's the hassle of dealing with traffic, long lines, and rude people that make the trip so despised.
It doesn't matter how an employee gets to work -- whether it's by car, train, plane, boat, or just walking, there's always one or more aspects of the commute that person would like to change. How an employee starts the day is an important indicator of his or her attitude for the rest of that day.
Managers need to determine what an employee needs to be the most productive while at work. Some things are within their control, such as having the best equipment, providing the most up-to-date training, or even a supplying a kick-start of coffee or a snack. However, there are a plethora of items outside their control that can disrupt productivity, such as the need for eight hours of sleep, family issues, or even a particularly grueling commute. Research from the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom found that employees with a 45-minute or longer commute are less satisfied with their lives, rated their daily activities as less worthwhile, and reported higher anxiety than employees who don't have a long commute each morning.
If a manager doesn't have to endure the horrors of a long and demanding commute, it might be difficult for that person to understand the impact it has on an employee's productivity and overall morale. Considering that the average worker spends five weeks a year commuting, it's easy to see how someone might not feel motivated when he or she reaches the workplace.
Fortunately, restoring motivation in an employee with a lengthy commuting is relatively easy. That being said, it takes a manager who is willing to make compromises, have a fair amount of trust in his or her employees, and the necessary equipment -- or the ability to lay the groundwork -- to let them telecommute if the situation arises.
There is no doubt that a manager assumes a small amount of risk when letting an employee work from home, but if that manager is confident in the employee's work ethic, then there should not be a reason to worry. In fact, most employees who telecommute report that they actually work harder from home than they do in the office because they felt like they had to "prove themselves" to their colleagues and show that they were pulling their weight.
When telecommuting is not an option, there are plenty of small changes in the workplace that can be made to help ease the pressure on workers who commute long distances:
- Allow commuting employees to work one day a week from home. The break from the commute will ease their stress and show them that you understand their situation.
- If employees primarily take public transportation as a way to get to work, then count one hour toward their time in the office as long as they use a laptop or other device to do job-related functions.
- Have flexible office hours so that employees can arrive, work an appropriate amount of time, then leave so as to avoid both morning and evening rush hours.
- Offer support (such as moving expenses, paid time off, etc.) to workers who are willing to relocate closer to the office.
Finally, be sympathetic. An employee may not have a choice when it comes to their commute and a little understanding can go a long way in making that person feel as though someone understands their morning struggle.