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Hybrid work
Cost-saving tips

The cost of commuting: beyond your employees’ wallets


November 6, 2023


November 16, 2023

Around 74% of American workers drive to work by car 1. Meanwhile, the price of gas keeps increasing in most countries around the world, and so do our stress levels. These two topics have something in common: the costs of commuting. How much money do people spend to get to the office?

Using their cars every day to go to work does not only impact your staff’s wallets. It also affects their health and, of course, the environment. So, we wanted to dig deeper into the negative effects of commuting. Surprisingly, some employees don’t consider it a loss of time and believe there are a few benefits in driving long distances between their home and their workplace.

We live in an era when people want to make the most of their time and find a better work-life balance. Our ways of working are changing, and commuting is a bummer for many of us. So, how can you reduce the financial, health, and environmental price of commuting as a company? This article gives you four starting points to improve this aspect of your organizational culture.

What is the financial cost of commuting for your employees?

The price of coming to work by car

If having a car is a criteria for your employees to be part of your company, this implies they have to spend additional money. This includes buying a car (if they don’t already have one), paying for car insurance, dealing with maintenance costs, etc. On a weekly basis, they need to put in petrol and sometimes pay tolls to come to the office. Not only the money spent on gas but also these other expenses should be considered when talking about the financial cost of commuting.

The cost of commuting when using public transport

Although commuting by car still dominates as the main way to get from point A to B, using public transport has become more common over the last few years. According to Statistica 1, more than 74% of Americans were commuting by car and a bit more than 10% by public transport in 2019. In 2022, the percentage of car commuters went down to more or less 75%, and around 15% have used public solutions. 

Taking public transport costs a lot less (financially) than coming to work by car. However, it is important to remember that public transport sometimes takes more time than driving a car. Moreover, not everyone has a bus, a subway, or a train station close to their home.

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woman on bus
Woman commuting by bus

The work commute tax deduction

Many employees wonder if they can deduct their commuting expenses from their taxes. Unfortunately, this is not possible, only business travel costs are considered. Until now, all workers have to pay for the costs of their commute from home to their workplace. However, some countries try to encourage people to carpool by offering a financial bonus. For example, the French government gives €100 to carpoolers that use the Blablacar platform. As a company, you can also help your staff reduce or cover these costs. We explore this  in more detail at the end of the article.

The correlation between low-income workers and longer commuting

There is an important aspect we want to highlight regarding the cost of commuting. In most parts of the world, people who earn low incomes are also the ones with the longest distance to commute and, therefore, the ones who have to pay the most. 

But, as we are about to discuss, commuting doesn’t only have a financial cost. It also influences your staff’s health, capacity, and productivity. Knowing this is crucial to avoid your team members’ careers being negatively impacted due to where they live

How does commuting affect your employees’ psychological and physical health?

The downsides of commuting on your employees’ health and abilities

On average, commuting accounts for 240 hours per year per employee in the U.S. 2 It is 240 hours workers don’t have free to take care of themselves, do sports, spend time with family and friends, etc. Traffic unpredictability and less sleep also increase stress and fatigue while also affecting productivity. Many studies have been conducted to analyze the effects of commuting on people’s health. All of them show similar findings. The main repercussions of daily commute include: 

  • higher stress levels;
  • poorer work-life balance;
  • more signs of exhaustion;
  • a negative impact on productivity;
  • a rise in the risks of employee burnout.

💡 Read more about the link between hybrid work and employees’ mental health!

Woman paying for transport
Woman paying for transport

The paradox of the impact of commuting on mental health

But while commuting is overall negatively impacting employees’ health, it can be positive in specific situations. Post-COVID studies show that some workers are missing commuting to work because this part of the day is a ritual to switch from home to work mode and vice versa. 

Moreover, research about the relationship between commuting and health outcomes reveals that there is a difference between people who need 45 minutes to reach the office or their home and those who have more than one hour of commute. The last group actually presented fewer signs of stress than individuals with shorter commutes.

The solution to this contradiction

So, what can you do as a company knowing all this information? Taking advantage of the new ways of working is the best path to follow. Letting employees work from home and come on-site only a few times a week or a month significantly decreases the financial and health costs of commuting. For those who don’t see this as  negative, be flexible and enable them to work from the office as often as they want.

How much does commuting cost the planet?

Personal vehicles are the biggest polluters

Since 1990, transportation (a subsector of the energy sector) has been the third fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions 3. Among all the modes of transportation, personal vehicles create the highest amount of CO2 emissions (58%) 4. Experts estimate that for every gallon of gas emitted by a single car, an additional 19.42 pounds (around 8.8 kg) of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Knowing the billions of people commuting to work in their own car every single day, the numbers are scary. This serious issue needs to be considered urgently at all levels of our society.  

Car commute remains the number one choice

Commuting by car is the most common way to go to work worldwide. 74% of Americans opt for this mode of transportation, among which only 5% carpool to reach their workplace. Decreasing the number of times employees have to come to the office every week can considerably help lower the quantity of single vehicles on the road and boost the use of more planet-friendly choices. Adding a 20-minute bus drive once or twice a week is more doable than on a daily basis.

🌍 Learn more about the importance of sustainability in business!

How can you reduce the negative effects of commuting for your workers?

Measure the true cost of commuting with a commute cost calculator

Before putting anything in place, it is always important to know where you are starting from in order to measure your progress according to the actions you implement. There are many commute cost calculators available online. These tools allow your employees to assess how much commuting costs them exactly. Here are a few resources that you can check and use: 

Establish a commuting stipend

No matter if your staff comes to work by car or public transport, commuting costs money. Sharing these expenses is a great people-centric approach to improve employee experience and satisfaction if you require your team members to be on-site regularly. It can be a fixed sum that they receive yearly. You can also establish a payback system. Workers fill refund forms with their monthly commuting costs. The company covers these charges by reimbursing them on their next salary.

👉 Also, read more about the WFH allowance and the reasons to implement it!

person driving
Person driving to work

Suggest a carpooling system

More than 74% of people in the U.S. come to work by car. In the rest of the world, cars are also  the main mode of transport. What about decreasing this number by suggesting your employees share their cars? If your colleagues Mark, Charly, and Allison live less than 10 minutes away from each other, they can easily reduce their driving costs by three. Moreover, it makes the commuting experience more enjoyable and encourages team bonding along with workplace connection.

Encourage hybrid work arrangements

If you haven’t taken this step yet and want to decrease the cost of commuting, it is time to embrace the new ways of working and implement a hybrid work model. Letting staff members work remotely more often has many advantages. You can learn more about these perks by reading our article about working hybrid. Reducing commuting and stress is one of the major benefits of allowing flexible work arrangements for your team. On top of cutting the cost of commuting, being able to work from home also contributes to employee happiness and meets the needs of a modern workforce. 

Calculating the true cost of commuting doesn’t only involve looking at your coworkers’ transportation expenses. The negative effects of commuting on health and the environment must also be considered, as they can have financial consequences for your business, too. 

Of course, commuting is not the only cause of health and environmental issues. Yet, minimizing the number of drivers that go to and from work can significantly help your staff save money, be healthier, and reduce their carbon impact. Remote work is a great approach to reaching these goals. Promoting hybrid work as a Finance or HR manager is a very smart decision that will benefit your employees as much as your company.

Are you looking for a solution to efficiently operate your hybrid workplace while boosting employee experience and optimizing costs? Request a free demo of the deskbird app to discover how we support you in embracing the most sustainable way of working!

1 Cars Still Dominate the American Commute, Statistica.

2 The Best and Worst Cities for Commuters in 2022, Clever.

3 4 Charts Explain Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Countries and Sectors, World Resources Institute.

4 Emissions of Carbon Dioxide in the Transportation Sector, Congressional Budget Office.

The cost of commuting: beyond your employees’ wallets

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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