The COVID-19 pandemic and the rise of remote work during lockdowns highlighted a key factor for most of us who normally work outside of the home: the cost of commuting. In fact, the average driver in an urban centre in Ontario spends nearly $6,500 a year commuting to the office (excluding the price of gas).1 Pre-pandemic, nearly 1 in 4 employees left their job because of a bad commute, and now, candidates may not even apply or accept a job offer if the position does not offer remote work/work from home options or if the workplace is too far to access.2 In fact, research pre-pandemic found that every additional 10 minutes of commuting time is equivalent to experiencing a 19% decrease in income.3
Increasingly, job postings feature hybrid work scheduling and studies have shown that jobs with hybrid or remote work options often mean more applications. This is a growing trend that increasingly, working from home is now considered a “perk” and used to attract key talent.
However, we recognize that fully remote work or even hybrid work may not be a possibility for many workplaces. After all, those who weren’t able to work from home during the pandemic were labelled “essential workers” and suddenly, it felt like there was a whole class of “second class workers” who couldn’t access the privilege of working from home. Furthermore, employers are recalling employees, changing work schedules so that there is more in-person work to take advantage of the existing or newly renovated workspaces designed for more collaborative work. While the reason for this is to promote more collaboration, communication, and to use the spaces that are already paid for, employers may run the risk of losing potential candidates or current employees who may find the commute to/from work daunting.
At pointA, we believe that neither employees nor employers should have to lose out because of changes to the work environment. Instead, we suggest that employers consider integrating commuting benefits into the total compensation package for employees, especially those who commute to/from the office. That way, those who were previously deemed essential workers can benefit just as much as someone who works from home.
What does a commuting benefit look like?
There are so many different variations in what this kind of benefit could look like, and employers have a lot of options to choose from. Employers may want to offer different benefits depending on the employee based on how frequently they come into the office, how far they travel, or even the mode of commuting. For employers that prefer a more general or equal approach, they can offer a standard transportation benefit for all employees regardless of frequency, distance, or mode they travel.
Some of the benefits include:
- Transit subsidies
- Carpool/vanpool cost subsidies
- Cash in lieu of parking
- Transportation benefit – paid to all employees regardless of travel mode
(Please note that employers should check with their finance teams to confirm whether these subsidies/benefits are considered taxable benefits.)
If you’re an employer that is looking to offer this, we think you should be recognized for your efforts! pointA is proud to be the first Canadian partner to offer the Best Workplaces for Commuters certification program in Canada. This program was created in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Transportation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and recognizes over 600 workplaces from across the United States for their excellence in supporting commuting across their organizations, including AECOM, Citrix, Ford Motor Company, Food & Drug Administration, Four Square, Google, Harvard University, Kaiser Permanente, and Tesla, among others. (For a full list of 2023 workplaces, please visit the Best Workplaces for Commuters US site.)
How does it work?
Take a look at some of the examples we have below:
For organizations that may not have the resources to provide taxable benefits directly to their employees, you can still support employee commuting so that regardless of where they work, employees arrive to work feeling ready to work. Some ideas include:
- For drivers: carpooling ride-matching, preferred carpool spots, EV charging
- For transit users: first-/last-mile connections to transit, on-site access to car share or fleet vehicles
- For cyclists: bicycle commuting program, secure bicycle parking, showers and lockers.
- For everyone: compressed workweek, on-site amenities (e.g., convenience store, dry cleaning)
More than ever before, employers should consider including commuting supports as part of the total compensation package for employees so that regardless of whether they go into the office, work from home, or do a combination of both, they can attract and retain their employees.
If you need support on how to set up these benefits and want to learn how to be recognized for your efforts, check out our Best Workplaces for Commuters page and contact a member of our team today!
1. Based on the average distance and cost of commuters in Ontario who drive and commute in person every weekday (5 days/week). Costs include insurance, vehicle maintenance, depreciation, and car payments.
2. Robert Half Talent Solutions. “Nearly One-Quarter Of Workers Have Left A Job Due To A Bad Commute, According To Robert Half Survey.” 2018. https://press.roberthalf.com/2018-09-24-Nearly-One-Quarter-Of-Workers-Have-Left-A-Job-Due-To-A-Bad-Commute-According-To-Robert-Half-Survey.
3. Chatterjee, Clark, Martin, & Davis (2017). The Commuting and WellBeing study: Understanding the Impact of Commuting on People’s Lives. UWE Bristol, UK.
Image credit: Mapbox, Unsplash