How much does travel to and from work matter in terms of job satisfaction? The commute, it turns out, ranks No. 2 on the list, second only to people at work—and it’s a close second.
A new study on job satisfaction, from business membership and research organization The Conference Board, finds that workers are most satisfied with people at work (60.5 percent), followed by their commute (59.2 percent). Interest in work (58.4 percent), their supervisor (57.3 percent), and the physical work environment (56.1 percent) come in third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.
Nevertheless, while the commute matters to employees, and job seekers may weigh it heavily when making employment decisions, it’s usually only a blip on the radar when recruiting and screening job candidates.
In light of Conference Board findings, perhaps the commute should be given more attention.
It’s About Time
According to 2015 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average American commutes 26.4 minutes to work each day. This may not sound like a lot, until you realize it results in almost an hour each day, and nearly the equivalent of an extra workday each week.
Remember, that’s just the national average. Time may vary significantly, based on geographic location. In New York, the average is 33.1 minutes, while in Maryland, it’s 32.6 minutes, and in New Jersey, it’s 31.3 minutes.
Many people spend far longer traveling to work. In fact, extreme commutes, those taking 90 minutes or more, are the fastest growing. Commutes taking 45 to 59 minutes and those that take 60 to 89 minutes are also on the rise.
Again, this is only time spent traveling to work. Assuming people return home, the actual travel time is twice as long.
It’s About Distance
To get to work, the average commuter travels approximately 15 miles one way, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.
Approximately 8 percent of the workforce travels more than 35 miles.
Among those individuals, many are “stretch-commuters,” who travel at least 50 miles one way to get to work. A significant number of Americans, more than 1 million workers, travels between 75 and 199 miles—one way.
A 2017 survey conducted by business network Opportunity finds 79.41 percent of American workers use their personal vehicle to travel to and from work.
The survey also finds that among people who travel more than 60 minutes roundtrip, 25 percent report that their commute is “very stressful” or “somewhat stressful.”
It goes without saying that various factors contribute to stress levels, including inclement weather, which may also increase commute time.
Companies that recognize the challenges workers face when it comes to commuting attempt to offset it in a number of ways. Among the solutions workers prefer are telecommuting, at least occasionally, and flextime. But these are not always realistic options.
Instead, employers typically provide assistance that has a positive financial impact. The 2017 Employee Benefits Survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) finds that 83 percent of companies provide free onsite parking; 13 percent offer a transit subsidy; 10 percent offer a parking subsidy; 4 percent offer a carpooling subsidy; and 4 percent provide a free commuter shuttle.
While these benefits have value and are worth mentioning to job candidates if your company offers them, they don’t reduce commute time, distance or stress.
To find out if a candidate’s commute may negatively impact his or her job satisfaction, you should address the commute during the job interview. “I see you live in ABC Town. How far is that from our office?” Or, “Did you have any trouble finding our office? How long did it take you to get here?”
If the candidate seems to have an unrealistic view of what’s involved in the commute, you may want to schedule an interview at the beginning or end of the day, so he or she experiences the rush-hour commute.
Not all employees react to commuting the same way. Some listen to music or audio books while driving; others read while on the train. But the fact that the commute is the No. 2 “driver” of job satisfaction is something hiring companies should not ignore.