As commuter transportation and transportation demand professionals, we all believe that improving the commute is a fundamental responsibility for employers and governments everywhere. We know well that the commute’s impact extends far beyond simple frustration behind the wheel, both for commuters and the companies that employ them. But in today’s world where the commute is the third-largest driver of voluntary attrition at companies, showing commitment to your employee experience by dramatically improving their daily commute isn’t just an HR benefit–it’s our new business imperative.
According to our most recent State of the American Commute report, the average commuter is spending approximately 10 days per year commuting–which is staggering, considering 10 days is also the average PTO provided by thousands of employers across the country. Americans today commute 28 minutes each way, twice per day—the longest the commute has ever been.
We all recognize the need to address today's commute. Now, there’s nationwide data available to help companies across the United States understand the impact of lengthening commutes on workers’ physical, financial, and emotional well-being.
Today’s State of the American Commute
We at Scoop saw that many employers today don’t know how to best adapt to the pains, patterns, and trends of the commute and its impact on their people. While government statistics shed light on commuting trends, we found that, in many cases, government data hasn’t kept pace with innovations in mobility. We surveyed over 7,000 people in more than 16 metropolitan regions to learn how the commute is decreasing productivity, adding to organizations’ costs, and extending the workdays of approximately 145 million Americans to develop a broader understanding of commuting’s impact on Americans’ physical, financial, and emotional well-being. The State of the American Commute puts hundreds of new data points behind what we already know: the commute is a connective thread between employee retention, employee performance, and individual happiness and well-being.
As the war for talent continues, and the U.S. sees more open job positions overall than people, a workplace that meets your employees’ needs is more important than ever. It’s evident from our research that longer commutes are giving American workers pause about their health and career paths, and many of the underlying drivers of both retention and performance are aspects that the commute directly or indirectly impacts. We found that nearly two-thirds (62%) of commuters report not applying to jobs based on the commute due to location, and 30% have considered quitting their jobs based on their daily commute to a certain location. Almost one-third (32%) say the commute causes them stress, while two-thirds of workers say they can see how the commute causes stress among other people.
Given a choice, we’d make commute time meaningful.
The State of the American Commute findings show that commuters believe the idea of meaningful time comes in many forms, be it raw time savings by taking the carpool lane or making minutes more productive. When given a choice, commuters would choose to make their commute time more meaningful, whether it’s for their mental, physical, or social health. In today’s increasingly competitive job market, 20% of individuals would choose to use that time learning new skills related to their work. Our data found that commuters would use the time in the following ways:
50% would exercise
43% would socialize with friends and family
37% would get more sleep
31% would make healthier food choices
20% would learn new skills
Commuting mode choice drives commuter well-being—and carpooling means time better spent.
Nearly three-fourths (74%) of commuters surveyed reported that they drive alone as their primary commute mode. New modes of commuting have done little for the majority of commuters across the United States: less than 1% of commuters use shuttles, vanpools, and ride-hailing apps, and 9% of commuters surveyed relied on public transportation as their primary mode.
Here’s where the benefits of carpooling come into play. The State of the American Commute shows that:
Carpoolers are 25% more likely to feel that things they do in their lives are worthwhile than the average SOV commuter, and, most importantly,
Carpoolers are 32% happier than the average SOV commuter.
Commuters are looking for help, and here’s what you can do.
Commuters realize that there’s a better way to get to work. Google searches for “commuter benefits” have soared over the last decade, increasing almost 80%, and are currently at an all-time high. Meanwhile, less than one-quarter (22.5%) of workers said their employer incentivizes alternative transportation modes. These commuting challenges may seem insurmountable, but there are steps all of us can take–whether you’re an employer or merely concerned about residents leaving your area–to mitigate the commute’s impact.
Understand your peoples’ commutes—and what motivates them.
Understand the transportation modes your people currently use and why. Are the majority of them driving alone? Taking public transit? Using multiple modes to get to work and back again?
Understand what would motivate your people to make a mode shift away from SOVs. Are your people at risk of leaving because of their commute? At your company? In your metro area? Finding actionable solutions begins with understanding behavior and motivations.
Empower leaders in your organization to mitigate the commute’s impact on their people.
Help managers understand the commute’s impact on people. Discuss the data that shows how driving alone can negatively impact their employees’ health, happiness, and productivity and engagement at work.
Help them be prepared to discuss it with their direct reports. Create a manager’s discussion guide with recommended questions to cover in regular 1:1s. Managers should walk away with a clear understanding of how and why their people get to work, as well as their employees’ overall frustration with their commute,which can be an early indicator of voluntary attrition.
Be observant. Be on the lookout for warning signs of attrition due to the commute. Behavior such as suddenly requesting to work from home, work from home more often, or changing their working hours to accommodate increased congestion are all warning signs that the commute could be wearing on your people.
Review your mosaic of modes and create a holistic strategy.
There’s plenty of buzz around band-aid mobility solutions like scooters, but these modes don’t – and won’t! – work for every single commuter.
Above all, make sure you’re building a holistic strategy, keeping in mind everything from accessibility, cost, and convenience—everything that impacts the subtle choices commuters make around their commute every single day.
Where do we go from here?
Our findings highlight that organizations face the opportunity to take action and become aware and sensitive to the pains, challenges, and opportunities associated with employees’ commutes. Backed by national data showing the tangible effects between workers’ physical, financial, and emotional well-being and employee retention and performance, organizations must do more to proactively provide solutions that ultimately reduce the impact of the commute.
To learn more key insights and gain a better understanding of the impact of lengthening commutes on American workers’ physical, financial, and emotional well-being, RSVP for our upcoming webinar.
Are you interested in bringing Scoop to your company and joining some of the world's most forward-thinking companies, including LinkedIn, T-Mobile, and Workday to offer convenient, enjoyable carpooling to your employees? Learn more here.
Eric Burdette and John Larson-Friend are both graduate students at the University of Oregon in the School of Planning, Public Policy, and Management. In April of 2020, both Eric and John applied for project-based scholarships with the Transportation Research Group, a group of professors and students hosted within...
Over the past two weekends, and after feedback from ACT and other transportation groups and transit agencies, that their initial guidance recommending all commuters drive alone to work was not practical, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has...