Commuting distances have an impact on both staff
loyalty, and their attitudes to working flexibly.
New research commissioned by flexible officing
specialists Regus, has found a correlation between
staff considering leaving their employers and the
length of their commute journey. The research
covered 11,000 businesses in 13 countries,
The research findings provide strong evidence of
the link between length of commute and likelihood of
defection. The overall figures show that almost one
in every five respondents (18.5%) across the globe
has seriously considered leaving their job in the
last two years because their journey to work is too
long. In most countries, this proportion is in the
15-20% range. However, the figure soars in India
where one in every four people (25.1%) reports
having considered leaving their job because of
commuting time, rising to one in three in South
Africa (31.6%) and China (31.7%).
An even stronger correlation between commuting times
and likelihood of employee defection emerges when
the statistics are focused on people who take an
hour or more to travel to work. On average, the
proportion of one-hour-plus commuters who have
seriously considered leaving their job in the last
two year rises to 39%, compared to the overall
average of 19%.
Interestingly, a high proportion of these people
express strong workplace satisfaction outside of the
commuting time issue. Therefore we can conclude that
even though they like their job and have a happy and
stimulating work environment, a long commuting time
may cause an employee to leave a company despite
otherwise high job satisfaction.
Long distance commuters want to work flexibly
Workplace surveys also show that distance of
commuting is a strong indicator of the propensity to
want flexible working. In general, people with
longer commutes want more flexibility in the time
and place of their work. Drilling down
further, we also find that it is related to
different flexible work options.
In staff surveys
conducted by HOP Associates, staff are asked if they
would value having access to a range of flexible
- Reduced hours (with pro-rata reduced pay)
- More flexible hours each day (e.g. by
starting or finishing earlier)
- More flexible choice of days worked (e.g.
weekends or school terms only)
- Compressed working week (e.g. full-time
spread over 4 day week or 9 day fortnight)
- Working in an office closer to home for some
or all of the week
- Working at home 1-2 days per week
- Working at home 3-5 days per week
- Spreading each day between working at home
and at the office
The following table is entirely typical of
the results, showing a close correlation between
length of commute and the value given to
different flexible work options.
For all staff surveyed, the 3 favoured options
are working at home 1-2 days per week, more
flexible hours each day, and a compressed
For those with the longest journeys, the most
favoured includes working at an office closer to
home. And the three most favoured options,
highlighted in the table, are significantly more
popular with this group than with respondents as
When employees are asked if their
presence is essential in the office, those who
live closer to the office are much more likely
to say it is than those who live furthest away.
The length or difficulty of commute journeys, it
appears, can also affect one's mindset about
necessary ways of working.
What should be
There are serious employee retention issues
around commuting - and employers should take
note. To keep skilled staff, a mix of
working from home, working in local offices and
allowing more autonomy over the hours of work
can help to retain staff and meet their
aspirations for reducing their commute journeys.
And then employers will find that their reducing
need for headquarters office space provides
opportunities for significant savings.