Fighting back against the daily commute: How to boost employee satisfaction

We live in an age where technology can finally fulfill the promise of “work is something you do, not a place you go”. And yet, we’re stuck in a dated model of working – come into the office, punch in, punch out, go home - which is not only demoralizing for staff, but also impinging on business performance...

We commute long distances causing emotional distress and increasing sedentary time, adversely affecting our health. Many of our workspaces are uninspiring environments that value presenteeism over productivity because the managers simply don’t know any better.

Many commuters spend 80 minutes each day traveling. That works out to be roughly 13 days per year - time that could be much better spent. By the time staff arrive at the office they’ve wasted productive time, and are often in a worse state of mind when they left home. Research has found those that commute during peak-period times can experience stress levels as fighter pilots or riot police.

A person with a one hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

Individuals are ready and willing to embrace a distributed way of working. In fact, in the UK more individuals have a preference for remote working than the typical 9-5 in the office. Not surprising given research from the University of Zurich that found a person with a one-hour commute has to earn 40% more money to be as satisfied with life as someone who walks to the office.

When people are able to work remotely, they tend to reinvest that saved time into their work – on average about 40% of time saved ends up being used to work. It also frees up time for the individual to do more of the activities they love, boosting engagement with the business.

The cost breakdown of a company roughly follows the 80/20 rule – employee costs make up 80% of the overall costs, whilst technology and real estate make up the remaining 20%. The opportunity is to make that real estate cost work harder to improve the output of the employees, and yet we do the exact opposite.

The large centralized office strategy is costing companies millions per year.  It’s estimated that these centralized offices are used on average at 50% capacity. When companies do embrace more distributed ways of working – which is exactly what they’re staff are after – they save significantly. 

A lack of flexibility in employment options is also costing individuals and employers. In Australia, it’s estimated that companies miss out on $1.4b per year by not employing more high performance staff on flexible arrangements.

A study commissioned by Google Australia found that there’s an additional $9.3 billion per year worth of collaborative opportunities that Australian businesses are missing. Companies that prioritise collaboration are twice as likely to be profitable, and twice as likely to outgrow their competitors.

We know changing the way we work will benefit both our staff and our bottom line, so what steps can we make today?

A helpful framework to follow is:

  • Distributed – Are my staff enabled to work wherever suits them and their work activities?
  • Flexible – Are my staff enabled to work when they want so long as their outcomes are met?
  • Collaborative – Are my staff enabled to connect with individuals – both within our organisation and in other organisations – to inspire and innovate?

Smart Work Hubs have been a successful tool to encourage more distributed work environments. These are professional workspaces with all the conveniences of a modern office, located in close proximity to residences. Imaging, rather than hopping on a train for one hour each way, an individual can walk, ride or drive a few minutes to their local Smart Work Hub which has everything they need for a productive work day.

Managers ultimate role is to motivate and enable staff to do their best work. One of these ways can be creating clear outcomes and allowing them to do their work activities when suits them and their rhythms best. In a hyper changing world, employees need to have access to continuous learning and networking opportunities – both internally and externally. Collaborative workspaces and professional networks allow employees to take a step beyond their day-to-day to have a better understanding of the macro context they’re working within.

So the question becomes, are you willing to allow the status quo to dictate your profitability and staff morale?  Or are you ready to make some small changes that will have scalable and systemic impacts?

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details. Thumbnail image from gettyimages.

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