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Gas Prices Don’t Have to Drive Employees Away

As a commuter who relies on mass transit, the rise in gas prices has not had the same effect on me as it has employees who drive to work daily, or even worse, those who drive for work.

Unless you live in commuter-friendly areas like DC (lucky me!) or NYC, mass transit isn’t always an option. For example, most Floridians are stuck driving to work, which is why I found research conducted by a Florida State University (FSU) management professor interesting. How are high gas prices affecting employees and what is the resulting dip in productivity doing to businesses?

At the time of the FSU survey, respondents were paying an average of $2.83 for gas, which has increased considerably since then -- in most cases over a dollar more per gallon. The cost of gas not only impinges on personal finances, people everywhere are stressed out about it and distracted at work. This is a problem that spans occupations for the most part. In fact, according to the FSU research, one in three people would trade their job for one closer to home. Considering these findings, maybe if I had to drive my two-hour-plus roundtrip commute, I would feel the same way – but please don’t tell my boss.

In a business world that (generally speaking) is trying to be more sensitive towards everyday “green” practices, the continual rise in costs associated with getting employees to and from work only strengthens the need for flexible work alternatives and better public transportation.

Leave it to South Florida to come up with a well-received arrangement that encourages employees to use public transportation. The city of North Miami now offers its very appreciative employees the opportunity to purchase mass transit passes for $15 a month (down from $75). 

Another way to beat the gas prices is by working from home. If telecommuting is a possible solution that you’re considering for your employees, check out the HR Capitalist’s take on this, as well as points to consider before implementing a company-wide policy. On a smaller scale, employers can encourage employees to carpool – set up a section on your intranet for employees, or post signup flyers in break rooms, and offer incentives if possible. One idea is to reward employees who carpool with coveted parking spots (e.g., inside parking garages and out of the winter snow or summer rain).

Of course, being the loyal Sierra Club member that I am, I feel obligated to pass on this message from a recent Sierra e-newsletter…

Memorial Day Weekend is coming and -- in spite of gas prices -- more Americans than ever are planning to getaway by car http://www.usatoday.com/travel/news/2007-05-17-travel-aaa-forecast_N.htm. But that doesn't have to cost as much as you think.

There are lots of ways to save gas (checked your tires lately?) but the easiest and most effective way is to slow down (just a little bit). When you add up the savings, it's like getting paid to relax.

So before you get behind the wheel for the upcoming holiday, show us what you're made of. Pledge to Drive 55 (or whatever the speed limit is on the roads you're traveling) for Memorial Day Weekend. Poor Sammy Hagar can't do it, but we bet you can. After all, even jets are slowing down to save money http://www.usatoday.com/travel/flights/2008-05-02-slow-fuel_N.htm!

The Union of Concerned Scientists tells us that dropping from 70 to 60 mph improves fuel efficiency by an average of 17.2 percent. Dropping from 75 to 55 improves fuel efficiency by 30.6 percent http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/04/28/MN9H10BFRS.DTL!

And lastly, it’s important to keep communication flowing in your organization to help employees deal with the frustrations they may be feeling about gas prices and other cost-of-living increases, which most likely are not being offset by any adjustment in pay (but this is one idea to keep in mind!). Let employees know that you understand, that it affects you too, and keep encouraging them to find alternative solutions. As always, the best way to get employees onboard is to serve as an example – your message will resonate more if employees can relate to you, and practicing what you preach will go much further than just the sermon. So the next time you run into one of your employees or co-workers on the train, say “Hi”.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scope out the best route to the beach based on the gas stations with the lowest prices before leaving for my 3-day weekend…

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jessica McKenzie, MS published on May 22, 2008 5:32 PM.

If I sound distracted on the next conference call... was the previous entry in this blog.

Incentives and Awards and Gifts, Oh My! is the next entry in this blog.

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