The high cost of gas ... on our pocketbooks and our productivity

Soaring gas prices are a real pain. Not only on our personal finances ("can I afford this week's groceries AND a full tank of gas?"), but also on workplace morale. Not seeing the connection? The following article from G.Neil's HR Library sheds some light on the subject:

Most employers know about the impact of poor employee motivation, lacking of rewards or communication problems on employee morale and productivity. But have you factored in the price at the gas pump?

High gas prices are not only draining employees’ pocketbooks, but also their work productivity, according to Florida State University (FSU) researchers. In 2008, studies at FSU showed that the more employees must pay out at the gas pump, the more stressed they are at work, says Wayne Horchwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Management at Florida State University’s College of Business.

Three years later, in an economy where job losses, underemployment and flat wages have hurt employee buying power even more, Dr. Horchwater's findings are even more significant. So what an employer to do?

Get creative with the high cost of employee commuting

The average commute time to work in this country is about 42 minutes. Double that to account for the trip home at the end of the day, and you have just under an hour and a half of non-productive employee time spent getting to and from work. And a lot of gas money.

For many employees, work means sitting in a an office or cubicle working on a computer monitor. So why all that driving? Habit. Tradition. Fear of loss of control. Maybe it's time to let those excuses go.

If your employees are suffering with the high cost of commuting, consider letting them work remotely two or three days a week. The savings in gas and auto wear-and-tear will feel like a raise to struggling employees. And your company will save on electricity, plus reap a reward in increase employee motivation and morale.

Flex your corporate muscles - and the schedule 

In some businesses, being in a certain place at a certain time is critical. But does everyone have to start and end during rush hour? Offering employees the option of starting and ending before or after rush hour could save them money at the pump. Less sitting in traffic means a shorter commute and better gas mileage - a double win for employees hungry for fatter wallets and more time with family and friends. And a win for your company as employee motivation and morale starts to rise. 

Pay salaries employees for work completed, not seats warmed   

If a salaried employee comes in and works 14 hours on Monday, and 14 hours on Tuesday, and 14 hours on Wednesday, and gets everything on their plate completed, why are you making them come in on Thursday and Friday? Stop looking at work as hours on the job, or days of the week, and consider letting exempt employees work on a project basis instead. Apple, Google, Microsoft and other leaders in thought and technology work this way, so why not your company? Employees who are allowed to work on projects rather than hours report higher company loyalty, higher levels of employee motivation, and higher levels of productivity. And that doesn't even take into account the day or two a week of savings on gas and tolls.

If employee motivation matters, show it 

When real buying power is dropping - and employee motivation and productivity is falling with it - employers need to address the problem. And when raises and bonuses aren't on the table, make sure something creative takes their place. Your business could depend on it.

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