Bridging the Gap

The Gap Between Workplace and Home

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For workers in the Washington, D. C. region, the old cliché “getting there is half the fun” hardly applies. In fact, the distance traveled to and from work and the time it takes is a primary complaint for area employees. Highly skilled employees drawn to the Washington region because of the enormous professional opportunities, are faced with a serious work-life balance challenge. When getting to and from work is a major obstacle to professional satisfaction and a content workforce, all possible solutions should be considered for employees and employers alike.

REGIONAL GROWTH & MOBILITY CHALLENGES FACING THE WASHINGTON REGION

The Washington region is growing at a rapid pace. By 2030, we will have added 1.2 million new jobs and more than 1.6 million new people, according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) forecasts. Two-thirds of all new jobs are anticipated in service industries such as engineering, computer and data processing, business services and medical research.

Employment growth is anticipated as being the greatest during the 2005 to 2010 time period, with an average of 64,000 new jobs per year expected. The region’s population is projected to grow steadily through 2030, adding an average of approximately 65,000 persons a year, spurred by the long-term strength of the region’s economy.

The trend of employees who are living farther away from their jobs is worsening, creating longer commutes. Population and job growth bring the side effect of growing congestion. With this come fundamental challenges to our quality of life, related to the time it takes to get to and from work.

Nationally, a working family spends 77 cents more on transportation for every dollar saved on housing. This, according to the National Center for Housing Policy, reflects the basic trade-off many working families face between paying a greater share of their income for housing or enduring long commutes and high transportation costs.

The Centers most recent findings are that working families spend about 57% of their incomes on combined costs of housing and transportation, with approximately 28 percent going for housing and 29 percent going for transportation. Transportation costs and commute times are increasing dramatically based on working families often seeking lower cost housing far from the their place of work. The result is often increased traffic congestion. The Washington D.C. metropolitan region has one of the least affordable housing markets, especially in some of the region’s outer suburban areas, where most lifestyles favor the exclusive use of the auto.

The National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board’s 2006 Regional Mobility and Accessibility Study has confirmed that despite future population growth, positive impact on future transportation conditions could be achieved by locating housing and jobs closer together. Other suggestions which would be necessary to achieving the right mix include Transit-Oriented Development and the expansion of public transit lines to support key employment activity centers.

COG has launched a pilot program providing grants to jurisdictions for planning projects that reduce congestion, increase use of mass transit and cluster housing and jobs together. The combination of land use and transit are key to easing gridlock, says Robert Puentes, a fellow with The Brookings Institution who has authored several publications on mass transit and suburban development.

BRIDGING THE GAP BY CREATING A WORK-LIFE BALANCE

One possible solution for workers and employers is to consider shrinking the distance between home and work. This will help ease stress as well as reduce commuting costs. Employers who assist in making the process of finding housing convenient to the workplace provide yet another benefit to employees. This helps to recruit and retain valuable employees which improves the bottom line.

Whether you’re in the private or public sector, your continued success depends on your ability to attract and retain top-quality employees. To do that, employers need to keep in mind the importance of employee satisfaction, and nothing says that more than helping a valued employee improve their work-life balance. Securing housing nearby or by making a commute more tolerable addresses this issue.

When employees are treated well, much as you treat your customers, employers realize a competitive advantage because employees are happier and, as a result, more productive. That means less time and expense are spent on recruiting, training and retaining employees.

COST OF EMPLOYEE TURNOVER

The cost of employee turnover easily reaches 150% of the employee’s annual compensation figure. The cost is significantly higher (200% to 250% of annual compensation) for managerial and sales positions. For example, if the average salary of employees in a given company is $50,000 per year, the cost of turnover is $75,000 per employee. For a mid-sized company of 500 employees who has a 10% annual rate of turnover, the annual cost of turnover is $3.75 million!

Source: William G. Bliss, President of Bliss & Associates Inc.

COMMUTING SOLUTIONS DESIGNED TO WORK…FOR EVERYONE

Commuter Connections® specializes in providing a variety of options that address the commuting needs of both workers and employers. To assist with the ‘Live Near Your Work’ initiative, housing information has been consolidated into this online Employer’s Resource Guide. This tool highlights various housing programs and resources available for the Washington area workforce and aims to assist employees with moving closer to where they work. This guide also provides a list of flexible commuting options available through Commuter Connections. Used in tandem, employers have a number of ways to provide the information workers need to make living near and getting to work a reality. Working with your internal staff, your employees and Commuter Connections to find and execute the right fit for your employees makes everyone feel “more connected” and can be a real benefit to your bottom line.