Approximately 150 million Americans commute to work every day, according to the United States Census Bureau, with the vast majority (128 million) using personal automobiles. The amount of energy used to accomplish a daily commute is staggering; the average person spends $2,600 a year going to and from work.
The environmental cost is equally vast, as personal transportation accounts for 20% of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. Small-business owners can help employees find the best way to commute to work while saving energy, increasing employee retention and even earning tax breaks by participating in transit benefit programs.
The average commute to work is 26.4 minutes, with many employees spending more time on the road. Presuming a full-time, five-day workweek and round-trip commutes, commuting to work eats up over 200 hours a year per employee — or approximately nine days’ worth of travel time.
An average commute to work in busy traffic can leave employees frustrated and tired before they even clock in, reducing their productivity. Commutes home also affect productivity, as employees start thinking — and worrying — about the journey home in the last hours of their shift. Employees with exceptionally long or stressful commutes may even choose to leave the company in favor of working closer to home.
Commuter benefits programs, also known as transit benefit programs or qualified transportation fringes, help small businesses provide their employees with commuting solutions, reducing employee stress and energy consumption.
Commuter benefits programs are voluntary employee programs that offer commuter benefits for employees. Programs may be overseen by the employer or a third party, or they may be part of a state-run program.
Commuter benefits programs work by helping employees use less energy during their commute by supporting carpooling, offering subsidies for work-related parking costs and promoting ways to commute without a car, such as bicycling or using public transit.
Commuter benefits help you attract employees because they are fringe benefits — small but meaningful perks that come with working for the company. In a competitive labor market, fringe benefits help sell your company as a desirable place to work. Employees who enjoy fringe benefits are also more likely to remain with the company.
Commuter benefits programs help employees save energy during their commutes, which is great from an environmental stance. From a financial standpoint, transit benefit programs also offer value to employers. Commuter expenses are exempt from federal income and payroll taxes and are often excluded from state taxes as well.
Most states offer transit benefits. Check your state’s website to see what benefits they offer and how to access them.
Employers can help employees explore alternative ways to commute to cut down on energy use. Rideshares, public transit and other ways to commute without a car are all options.
Cars are by far the most popular means of commuting, but they are also the costliest in terms of energy consumption and carbon emissions. The average car emits 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year.
Pro tip! Employees can save on commuting expenses by keeping an eye out for gas stations with lower fuel prices and filling up when they find them. People who wait until their tank is empty have no choice but to gas up at the nearest station, regardless of price. You can even find apps that help you locate the cheapest gas along your commute.
Public transit offers ways for employees to commute without a car. Using public buses or trains reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 4,627 pounds per person while saving on gas and parking costs.
Employees who live close to work can turn their commute into a healthy walk or bicycle ride. Both cycling and walking burn calories while eliminating the carbon emissions produced when commuting in automobiles. As an employer, you can encourage healthy, active commuting.
Commuting is part of your employees’ work experience, and when you help them save energy on their commute, you’re also helping improve their workday — and their quality of life.
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