In a recent survey, nearly a third of HR professionals said they know at least one employee who quit in the past year because the high price of gas made the commute too expensive.
Rather than watch those employees jump ship for jobs closer to home, some employers are actively addressing the driving dilemma—and revving up their retention programs.
Here are eight real-life trends around the country:
1. The year of the four-day workweek. Historians may look back at 2008 as the year the five-day workweek died.
A recent Society for Human Resource (SHRM) survey found that a quarter of employers nationally were offering some sort of four-day-week benefit for employees to offset higher energy prices.
Example: On Aug. 4, Utah becomes the first state to switch to four-day weeks for most of its state workers. The trend is more common among city and county governments, and it’s growing quickly among private employers.
2. Buying down the price of gas for workers. Example: Racing USA, an online seller of NASCAR merchandise based in Birmingham, Ala., guarantees its employees won’t have to pay more than $2.85 per gallon for the gas they use to commute. The company pays the difference.
3. Trading gas money for publicity. Example: Employment site Jobing.com pays employees an extra $500 a month plus 100% of their fuel costs—for commuting and personal trips—if they outfit their personal cars with billboards for the Phoenix-based company. More than 60% of the firm’s 270 employees participate.
4. Telework goes mainstream. Businesses that never would have considered allowing telework in the past are opening up. In the past four months, phone calls to The Telework Coalition seeking advice on setting up telecommuting programs have tripled.
A Connecticut PR firm told employees to pick one day each week to work from home due to gas prices. Georgia legislators told state employees to work from home one day a week.
5. Offering tax-friendly, commuter-assistance perks. Your organization can deduct the cost of buying transit passes for your employees. Plus, you can skip paying federal payroll taxes on transit commuter benefits, a savings that could cover the cost of administering the program.
6. Letting employees “win” gas. Example: Each week since June 2, one employee of the S&R Communications ad agency in North Carolina has won a $50 gas card in a drawing. President Paul Dreyer says he will continue the drawings, which will cost $7,000 through the end of the year, “as long as business conditions permit.” Some employees have taken their names out of the running so more needy colleagues have a better chance to win.
7. Paying more per mile. A SHRM survey says 42% of employers so far this year raised mileage reimbursement to the IRS cap. Last year, just 17% met the cap. (The IRS increased the allowable reimbursement rate to 58.5 cents per mile on July 1.)
8. Organizing car pools and bike commuting. Casual car pool bulletin boards in the break room have gone high-tech. More employers use online and discussion groups to facilitate car pools and van pools. Priority parking spaces are given to those who share rides.
To encourage biking to work, a Des Moines employer hosted a bike-to-work week and improved parking and safety for bikes.
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