Canadian organizations could do more to ease commuter woes

Despite high gas prices, lengthier travel times, and environmental concerns, Canadian employers are implementing only limited measures to provide employees with relief from commuting, according to a new survey conducted by Hewitt Associates, a global human resources consulting and outsourcing company.

For the 236 Canadian organizations that responded to the online survey, almost half offer flexible work locations or telecommuting (e.g., working from home or a satellite company office), while 64 per cent provide flexible work hours, including condensed work weeks and flexible start times.
Employer feedback suggests that the main reason for providing this flexibility is employee wellness, not the high cost of gas or the environment.

"Commuting can be extremely stressful," said Hewitt senior organizational health consultant Rochelle Morandini. "Any methods employers offer to alleviate that stress will benefit employees. However, if organizations think more creatively, they can have a bigger impact on the environment, as well as on employee health and financial well-being. Such initiatives can differentiate employers in a tight labour market."

Increasing employee, economic and environmental impact

Organizations were also asked about more leading-edge employee benefits. "Only a handful of employers provide company-sponsored transportation to and from mass transit or parking subsidies for alternative fuel vehicles or carpool vehicles," stated Jeff Vathje, a senior compensation consultant with Hewitt. "However, other arrangements are gaining employer endorsement."

The survey data indicate that the following initiatives are making their way into the workplace:

  • 11 per cent of organizations provide a subsidy for mass transit.
  • 20 per cent provide non-financial support for car poolers, like a bulletin board to facilitate car pool arrangements.
  • 36 per cent provide bike racks, change rooms or other non-financial support for bicycle commuters.

While many employers may have more to do to ease commuter travel, they are addressing the impact of rising gas prices on business travel. Almost two-thirds indicate that they have increased their mileage reimbursement rate in the last year for employees who use their own vehicles for business-related travel. Fifty-three per cent also plan to review those rates over the next six months.

"The reasons most frequently given for recent or anticipated increases were rising gas prices, employee fairness, and remaining competitive," said Vathje. "However, a quarter of respondents stated that they increased rates because employees asked them to do so. Only 16 per cent of organizations report that they regularly review their reimbursement policy. If organizations want to build goodwill with their employees, they should proactively review mileage reimbursement rates on a regular basis."

For more information, please visit