Commuting: a chore or necessity?

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Commuting: a chore or necessity?

Recent reports show that nearly 31% of jobseekers would be happy to commute over twenty miles daily for employment, with 10% claiming that a daily commute of fifty miles is acceptable. It’s a far cry from whole communities huddled around a handful of industries, workers walking to work in droves, smog funnelling up into a slate grey sky before them. In our post-industrial worlds, we are now much more flexible and willing to travel long-distances to work, often outside of out familiar neighbourhoods. This is the twenty first century, with fragmented workforces, shrinking manufacturing and a dispersed service industry. We no longer walk to work – we drive.

But who pays for the commute? The question of expenses is a complex subject.

Technically, expenses should relate to money spent on business purposes. There should be no ambiguity in how the money is spent and who it serves. As such, commuting to work is not considered business travel, and therefore is not a valid business expense. Where employees chose to live, and how long they commute to work, is their decision and they are accountable for moving closer to the place of employment if the commute is too troubling.

Of course, there can be exceptions to commuting and expenses, including

  • If expenses for commuting is agreed in the contract of employment
  • If the commute is done in a company car
  • If the company relocates and increases the distance of the commute

An alternative option for those facing exhausting commutes is home working. Figures show that 23% of UK employees work from home, with expectations this figure will continue to rise in the coming years. Allowances to work from home must come from the employer, who needs to think carefully before granting employees the freedom to work from home. Do you trust the employee to guide their own working? Do they show the necessary discipline required form home working? Can you provide suitable infrastructure and access to company files? Will they become isolated and ineffective? Or is the commute robbing the employee of productivity and drive?

For some businesses, having employees working from home can be a positive development, producing increased productivity and engagement, as well as increasing recruitment pools when it comes to finding talent to help the business grow. It seems increasingly important for companies to explore employment models that balance modern lifestyles with business development. Considering the legal ramifications of new employment models is also a pre-requisite.

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Elena Boura