How to Help Employees with Rising Gas Prices

The high price of gas.Are your employees complaining about the high price of gasoline?  Are you wondering if there is something you can do to help them with the cost of their commute?

When commuting becomes a hardship, employers can find themselves facing a choice between losing good staff, or providing economic assistance to offset the expense of transportation.

As members of the workforce scramble to find jobs that are closer to their homes, or that pay more, companies must weigh the cost of turnover against the cost of easing some of their staff’s financial burdens.

There are many creative ideas to assist employees as they struggle with rising commuting costs!

Hire local!

If your employees live within the close surrounding area, less of a commute burden will be placed upon them.  There isn’t a much more simple or directly effective way to cut down on commute costs than to hire someone who really doesn’t have to commute!

Arrange for employees to telecommute.

In our office, we found that with only a very small investment on our part, our bookkeeper was able to work from home and only come into our office one day a week.  This not only reduced his commute expense, but also freed up an office four days a week for other uses.

Telework can be a great solution to commuter woes, and your company can benefit from it as well. For instance, it can:

  • Reduce your overhead by decreasing the amount of office space needed
  • Reduce absenteeism
  • Increase employee retention
  • Increase productivity
  • Be perceived as a very appealing benefit to current & potential employees

Kitsap County had a pilot project for telework, and from that came a great toolkit to help companies implement telework in their organizations.  To learn more, visit their Telework Toolkit website.

Give gasoline gift cards as rewards & bonuses.

Gasoline gift cards, which can be purchased at many retail outlets in a variety of denominations, make great employee incentives.  We’ve given them as “thank you” gifts to employees or as  awards for employees of the month.  It may sound practical and boring, but people love getting them!

Raise your mileage reimbursement rate.

The IRS has an approved mileage reimbursement rate for business, which is currently .51 cents per mile.  Companies aren’t required to pay that full amount, but if you pay less than that you might consider raising your rate a bit.  It’s important that you reimburse your employees for mileage they incur on the job.  This defrays the cost of their gas, insurance and wear and tear on their vehicle, and also reduces your company’s liability.

Rethink your sales routes.

If your business requires salespeople or staff to frequently travel around on different circuits, rethinking, streamlining or restructuring your routes can reduce travel expenses, and might even result in some brainstorming of new marketing ideas!

Shorten your company’s workweek.

Depending on your business, another option may be to offer your employees a shortened workweek.  If an employee can work four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days, it cuts down on one commute per week for them.  It can also benefit your customers, as you will have employees available to serve their needs earlier and later in the day.

Implement flex time to create commute-friendly work hours.

Another option is to alter an employee’s workday so they don’t waste their gas sitting in traffic jams.  For instance, allowing an employee to start their day at 7:00 and leave at 4:00 may help them miss traffic back-ups where they sit idling for long periods of time.

Companies that implement flex time usually set some parameters, such as requiring that everyone be present at some point between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., while allowing their employees to dictate which hours they will work within that time frame.

If you have the ability to provide some scheduling flexibility, it may be very beneficial to both you and your staff.

Give your staff a commuting “allowance”.

Another company we know has given all of their employees a $50 per month car allowance to help defray their commute expense.  An alternative to this might be to provide bus passes, ferry passes, or assist your employees in setting up car pools.

Some companies are even subsidizing closer housing or hybrid cars for their valuable employees, though this is obviously something that’s beyond the reach of many smaller businesses. A less spendy option along similar lines is to provide a company van for your business’s car-pooling program, which reduces wear and tear on the vehicles of employees who are willing to ride-share.

You can even offer free gas to employees who allow you to place removable company logos or ads on their cars.  This is a creative solution that helps your staff as much as it does your marketing department!

Create a bike-sharing program.

Some European businesses have had bike-sharing programs for years, allowing staff to check out free company-owned bikes for their daily use.  Some American companies have joined this trend, but bike-sharing programs are still not widespread here.  It’s a pretty nifty solution that improves your employees’ physical health while boosting your business’s green cred.

Offer incentives for environmentally-friendly commuting.

You can also offer rewards and incentives to employees who participate in environmentally-friendly programs.  Giving special parking, free gas, car washes, free lunches, or special casual clothes privileges to people who participate in car pools or bike to work boosts morale and adds a touch of fun to the solutions you provide to your staff.

The wrap-up.

As gas prices continue to rise — and we all know they will — this will continue to be an issue.  In our business, we now hear from job seekers who are limiting their commute range due to the cost of fuel.  This results in serious retention and recruiting issue for all employers.

Kitsap and Gig Harbor businesses will need to find creative and appealing solutions in order to continue to attract and retain the best talent available!

Originally published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

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