Employees Now Expect Companies to ‘Can’ their Commute

Professionals don’t want to commute anymore, and this hardly comes as a surprise. Commuting often poses challenges to an individual’s life, but most have accepted it as the only way to land the best jobs with the best companies.


This issue has been an exceptionally acute in Asia-Pacific (APAC), as the region boasts many of the world’s most densely populated cities. According to a Global Mobility Study, India, Hong Kong, Singapore, and the Philippines are among countries or regions with the longest commute, where people spend an average of 1.5 hours traveling every day. As commuters are confronted with the daily inconveniences of traffic and overburdened public transport systems, the effects of a lousy journey can spill over into the workplace.  


However, employees around the world are now gaining more and more power when it comes to dictating what an average working day entails. According to IWG’s Global Workplace Survey, eight in ten people won’t take a job that doesn’t offer flexible working, both in the region and globally. 



The commuters’ angst 


The Survey represents the views of 15,000 businesses and professionals from 80 different countries, including nine APAC countries and areas, and aims to understand current attitudes about flexible working arrangements. It examines the impact of commuting on people’s lives and how individuals–and in some cases, their employers–are dealing with it.


The results revealed an unhappy bunch of people, with two in five of the Survey’s APAC respondents (41%) reporting commuting to be the worst part of their day. One in five (24%) workers say they are “regularly late for work due to travel disruptions.” 


The commute experience is also impacting on workers’ broader life decisions, including their place of residence. Almost one-third (30%) of APAC respondents said they would prefer to live in another area, but do not plan to move because it would increase their commute time.


Fortunately, commute-free and commute-light flexible working options are becoming more commonplace. 74% of APAC respondents acknowledged that businesses in their sector are offering flexible working options to reduce commute times. 32% of APAC respondents believe that by 2030, commuting will be a thing of the past.



Future proof your HR strategy


A recent survey revealed that APAC is suffering the most severely from talent shortages globally, with five countries in the region on the list of the world’s top ten worst affected markets, including Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and India (ManPowerGroup). 


In a region where businesses have to deal with highly competitive talent wars, employees’ perception of commuting is a crucial consideration for their human resource strategy. It is high time for APAC employers to acknowledge how their employees’ daily drudge is a problem for the business as well, as employees are already looking to commute-light options. Businesses that have not implemented flexible working policies should start planning right away, or they will risk losing talent to other companies that have done so.


For companies that can’t eliminate the commute, which is still a reality for the majority of businesses in APAC, it’s important to listen to their employees and look for ways to ease the burden that commuting puts on them.


In APAC, 47% of workers spend their commute working, and as a result, nearly half (42%) think that official working hours should include time spent on their journey, as this does not constitute free time in their day. It is worth it for companies to explore whether commuting hours can be incorporated into work contracts.


Not only is commuting a drain on time and energy for employees, but it’s also an expensive business. While some companies offer season ticket loans as part of their benefits package, over half of APAC respondents (55%) want businesses to subsidize the cost of commuting.


A flexible workplace policy can be challenging to implement if there are substantial cultural barriers. However, if employers want to attract and retain the best talent, there is a need to look for ways around this. IWG’s research showed that 82% of APAC workers would turn down a job that doesn’t offer flexible working, and 46% believe a choice of work location is more important to them than working for a prestigious company.


Given that people are a company’s greatest asset, failing to address employees’ needs and wants won’t only impact recruitment and retention, but will, in turn, hit the bottom line.



 About the Author


Nancy Yip Country Head of Hong Kong, IWGNancy Yip is the Country Head of Hong Kong, IWG (International Workplace Group), leading operations in Hong Kong and is responsible for the overall performance of all flexible workplaces operated under IWG through the brands of Regus and Spaces. She is also in charge of team management and business development. 


Yip is a result-oriented executive who has over 15 years of management experience in the technology sector. While she has hands-on experience in managing different client environments, she also specializes in delivering the best solution to clients based on their business needs. 


Prior to joining IWG, Yip had held various senior positions at global technology companies, including Microsoft, SAP and Oracle, where she built and grew professional business relationship with both industry peers and business partners. Yip is also an advocate of extensive people development and delivery of world-class customer services, making her a multi-faceted senior management uniquely suited to delivering success. 


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