The debate on how many days employees are expected to work in the office rages on. Opinions are polarised ranging from the likes of Airbnb, who is happy for its staff to work permanently from home, versus employers like Alan Sugar who want all staff back into the office asap. There are also companies trying to strike more of a balance through offering hybrid working, some proposing that employees take a pay cut when working from home and others offering to fund the commute entirely.

The latter approach is interesting. Given the recent sharp increase in the cost of living, employees will welcome any progressive employer helping reduce the financial burden of commuting. Add to this very low unemployment levels, and companies who do step up in this area surely will stand a better chance of retaining staff as well as attracting the best new talent.

Kura’s “Commuting to 2025” report last year (based on a survey of 2,000 office workers) revealed that 83.7% of employers had no plans to support or contribute to the cost of the employee commute. This was surprising considering moving staff from commuting by low occupancy car to public or shared transport helps reduce the employer’s business mileage and carbon emissions, thereby supporting delivery of their net zero strategy.

A recent YouGov/Emburse 2022 survey revealed 68% of office workers would consider returning to the office full-time again, but only if commuting costs were part or fully funded. It also highlighted that a four-day week was likely to lure many workers back to the office, with 59% keen to work the same number of hours (but over four days). Unsurprisingly, more paid holidays struck a chord with 52%, as did employer paid lunches (30%) and paid childcare (14%).

The best initiatives (carrots) to help lure workers back to the office full time are:

What is clear is that the daily commute is now a major issue for employees, especially in London and the Southeast, and how employers react to this change will have an influence on their reputation and staff retention rate. The major outtake from the Kura “Commuting to 2025” report was that many employees now believe it is time for their employer to take greater responsibility for ensuring they can travel safely to and from work. Action here will demonstrate how much employers care about staff health and wellbeing as well as how seriously they want to be seen as a carbon neutral, sustainable business .

The Kura report highlighted most employers were willing to support their people on their commute but many did not know how, so helpfully some ideas can be gleaned from the survey answers to the key question, “what travel modes will be the future of the work commute”.

Whilst electric vehicles are a more environmentally friendly option than petrol equivalent, they fail to solve the critical issue of traffic congestion in our towns and cities. Kura has therefore been campaigning for the Government and the private sector to continue to invest in other more sustainable modes especially public transport and the coach & minibus industry. One 49 seater coach replaces an average of 31 cars on the road, resulting in a 75% CO2 emissions reduction on a 20 mile journey and frees up multiple car parking spaces so saving the company money.

In the future, employers will have a critical role to play in rewarding the right employee behaviour to help create a safer, greener, smarter commute and a more sustainable planet. Commuting is the new differentiator. Through showing they care by funding the employee journey to work, employers will significantly improve staff motivation, productivity and well-being. They will also boost their reputation across all stakeholders from investors, customers and suppliers to those valuable employees.

Kura Commuting to 2025
You Gov/Emburse survey