January 28, 2014

Another cost of Motordom: Long commutes and high turnover

Michael Alexander noted this item in They’re Watching You at Work, the cover article in December’s The Atlantic on how employers are using Big Data to improve hiring and promotion practices: “It’s not unusual for call centers, for instance, to experience 50 percent turnover in a single year…”

Then comes this factlet from Xerox Services, whose “150 U.S. call and customer-care centers… employ about 45,000 workers.”

…as recently as 2010, Xerox has filled these positions through interviews and a few basic assessments conducted in the office— a typing test, for instance.

…Previous experience, one of the few criteria that Xerox had explicitly screened for in the past, turns out to have no bearing on either productivity or retention. Distance between home and work, on the other hand, is strongly associated with employee engagement and retention.

Another reason why “drive till you qualify” for a mortgage, the traditional way that many new homebuyers select where to live, can a bad choice. Homes at the far edges of metropolitan centres are less expensive because land costs are lower. Because banks don’t consider the cost of a family’s transportation when qualifying it for a loan, breadwinners often endure the high costs of long commutes to and from work.

And long commutes, it turns out, correlate with poorer employees and a company’s increased costs of higher turnover.

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  1. This feels right to me. My personal experience is more commute means more “I hate work.”

    I used to commute for an hour and half both ways. I would get to work and count down the hours until I had to run to catch the train back home. I was disengaged from work and not as productive as my employer would have liked.

    Before that, I used to ride my bicycle to work and home from UBC to North Vancouver. It took about an hour and I loved it. In fact, it was the same work (employer) I did when I commuted by train.

    I work from home now and wouldn’t trade it for anything. With no commute it frees up time to spend with my family, run errands (grocery shopping in the morning is a breeze) or work on other things like home maintenance, personal projects, exercise, etc.