Long-Distance Commuters: Workplace Casualties in the War For Talent

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It is a fact that long commutes are killing peopleemotionally, physically and financially.

That doesn’t stop people from following a paycheck in this economy. And it doesn’t stop HR departments from sourcing and recruiting candidates from distant places but declining to offer flexible work options and/or relocation packages.

I know a Chief HR Officer who lives and works in a crowded metro area. He knows traffic is a nightmare but hires people who must travel two hours each way to the office.

His company doesn’t offer relocation.

Nobody telecommutes.

A slippery slope? Please …

When I asked him why he would make an offer to a candidate who has to commute from such a lengthy distance, he told me that the “war for talent” compels him to hire the best and the brightest whenever he has a chance.

I asked, “Would the best and the brightest really need to sit in a car to have this job? And wouldn’t you want to offer the best and the brightest the opportunity to have a life? How about a little flexibility?”

He responded, “We can’t allow one employee to telecommute while others don’t. It sets a precedent. Laurie, it’s a slippery slope.”

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That guy is an idiot and should not be running a Human Resources department.

A lengthy commute is toxic

Here is what I am telling you:

  • No matter how much you love your job, a lengthy commute is toxic.
  • No responsible HR department would allow an employee to commute two hours each way. It’s risky, expensive and unsustainable.
  • There is no such thing as precedent or a slippery slope. You can always find a way to accommodate — and reward — talented employees.

It’s true that not all jobs can be done at home. But you can usually find local, talented people to fill your jobs. And if you want to hire the best and the brightest people — and an ideal candidate lives two hours away — you need to pony up. Workers should be capitalists, too.

It is time for the modern American worker to stop killing herself for a job.

Find more from Laurie Ruettimann at her blog, The Cynical Girlwhere this first appeared.


Laurie Ruettimann (LFR) is a former Human Resources leader turned influential speaker, writer and strategist. She owns a human resources consultancy that offers a wide array of HR services to human resources leaders and executives. Check out her LinkedIn profile here. You may know Ruettimann as the creator of The Cynical Girl and Punk Rock HR (retired), which Forbes named as a top 100 website for women. You may have also read her book, I AM HR: 5 Strategic Ways to Break Stereotypes and Reclaim HR. (RepCap Press, 2014.) 


6 Comments on “Long-Distance Commuters: Workplace Casualties in the War For Talent

  1. “Would the best and the brightest really need to sit in a car to have this job? ”

    In this economy, she might.

    And I know I made fun of that SHRM poll that claimed workplace flexibility was THE HR issue of the future, but I agree that the attitude of this Chief HR Officer is a little ridiculous. (And is he seriously still using the term “war for talent”? He should get fired for that alone.)

    In my view, companies should be willing to consider exceptional accommodations for exceptional employees. ‘Nuff said.

  2. “That guy is an idiot and should not be running a Human Resources department”

    – We must be family, because I’ve had the misfortune of having to say that too many times myself!

  3. Perhaps the employer could offer to offset the cost of a local apartment for the employee to use from Monday to Friday.

  4. Best article I have read on this topic yet! I was one of those “long distance commuters” for years… Then I woke up and decided to move closer to town to get more work/life balance! Life is too short to spend hours in the car everyday! I now get to spend more time with my family, friends and the community as a volunteer!

  5. in my view, companies should be willing to trust their people to deliver. Long commute is a health risk. when you hire a person, you are willing to invest in them. You should also be willing to trust them to use the working mode that works best for them.

  6. Why is it then that I’m being TOLD to apply for positions that will require +/- 2 hours each way for a low-paying job? The travel time could also require the use of at least 2-3 transit systems and 4-5 transfers at a cost of $300+ a month. I would have NO time to relax when I got home and weekends/holidays would be spent sleeping.

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