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Are Your Staff Being Driven To Despair

Is it time for smaller businesses to move to a sustainable way of working?

Recent experience has taught me that the commute to and from Lancashires' cities is proving to be a huge source of low staff morale in the County.

Every week I hear stories of workers, my staff included, who live in the outlying areas of Preston e.g. Bamber Bridge, Leyland, Walton Summit where it is taking them over one hour to get into their work locations based in the centre of Preston and many of these commutes are less than 4 miles each way. Problems on the M6/M65/M61 motorways can exacerbate this to a point where it can be practically impossible for staff to get to work on time.

In a recent example with one of our customers, a valued employee gave in their notice of resignation, the reason being the painful commute to and from work which was often taking in the region of 2 hours each way to cover a distance of just over 20 miles. Adding 4 hours onto a working day for a commute of just 20 miles each way is not something I believe many people can be expected to tolerate. The employer was deeply distressed and came to us for help. We started to explore alternative solutions in consultation with the employee.

Other sources of transport were not a viable option as the employee lives in a rural location, so we looked at varying their working hours to avoid traffic at peak times; we agreed tools and adjusted processes to facilitate home working for part of their working week and we re-negotiated their contract of employment. The change also required a shift in the mindset of the business owner which is perhaps a bigger challenge in some cases.

The employer had invested over £2500 in training fees and time for that employee to develop their skills. The cost of finding a replacement and retraining would have been a huge hit financially on such a young company in its early stages of growth.

Thankfully this was turned into a success story and the person retracted their notice and decided to stay because ultimately they were very engaged with the Companys' values and the new working arrangements have already made a significant difference in that persons quality of life. This is worth much more than a pay rise to them.

But how many good staff are small and medium sized businesses losing because transportation or the commute to the workplace is a problem?

The so-called war on talent is most definitely here. Unwanted staff turnover results in reduced productivity and profit. Employers need to do so much more to attract and retain quality staff and this includes thinking about the possible logistical challenges for staff required to work in the business premises. The large corporate organisations have greater resources available to make flexible working easily accessible and have been adopting flexible working approaches for a number of years now and I think its time that small and medium businesses followed suit.

The benefits of flexible working may be seen in:-

  • Increased ability to adapt staffing levels according to seasonal demands and customer requirements, resulting in a positive impact on the customer experience
  • Increased staff motivation and commitment because their personal and work needs are considered equally
  • Increased competitive edge in the ability for businesses to attract and retain quality people - especially for those in high congestion areas
  • Reduction in sickness absence - journey times add stress and stress eventually leads to ill health
  • Reduction in overtime costs - productivity is increased during the standard working week
  • Contributing to reducing the environmental implications caused by congestion - it can be a focus of your Corporate Social Responsibility agenda (or CSR as we like to call it).

Some smaller employers need help in finding creative solutions about how being more flexible could improve the engagement and morale of their teams. Flexible workers do not contribute less, and they are not less committed - in fact research data suggests quite the opposite.

Equally by exploring the extent and the cost impact of the issue, we can provide meaningful data to those in our local authorities who have the means to create better solutions for our city businesses as a whole.

If you are a business owner, a Company Director, a HR Manager or an employee, I would love to hear your thoughts and personal experiences. Please drop me a line at Email Tracey if you would like to contribute to research on this topic, or receive a copy of the research report once it has concluded.

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Tracy Green
Tracey Murphy
Managing Director
01772 914085
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Published on: 16th October 2017
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