A Little Homework May Get Extreme Commuters Off the Road

By Gina Ruiz

Dec. 20, 2007

Companies hire extreme commuters because they often are the best and the brightest at what they do, workforce experts note.

    Unfortunately, retaining these employees can be somewhat of a challenge because besides struggling with the familiar causes of turnover—stress, dissatisfaction, lack of mobility—they also must contend with the mental and physical strain inherent in extreme commuting.

    Faced with the possibility that road fatigue could push valuable talent back out the door, some companies may try to convert extreme commuters into local employees—a task easier said than done, according to John Touey, principal at Salveson Stetson Group, an executive search firm in suburban Philadelphia.

    “Convincing employees to relocate is becoming increasingly difficult,” he says. “But it is well worth the uphill battle if it means holding on to strong performers.”

    To maximize the chance of success, companies need to have a clear understanding of the needs and personal circumstances of the specific extreme commuter, such as knowing if the employee has a spouse or children.

    With such insight, employers can offer options to make relocation less intimidating for the worker and family. If there is a working spouse in the picture, companies could offer relocation packages that extend career counseling and job placement services.

    It’s one way to diminish concerns of a working spouse, who may persuade an executive not to relocate for fear their own career will suffer with the move, Touey explains.
“The decision to relocate is often not solely up to the worker,” Touey notes. “There are other important forces at work that employers need to take into consideration.”

    Companies should not assume that just because an extreme commuter is acquainted with an area, that person also knows the benefits the new community has to offer. Employers should arm themselves with relevant information that could be used to entice extreme commuters into relocating.

    Touey suggests companies turn to the local chamber of commerce to gather valuable marketing data.

    “The primary purpose of these organizations is to boast about the place they represent,” Touey explains. Employers can find information about quality of life, schools, culture and health care to pass on to the long-distance commuter.

    Companies also should be realistic and realize that they will often be unable to sway an extreme commuter to relocate, Touey explains. If an employee has a child who is in high school, it’s unlikely the family would be uprooted before the academic year is over.

    In these instances, employers may want to weigh expanding the existing flextime benefits for extreme commuters and hope burnout doesn’t result in turnover.

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