Long commutes pose a danger to health

Many employees often complain about their commutes to work, but studies show that heavy traffic may not only be an inconvenience, but also lead to poor health and wellbeing. A study conducted earlier this year published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that individuals with longer commutes – typically by car – had higher blood pressure and higher body mass index than their non-commuting counterparts. HR professionals can help ease the burden of their employees’ commutes by offering traveling solutions including telecommuting options, alternatives to driving, and de-stressing options.

The danger of long commutes

Heavy traffic is not only an annoyance, but it results in greater dangers to individuals. Studies show that the major dangers posed to health are high blood pressure and higher body mass index. Researchers conclude that the stress of heavy traffic initiates aggressive responses that lead to an increase in blood pressure, a strong predictor of heart disease, and some forms of cancer. Spending extended amounts of time in the car also increases the chance of unhealthy eating. Many individuals might snack aimlessly in the car or choose on-the-go unhealthy meals to compensate for the short free time they have left in their day. The decreased discretionary time also means many of these individuals often have less time to concentrate on fitness. This also increases employees’ risk of obesity. Some additional dangers employees will experience in heavy traffic include distractions from smartphones, cellphones, and other drivers on the road that may cause life-threatening accidents.

Employers can help

Employers can improve their employees’ commuting experience by providing flexible travel and work options to reduce employee stress levels. HR professionals can add the following initiatives into their wellness program:

Telecommuting options – Employers can offer their employees the ability to work from home once a week in order to cut their commuting time. When implementing such a program, however, it’s important to establish guidelines detailing which employees are eligible, when they should report to their manager, how to effectively manage their time when they’re away from the office, and how to track their work time.

Carpooling groups – Creating carpooling groups in the office is a great way to allow employees to reduce their driving time and stress levels.

Public transport assistance program – Employers can offer train/bus assistance in order for their employees to reduce their driving time. These programs can include employer paid discounts or a convenient payroll deduction that employees participate in. This allows employees to relax on the ride to work instead of increasing their stress levels in heavy traffic.

Fitness classes – Many employees who have long commutes will often neglect fitness due to time crunches. Employers can offer fitness classes onsite during lunch hours so employees have the opportunity to incorporate exercise into their routines. These classes can include high-energy workouts, like aerobics and kickboxing or stress-relieving exercises, like yoga. All varieties of exercise improve the health and wellbeing of employees overall.

Audiobooks – Many experts recommend the use of audiobooks as a way to calm stress induced by commuting traffic. Employers can create a library of audiobooks that employers can borrow and use in their commute.

The bottom line

Long commutes and heavy traffic not only interfere with emotional wellbeing, but overall health, as well. Studies show that long or heavy commutes result in high blood pressure, increased body mass index, and life-threatening distractions. Employers can reduce their employees’ commute and stress levels by implementing traveling and work options, including telecommuting, carpooling, transport programs, and other stress-relieving tools. Employees who enjoy an easier commute will not only be more productive, but happier, as well.

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