We all kind of know this fact. Once you get more than 30 minutes away from your job, no matter how you actually come to work, it starts to feel like a chore. You begin to hate the commute. Doesn’t matter if you drive, take a train, walk, etc. 30 minutes, one-way, is our max!
It’s called Marchetti’s Constant:
Marchetti’s constant is the average time spent by a person commuting each day, which is approximately one hour. It is named after Italian physicist Cesare Marchetti, though Marchetti himself attributed the “one-hour” finding to transportation analyst and engineer Yacov Zahavi. Marchetti posits that although forms of urban planning and transport may change, and although some live in villages and others in cities, people gradually adjust their lives to their conditions (including the location of their homes relative to their workplace) such that the average travel time stays approximately constant.
I can’t tell you how many times, as a Recruiter, I was talked into believing this wasn’t true by a candidate who then screwed me by ghosting on an interview after driving to the location and seeing it was too long, declining an offer late, started the job but then quickly left because the commute was too long, or we had to over-compensate to make up for the time the person spent on the commute.
Probably one out of one hundred people can actually take a longer commute and live with it. 99% of people will eventually crack if the commute is over thirty minutes. So, what does this mean for us trying to attract talent to our organizations? There are certain locations in the U.S. that are much easier to have a thirty-minute commute than others:
On average, large metro areas with the shortage commute time:
- Grand Rapids, MI
- Rochester, NY
- Buffalo, NY
- Oklahoma City, OK
- Salt Lake City, UT
- Kansas City, MO
- Milwaukee, WI
- Louisville, KY
- Hartford, CT
- Memphis, TN
All of these metro areas have the majority of their citizens with a commute time under 30 minutes.
Who has the worst commute times? Think about the largest metro areas, even when you take into account their transit options: New York, San Francisco, D.C., Philly, Boston, Seattle, Chicago, etc.
So, it’s thirty minutes one-way or one hour per day, or five hours per week, that the average person is willing to commute. I wonder if this plays itself out when you begin to factor in work-from-home options.
Let’s say you ask someone to commute one hour each way, two hours per day, but you let them work from home two days per week. Total commute time is still more at six hours per week, but would that make a difference enough to retrain and attract more talent to your organization? I have a feeling it would. It’s worth a test for those who have longer commutes at your work location.
Also, I have seen this done by any company, but I would love to see turnover data by commute time! I have seen data on hourly worker turnover, and it’s amazing to see the differences by miles from a worksite in a radiant pattern. Every mile you get farther from the work site, the turnover increases exponentially until you get to about five miles, where it skyrockets. So, we know if you hire hourly, low-skilled workers, your best bet for retention is less than five miles from your location (this also is about a 15-minute commute – car, public, walking, bike, etc.).
So often, we want to focus on the stuff we control versus stuff the candidate or employee can control, but we think it’s ‘their’ decision. The problem is we allow people to make bad decisions and don’t think it will affect us, but it does in high turnover. All things being equal, or close to equal with candidates, take the one with the shorter total commute!