It’s time to pay travel time

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The View From Taft

I have been travelling long distances since I was in grade school. I got accustomed to the time spent travelling as well in the effort and mindset to prepare for the travel. Waking up earlier, preparing earlier or even the day before, not being able to eat breakfast, looking groggy, and enduring cold baths. This was the trend then and continues up to now, especially for those who live in the provinces and work or study in Manila.

I am sad to report that now travel time is much longer and more difficult. It used to be that I could get into a public utility vehicle, find a seat, and comfortably travel to Manila. Today, standing inside buses for hours just to get to work is a daily occurrence. This is the daily battle I must face, and I am obliged to win. There is really no surrendering or giving up because there is no leniency when it comes to punctuality in work. Most organizations are strict in checking attendance and punctuality. Also, it is not the organization’s fault that we have horrendous traffic. A solution could be to rent a place near work, but it isn’t an option for everyone, mainly because not all can afford to do so.

The recent news regarding being able to work from home and shortening the work week is a welcome option for long-distance commuters like me. It really sounds like a solution to our commuting issues, but it is not available to all. Only a few organizations (mostly large and already sustainable ones) will try to integrate these initiatives. However, many employees work for Small- and Medium- Sized Enterprises (SMEs), and these SMEs will most probably opt out of these initiatives. So, what about relief for SME employees?

It got me thinking that if companies will not opt for work-from-home and shorter-work-week schemes, why not consider paying employees for their travel time going to work instead? Employees’ travel time is unproductive time for the organization and unprofitable for employees. If travel time was just about 30 minutes to an hour, that would be tolerable, but if it would take two to three hours one way, then that is a significant productivity loss for the employee. And to make the scenario worse, the total travel time would be doubled because we also have to consider the trip home. So, at least six hours a day can be considered lost productivity time due to travelling alone.

I am not saying that all the travel time would be paid for because that would surely generate huge costs for the organizations. The organizations could even look at it as the employee being on official business because they are travelling to perform their job. The benefit of incurring such a cost should be considered. Being paid to travel can boost employee morale so in turn they would be motivated to go to work due to the generated extra income in their pocket. It could help alleviate stress and burnout and in turn make employees more productive.

But organizations should not be forced to do so. I believe that people are the fuel that keeps the organization running and it is just right to take care of your people. I tried searching for local organizations that have this benefit but it seems that nobody has yet ventured into this. I think in the long run an organization that would integrate this scheme would gain more motivated and loyal employees. Is it not time to consider this? This is not a consideration only for us from the provinces but also for city dwellers. It really will be beneficial to both the organization and its employees.

Though this may be a long shot, at least I’ve presented my case. Is it not time that travel be paid?


Angelo Zeus Serrona is an MBA student at De La Salle University’s Ramon V. del Rosario College of Business. This essay was written as part of the requirement in his Strategic Human Resource Management class.