WBUR’s On Point: Are paid commutes the next big trend in employee benefits?

Lindner professor weighs in on if employees should receive compensation for their commutes

As return to office mandates continue to spread, the debate surrounding employee compensation for their commutes to the office is growing. 

Laurens Steed, PhD, Carl H. Lindner College of Business assistant professor of management and John and Gloria Goering Professorship in Family & Private Business, weighed in on the complexities of the matter with NPR affiliate WBUR’s On Point podcast.

“The idea of paying workers directly for a commute, so if you’re compensating them for the time they spend on the road or on the train or however they’re getting to work, it opens up a lot of complex logistical decisions for organizations that I’m not sure they have the capacity to deal with right now,” Steed explained to On Point host Meghna Chakrabarti. “And that I think is inherently the issue here is there are a lot of ways that employers can help defray some of these commuting costs, but the actual hourly compensation I think would be pretty difficult.”


Laurens Steed, PhD, assistant professor of management and John and Gloria Goering Professorship in Family & Private Business.

Recent studies show employees in the 25-44 age group are most favorable toward these policies. Employees in this age group are often in a stage of life where they must heavily consider family commitments, such as raising children, as part of their work-life balance. And, due to the pandemic, this population also have different perspectives on work and flexibility compared to previous generations.

But critics of the idea say it raises issues of fairness and how much involvement employers have in the lives of their employees. Others see potential compensation for commutes as an indication of a larger issue surrounding affordable housing that pushes employees to live farther from their workplaces where there is a lower cost of living.

Steed offered some recommendations, however, for how employers can make workers’ commutes more palatable.

“A lot of employers already offer some sort of commuter benefits. It might be a commuter benefits card where you can take out pre-tax money as an employee — and employers might contribute, too — and it helps defray some of those cars. They can use it to pay for parking or they can use that to pay for transit passes and help cut some of those commuter costs down.” 

See more from the On Point podcast.

Featured image at top: Passengers commute via train. Photo/Corey Agopian via Unsplash.

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