INBOX INSIGHTS, June 8, 2022: Commuting, RTO, Carbon Impact

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Out of Touch Employers

If I had to take a wild guess, I would assume you’ve seen the emails from Elon Musk stating that employee must work a minimum of 40 hours a week, not remote.

“Everyone at Tesla is required to spend a minimum of 40 hours in the office per week. Moreover, the office must be where your actual colleagues are located, not some remote pseudo office. If you don’t show up, we will assume you have resigned.”

Read the full article here.

On the other hand, I was reading research from McKinsey that stated that mental health support is sorely lacking – but vitally important.

“Employees need, and increasingly demand, resources to help them cope with mental health problems. If companies make mental health services more accessible and intervene in the workplace in ways that improve well-being, they will simultaneously make investments that will provide real improvements in employee outcomes and consequently in company performance.”

Read the full article here.

So, what does one have to do with the other?

When I worked for a company that demanded everyone be in-person and work a minimum of 40 hours a week I was stressed out. I was anxious. I was depressed. I spent almost two hours sitting in traffic to get to the office. Then another six-to-seven hours a day in meetings, leaving one hour to get any actual work done. This often meant that I would stay at the office an extra few hours to catch up, and then spent two hours driving home. Quick math – that makes a 15-16 hour day. That left me zero time for anything else. By the time the weekend rolled around I was too exhausted to do much of anything, let alone address my mental health. To that point, there aren’t a lot of medical and mental health practices available on the weekends if it’s not an emergency.

Long story short, my commute was contributing to the depression and anxiety I was feeling from a toxic workplace. And it was the hours I was being forced to keep that did not allow me to address my mental health.

There is no shortage of research around work/life balance, mental health, and remote work benefits. It all points to we (people) are anxious, tired, and burnt out. Demanding even more of us is not going to get good results.

I was talking with a client the other day and they are having a lot of staff turnover in rapid succession. They are struggling to backfill the open positions so the remaining team members are being asked to take on more and more responsibility. And then those team members leave, perpetuating the issue.

Back to Elon. You can (and I have) argued both sides of his commentary. Remove Elon from the equation and think about any employer you’ve worked for. People should be doing the work they are paid to do. Not everyone is productive when they are remote. I get it. There are always going to be exceptions that make a rule hard to enforce. On the other hand, when I think about my previous life and my sixteen hour days (which didn’t include cooking, cleaning, having a personal life, and appointments) I bristle when thinking about those employer demands.

In the case of Elon, he’s totally in the wrong. His actions don’t match his words. He is taking a 23 billion dollar bonus. He’s incredibly out of touch. So take his demands with a grain of salt.

So what do we, the employees, do?

As an employer, you can ask whatever you want of your employees. However, you have to deal the the consequences if it doesn’t align with what your employees can give. As an employee, you can choose to not work for someone that doesn’t support what you need. However, and this is a hard pill to swallow, you may not ever find your perfect position so you may need to re-evaluate what is critically important and what is nice to have.

What’s your take? Let me know in our Free Slack Group Analytics for Marketers.

– Katie Robbert, CEO

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Data Diaries - Interesting Data We Found

In this week’s Data Diaries, let’s talk about data storytelling and Katie’s perspective on commuting and its toll on workers. The folks at LinkedIn even pointed out that commutes are what may be blocking more employees from returning to work.

One of the questions asked recently in our Analytics for Marketers Slack group is what data storytelling looks like in a more concrete manner. So let’s explore commuting through this lens.

First, start with some basic numbers. On average, in the USA we work about 260 days per year. That is all the weekdays, minus 11 federal holidays. Some jobs include paid time off, usually about 2 weeks, so that leaves about 250 working days per year. That’s our first data point.

What’s the impact of commuting? Well, suppose your commute by car was 28 minutes one-way to work, which is the average travel time according to the newest release from the US Census Bureau. That translates to an hour a day, 250 hours per year.

What’s your hourly rate? If you take your annual income and divide by 2080, that’s your effective hourly rate. Suppose you make $50,000 per year. That’s an hourly rate of $24 per hour.

Your commute is time you’re not paid for, but it’s time you have to spend. If you were being paid for it, how much would it be worth? 250 hours * $24/hour = $6,000. If you were paid for your commute, that would be the equivalent of a 12% raise.

That’s major point 1: a commute costs you an average of 12% of your pay in time.

Now, let’s take into account the cost of the commute itself. How much does your vehicle cost you? According to Credit Karma, the average cost of a car payment in the USA is $644/month for new vehicles, $488 for used vehicles. Over the span of a year, that’s $7,728 for a new vehicle, $5,856 for a used one.

But that’s not all. With gasoline hovering around $5 per gallon and the average daily commute being about 41 miles round-trip, you’re driving 10,250 miles per year. The average gas mileage for USA cars is about 25 miles per gallon according to the US Department of Energy. So with some more math, 10,250 miles / 25 miles per gallon = 410 gallons * $5/gallon = $2,050 in gas costs. And that ignores things like other maintenance, tires, etc.

So in addition to your time, your commute with an average new car costs you $9,978 per year in ownership and fuel costs, $7,906 for a used one. Using the same $50,000 per year income, your car ownership costs you up to 20% of your income. Even the gasoline alone costs you 4.1% of your income.

That’s the personal cost of a commute. Let’s talk about one more aspect. So many companies have made pledges and promises about sustainability, but you know what would make a huge dent in corporate carbon emissions? That’s right: letting people work without having to commute.

According to the US EPA, a gallon of gasoline burned by a car contributes 8.9 kilograms of CO2. With 410 gallons of gas burned by a single car in a year, that works out to 3,649 kilograms – about 8,000 pounds – of CO2 added. 8,000 pounds is 4 tons; the amount of CO2 a single car burns (19,628 cubic feet) would fill 56 twenty-foot cargo shipping containers, as shown in the red highlighted containers:

Visualization of 56 cargo containers full of CO2

How many people drive to work? Prior to the pandemic, 130 million people drove to work each day. That cargo ship above holds 10,000 containers. To get a sense of how much CO2 commuters in the USA generate, you would need a fleet of 2,000 cargo ships every single day to carry the CO2 generated by commuting.

If companies wanted to absolutely smash their sustainability goals, letting people avoid commuting would easily be one of the biggest net contributions towards CO2 reduction they could make. Obviously, not every job can be performed remotely, but even a minority of jobs would make a substantial reduction in CO2 and thus reduce the impact on climate change.

When it comes to commuting, we see there are substantial personal and global costs. Letting people avoid their commute saves their sanity and reduces climate impact.

And when we’re talking about data storytelling, this is an example of it. We don’t just pour numbers on people’s heads – we attempt to convert those numbers into things that have real meaning, like money or physical objects, and we weave a narrative with logical connections from point to point. That way it’s easier for our audiences to visualize and understand how important something is, and how different data points relate to each other.

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