Employers offer gas relief through benefits

Wednesday, July 30th 2008, 7:58 pm
By: News 9

By Charles Bassett, News 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- The average Oklahoman spends more than 100 hours a year commuting to work and those hours on the road burn up gas and cash.

Many company benefits include retirement plans, medical coverage, daycare and workout facilities, but John Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas said some employees have called for more.

"Workers are coming into their bosses and HR and asking, ‘What can you do to help me get cross town? My commute is just too expensive and too long.' More companies are now responding," Challenger said.

A new survey by Challenger found that 57 percent of companies offer at least one program to help ease the cost of commuting.

"Employee retention, even with unemployment rising, is a crucial issue for employers," Challenger said. "They can't afford to lose their best people."

The most popular gas-saving benefit is a condensed work week, with some employees transitioning to four 10-hour days.

"Just that one extra day off from having to commute in and out of work is a big savings," Challenger said.

Some employers also organized carpools, subsided public transportation and telecommuting. At health provider Humana, which employs 18,000 people nationwide, more than 10 percent of its staff now works from home at least one day a week.

"It's a great way to give people an alternative, to give a quality of life," said Humana spokesman Nate Kyamme. "We feel that that's very important to employees."

In some locations, Humana staff can also ride public buses for free or sign out a bicycle provided by the company.

"Whether they want to use it to commute to work or if they want to take it to a meeting or to lunch. And all we ask is that you bring it back the next business day," said Kyamme.

Employee Brian Mitchell checked out a bike almost every day to get to and from work.

"It's kind of almost turned into a game where I never even drive my car. So, I'm filling up very rarely," Mitchell said.

By biking, Mitchell estimates he has saved almost $250 a month on gas.

"It's made a huge difference on our budget. It's a really great program," Mitchell said.

If a company doesn't offer such benefits, Challenger encourages employees to talk to their human resources department.

"Let them know your feelings," Challenger said. "Maybe you can work something out individually. Maybe you need to go in, in numbers."

Mitchell said daily biking has helped him not only slim down by 10 pounds, but shed some money off his gas bill.

The survey also found some companies offer employees gas card prizes, monthly transportation stipends, and shuttle services.