HR Strange But True!
November 16, 2007

Extreme commuting used to be defined as driving more than 90 minutes each way to work. Now, it may be defined as flying more than 90 minutes to work! But will sky-high gas prices put the brakes on this new alternative to executive relocation?

More than half of executive recruiters report that it is more difficult than ever to get executives to consider relocation due to family considerations and housing markets, according to a survey Korn/Ferry International. Even with enhanced compensation and reloca tion packages, top ca ndidates just want to stay put.

So, to recruit the "best and brightest," some companies are resorting to paying for new execs to commute instead of move, but to do the commuting by plane. While this trend certainly isn't very enviro-friendly, it's necessary to accommodate desirable job candidates, especially in technology industries, who won't consider moving, according to Jeff Hocking, manager of Korn/Ferry's San Francisco office, and the alternatives include extreme Monday through Friday commuting.

Of course, flexible schedules and telecommuting may cut down on 5-day per week treks. And those frequent flyer miles are great for va ca tions, although many top execs eschew traveling commercial. For these execs, the use of corporate jets or jet-sharing programs is part of the recruitment package.

One of the best known "extreme commuters" is Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois, who decided not to move from his Chi ca go home to the Executive Mansion in Springfield to be near his office. According to research by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the governor flies in the morning and then heads back to Chicago in the evening at the cost of about $6,000 per day, depending on which Chicago airport he uses. During the legislative season, the paper estimated that the governor's commuting cost around $75,000 per month. The governor's office said that since "his responsibilities extend beyond the state ca pital," he can live anywhere in the state as long as he is in Springfield when necessary.

However, long commutes come with a cost, according to a study by the University of Zurich, which reported that commutes of over 1 hour are not worthwhile for less than a 40 percent increase in salary. The study also reported that extreme commuters overestimate the value of what the new job will bring them in terms of material wealth and prestige and underestimate what they are losing, along with the time, in terms of health, lifestyle, and social connections. Yet many think the long commute to a better job is worth the tradeoff.

The question is, will the recent steep ascent of gas prices, and eventually the cost of plane tickets, put the brakes on this latest trend? It depends on how much employers are willing to spend--and how far executives are willing to go.

Sources: Korn/Ferry International and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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