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Posted 18 Sep 2019

Reading time: 5 Minutes

Benefits with Benefits – Top talent doesn't care about a free trip to Disneyland.

With Millennials and Gen Zers driving change, offering employee benefits is no longer just an added bonus, but rather the standard. While offering gym memberships or trips to Disneyland sound cool in a job interview, what is it that employees are really looking for? 

The discussion is no longer “should a benefits package be included in a job offer?” Instead, it asks which are the ones that actually serve employees, promote company culture through internal marketing and incentivize top talent retention.  

A Case for Commuting

As an employer or head of HR in 2019, offering only a gym membership to employees may be missing the mark. Millennials and Gen Zers are educated, political and aware of social issues. In the wake of unpaid internships and backlashes against toxic workplaces, there is higher importance placed on a balanced lifestyle and mental wellbeing. Most importantly, a company whose culture revolves around looking out for its employees. 

So what is a big-ticket item to include in a benefits package? Taking care of an employee's ability to get to and from their place of work is one excellent option. The time employees spend commuting not only negatively affects their health and happiness, but is essentially free labor. What’s more is that in most industries, it is the burden of an employee to pay to get to work, whether that’s putting gas in their car or acquiring a monthly public transit ticket. 

To briefly put it into Marxist terms, commuting is essentially labor time that goes into making the workforce fit and ready for work. It indirectly creates surplus-value, which should be compensated regardless of whether or not it falls into the category of purely productive labor. 

A (VERY) Brief History of Commuters’ Employee Benefits

Way back in ancient Roman times, officials were given rations of supplies when they went on state business. The rations, or viaticum, could mean a mode of transportation, such as a horse, food supplies or warm clothes. 

This practice gained popularity once again in the 15th century, an era Carl Marx noted as the “golden age” of the English laborer in town and country. This “golden age” was a direct effect of the plague, which left the population decimated, making workers a scarce commodity and giving them a leg up in demanding fair treatment. 

Back in 2015, the European Court of Justice ruled that for some European workers, commuting time should be counted towards working time. However, this applies to only a few industries – mainly employees without a fixed place of work. 

Commuting Statistics in Germany 

A recent study from Germany’s Federal Institute for Research on Building, Urban Affairs and Spatial Development found a rise of 0.2% in commuter numbers. This puts the total number of active commuters in Germany at 18.4 billion. 

A staffing solutions service, sdworx, reported that 17.9% of German commuters traveled more than 90 minutes each day to get to work. Furthermore, the only countries in Europe to surpass Germany’s commuter times are England and Belgium. 

Not only are the numbers of commuters on the rise in Germany but the amount they are traveling is as well. An ethics question comes into play when thinking about whether or not employees are in control over the distance and travel time between their work and homes. The less-than-pleasant reality is that often workers are not in control of this. They are simply finding housing solutions that fit their budget. The problem further extends as companies are often in or around urban centers. While this increases connectivity, urban centers often also have a higher price for residential rent. Taking into consideration German cities like Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Düsseldorf where two-thirds of employees working are living outside of city limits, the problem is far from a niche experience. 


One employee benefits app changing the game is ePilot. ePilot is on a mission to take companies’ green missions to the streets by providing electric mobility employee benefits packages. We insist on providing benefits that positively affect the health, wellness, and work-life balance of employees while also focusing on the health and wellness of our planet. For this reason, we want employees to have the opportunity to make greener choices in their daily lives – namely, their commute.