We’ve reached a point in our economic revival where the issue of commuting should be a bargaining chip during negotiations for a new job.
After living in Seattle for 18 years, I often hear the complaints of Puget Sound-area commuters about the terrible traffic they face daily. My usual response, as a native Marylander and a veteran of the commute in the Washington, D.C., area, is “you have no idea how good you have it here.” Driving anywhere among the lobbyists, legislators and lawyers on the Beltway around “the Other Washington” is more like a “Game of Thrones” siege than a daily commute, I would say.
There is more than anecdotal data to back up my assertion: The latest study by Texas A&M University of traffic in the top 100 cities in the United States declared our nation’s capital to be the No. 1 most congested city in the country, with each commuter spending 82 hours each year in gridlock. But I must add that my fellow Seattleites and I now have a leg to stand on. The same study said Seattle had the seventh worst traffic in the nation, with commuters sitting in stopped traffic for 63 hours per year, costing each of us nearly $1,500. This should be considered unacceptable in such a high-tech metropolis. Seattle commuters, you’ve earned your gripes.
We’ve also reached a point in our economic revival where the issue of commuting should be a bargaining chip during negotiations for a new job. Most companies still expect employees to take care of their own daily transportation, but with King County’s unemployment rate falling safely back to 4 percent, job seekers now have more clout when it comes to commuting perks. Here are a few things to ask for once you have a job offer.
Commute compensation. Before signing the dotted line, see if there are any programs that pay for (at least partially) any public transportation used to get to work, or perhaps parking fees for those who must drive. Some companies may pay for a monthly pass on an ORCA card or provide extra space for bicycle storage as an incentive to leave cars at home.
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Flexible hours. Ask if it would be possible to come in and leave earlier each day to avoid traffic crunch times (or to come in later and stay later, if you’re a night owl). For those who make contact with clients in other parts of the country, or globally, coming in earlier or later may make it easier to reach people in different time zones.
Work from home, part-time. While some companies are fearful of losing control of their employees, there are ways to establish telecommuting without sacrificing efficiency or oversight. According to career consultant Alexandra Levit, author of the “Water Cooler Wisdom” blog, use dollars and cents to make your case. “Tell your boss that you plan to get more work done in less time due to the minimization of distractions and not having to commute,” she suggests.