Getting Your Boss to Pay for Gas

Currently, only about 30 percent of employers say they have formal programs in place to assist workers with rising gas prices. But the more we talk about the pain at the pump and the more we shed light on what some companies are doing, the faster that number will increase.

Employers are doing big and small things to help their workers out. For example, just this week Methodist Hospital System in Houston announced that it was giving $250 gas gift cards to each of its nearly 10,000 employees.

Other employers are distributing free or subsidized mass transit passes. And some, like Yahoo!, reward employees for carpooling to work. Every day, employees who don't show up for work alone earn Yahoo! Commuter Bucks, redeemable for free lunches, movie passes, massages and other perks.

Two words explain employers' generosity: loyalty and retention. Employers want to retain the best talent and build loyalty by showing that they're responsive to the needs of their work force -- in this case, by lessening the pinch at the pump. Every employer that values its workers should seriously consider assisting with the financial burden of higher gas prices in some capacity -- or risk losing valuable people to companies located closer to their homes or to companies that offer such assistance.

Approaching Your Employer

Most programs don't require any out-of-pocket money for the employer, which makes this affordable to organizations of all sizes. And even for those that do require some investment, the benefit to the company is enormous in terms of goodwill and loyalty among the troops. Some specific ideas to consider:

Ask your manager about a temporary schedule change.

Ask for a temporary compressed work week (four 10-hour days) or for the ability to telecommute one or two days a week, which would lessen your commuting costs. Offer to rotate schedules with co-workers with similar needs.

Create your own ride-matching service.

In the absence of a formal program, organize a lunchtime meet and greet or an afternoon ice cream social that encourages employees who share ZIP codes to attend, and create interest in forming a carpool. There's a good chance your manager will gladly support such a get-together because it builds camaraderie with the emphasis on saving money and reducing stress.

Explore "Commuter Rewards" programs.

You might even be eligible to make money by carpooling.

In many major cities, there are initiatives that will actually pay you to try public transportation or to carpool, but not everyone knows about them.

In Atlanta, for example, a program called Cash For Commuters will pay you $3 a day for up to 90 days to carpool or use public transportation. The idea is to get people to try it because there's a good chance they'll be hooked. (Less than a year after registering for this program, more than 60 percent of users continue to participate.)

Atlanta's Carpool Rewards program allows carpools of three or more people to earn gas cards of $20 to $60 a month, based on the number of riders.

Not only should you look into such programs on your own, but encourage your employer to get involved as well. The services are free to employers to help them evaluate and implement the right kind of program for their work force

Propose some fun.

Suggest that the your department or the company give away gas cards as raffle prizes in meetings or as spot rewards for monthly attendance or a job well done. An investment of as little as $15 or $25 for a gas card can go a long way toward making a staff meeting fun and showing employees that you care. Don't bring doughnuts -- bring gas cards!

Biking to work is growing in popularity. Employees are asking companies to install bike racks, provide free bike rentals or assist with stipends to purchase bikes used for commuting.

Research competitors and talk to management.

If you're looking for bigger subsidies or special accommodations, such as long-term telecommuting, bigger stipends toward gas or public transportation, or guaranteed emergency rides home if you've carpooled but need to leave early or work late, then it's likely you'll have to convince senior management -- not just your direct supervisor.

You can say, "I know that our company prides itself on being a leader that treats its employees fairly. To that end, I wanted to show you what some of our competitors are now doing to assist their workers with rising commuting costs."

Present a brief written proposal -- one page is plenty -- that offers examples of benefits being offered by a few employers in your area or your industry. Include media stories on the same topic. That often catches the boss's attention!

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