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I'm responsible for a small group of employees and we just acquired a client that needs their skills, but require them to work on its premises.

The client's offices are located in an area poorly served by public transportation, and this means that my colleagues will have longer commuting time, about 45 minutes more than what they are used to now (from a 1h commute they will have 1h45min commutes, approximately).

This makes them unhappy, and I care for them and this worries me. I asked my own boss if there is a way to compensate the extra cost they're going to encounter, but the company's policy won't allow it in this precise case (although the commute is much longer, it is still within the borders of our city, and thus it is not eligible for compensation in our company).

They asked if, after a couple of months of trying the new job, they could request to come back working in our main offices, but I have no other colleagues with their knowledge background, so I cannot propose them to switch with others.

The client is a strategic one, and I cannot afford to lose it: I need to provide the service.

I don't have any clue about what to do to improve the situation, how could I make them understand I value their opinion, even though I cannot do anything reasonable to meet their preference?

Is it true that I do not have much of a choice or did I overlook some possibility?

EDIT: I know this is not an optimal situation for my colleagues, that is the reason I sympathize with them and I'm trying hard to find a reasonable solution.

My company isn't evil either (on the contrary, usually we take every possible extra step to make everybody happy). No company in this region organizes payed transportation for less than hundreds of employees (not that I know of), and it is hard/impossible to compete on the market having this kind of extra cost.

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    Any possibility of a flex schedule? Some people might prefer to work 4 x 10 hr days instead of commuting 5x a week, for example, or arrive at 6am to beat traffic. – user812786 Nov 2 '17 at 13:44
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    Are those 45 minutes one-way, or daily total? – CodesInChaos Nov 2 '17 at 14:41
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Nov 5 '17 at 20:23
  • @CodesInChaos 45 minutes one-way, 1h30 extra time each day – Federico Bonelli Nov 8 '17 at 17:18
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    @FedericoBonelli Can you please confirm that your company expects them to drive for nearly 2 hours to the job, work for 8 hours (or more if you don't count lunch break!), then drive nearly 2 more hours, for a total work day of 11.5 hours, but only pay them for 8 hours - only 2/3 of the time they spend dedicated to your company? – Adam Davis Nov 9 '17 at 17:58

18 Answers 18

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Is it true that I do not have much of a choice or did I overlook some possibility?

Besides the basic stuff, such as carpooling, providing extra time off, or paying them additional money for their travel time and associated costs, there isn't much else you can do now.

Down the road, once you have established yourself with your client, and they come to know and trust your team, you could make a push to pull the team back to the main office.

Your executive team needs to know about the burden placed on your team, and hopefully they can make concessions. At some point if the travel time is too painful, you will start to lose members of your team.

  • One other thing is to offer accommodation near the "other" office. – tehnyit Nov 7 '17 at 22:19
158

Your best opportunity to address the issue was when you bid on the work.

I have experienced cases where the employer provided funds for commuting, or provided additional pay for taking a position on a contract that was not located in a convenient area. But they planned for this while scoping the work and rates.

If it is too late to negotiate a different price, or the company is not willing to provide different pay; then you may have to start transitioning employees off the contract as you win other work near the main office. Then you hire employees who have the skills and want to work at the customer location.

Long/difficult commutes are reason why some employees leave. Not addressing the issue may cause some of your employees to leave.

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    +1 The requirement to have a team with special skills work on-site at an inconvenient location carries a real cost. That should have been budgeted in the bid for the business. It seems that the employer hoped to have the team members pay the cost, without compensating them for it or spending any money on mitigating it. – Patricia Shanahan Nov 3 '17 at 0:04
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    "we just acquired a client that needs their skills, but require them to work on its premises" means the client needs employees but does not want to deal with the human aspects of having employees. So they hire your company to do it for them. But your company is not doing it - so expect to experience some retention problems. – emory Nov 4 '17 at 10:28
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    +1 for "Long/difficult commutes are reason why some employees leave". I left one of the best jobs I ever had because a long-term construction project turned my 1.25h commute into a 2h commute. I now won't even consider a job with a commute that's longer than 1/2h. – TMN Nov 6 '17 at 16:32
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If the employees see the situation as open-ended and either long-term or indefinite, they are already shopping their resumes. There are only a few ways you'll keep them:

Have a definitive end

Show them definitively that there is an exit strategy for them to come back to the office, with a timeline that is reasonable/acceptable to them. Communicate that plan clearly to them, and stick to the plan, and engage them with the plan. If you are hiring new staff to work at that location, then include them in the interview process.

This plan can't slip and slip, or it will appear to be incompetent, or worse, theater to keep them indefinitely.

They travel on the clock

They don't get credit for their normal commute, nor are they asking for that. However, travel time, transit costs, mileage and tolls beyond the normal is funded by the company.

When I say "time" I mean their additional commute to the remote site comes out of their 8? Hour workday... So 2x45 min means their workday at the remote site is 6.5 hours. Or, if they're hourly, pay them an extra 2x45 min, but this does nothing to rectify the core complaint of having too little personal time remaining.

Do not fall prey to the logic that they are salaried so overtime is on them. That's meant for occasional application... in a customer emergency or code crunch, for instance... but making it business as usual requires an at least proportional salary bump (9.5/8 is +19%). If that number makes you gulp, then you understand the imposition you are placing on them.

If their wages are appropriately high, and the extra transit, fuel and toll expense is trivial by comparison, you don't have to sweat those. My lawyer doesn't charge me mileage.

Shortcut the transit

You said the new location is in an area poorly served by public transportation, implying the time loss isn't from sheer distance, and a private vehicle could get there much faster. You or the employer may need to provide the private vehicle. Then, this works in one of two ways. First, the vehicle lives at your home office, they commute normally to the home office, then pile into the vehicle for the drive to the work location. Or second, shortcut the transit:

If all your employees do (or could) travel to an intermediate point before coming to your main office, say they all come up the Sodor Line, ride through the Toppemhat station, to the Thomaston station near your office, a 20-40 minute train ride... Then a 10 minute wait for a bus... Then a 20 minute ride to the office. You store the van at Thomaston, and they all pile into it and ride to the remote office. Even better, if Toppemhat station is nearer the remote office, you do the same thing with the van at Toppemhat instead.

It's possible the vehicle commute could be quite reasonable, say 20 minutes from Toppemhat Station (a shorter train ride too), and their commute to the remote office could actually end up being shorter than their ordinary 1h commute. At this point it becomes an employee perk rather than a burden.

Congratulations, you now have a Scooby Gang with a Scooby Van, eager to take on other jobs too.

Sharpen YOUR resume

If the employer is going to be so unresponsive to these employees as to lose them, then you can't do good work there either. So make like the employees and quit. If you quit before them, you won't have to deal with their departures. Then poach those employees, they'll be easy pickings.

(Alternately the company considers your notice to be a wake-up call and says "wait, we did not realize the problem was that serious. Tell us what you need." And believe me it can be really hard for car-drivers to get what an imposition bad transit locations are.)

Of course, Murphy's Law says your new company will grab the contract for that same firm, so you'll be right back to "deja vu all over again"! Hopefully this time with a van.

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    @JuhaUntinen non-compete, in the EU at least, is only enforcable for comparative industries. An insurance company cannot usually impose non-compete on an employee who moves to energy. – Gusdor Nov 2 '17 at 18:01
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    " My lawyer doesn't charge me mileage." You're right. He charges the whole Porsche ;) – Eric Duminil Nov 2 '17 at 18:55
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    As an additional thought - at least where I live, legally, employees are responsible for their commute, regardless of distance. However, travel between job sites - say, the main headquarters and the client - is legally the responsibility of the employer, meaning payment for mileage, company vehicle, etc. If the main office is on the way, then carpooling from there to get to the client would be paid for by the company, and count towards hours worked. – ArmanX Nov 3 '17 at 20:24
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    Or, if they're hourly, pay them an extra 2x45 min - No way. That's an hour and a half of overtime. That's about a full third of the very precious leftover time in a day that people need to live their lives. You want that time? You pay double or triple - it's worth much more than straight time during the normal work day. – J... Nov 5 '17 at 11:56
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    If an employer baulks at a 19% raise, imagine how the employee feels about having had a 19% pay cut. – Jonathon Cowley-Thom Nov 6 '17 at 11:08
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You might as well start advertising for their replacements now. You are going to need them fairly soon. Look for people who live closer.

Since you say you have no other staff with the right skill set, find out if someone who lives closer or doesn't mind commuting would be interested in gaining that skill set and then train them starting immediately.

Tell your current staff that you understand their objections, that you will try to find them other contracts and replace them one by one in a particular priority order (based on length of commute or time at the company) as you find -replacements. But it will have to be one at a time and the next one can't move back until latest new hire is up to speed. If they can consider it a short-term assignment, then they will be less likely to leave. See if you can offer the ones who do stay for X months a bonus.

Ask them for help in documenting things really well so that you can slot new people in relatively easily. Ask your best people to prepare a training course as well. The faster the can get people up-to-speed, the faster they can move back to another contract in the office.

See if the client can offer a four-day work week if you make sure there is always coverage. The longer day with the commute is more palatable if you get an extra day a week off. Or try the extra hours to get a day off every two weeks.

Could you find money in your budget to hire a van to take them to the new office? If the commute is less difficult, they might be more willing.

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Since you're getting no help from corporate, the only way to address this with your people is with some sort of "soft benefit" that you can either expense or do for free. Perhaps you can negotiate on their behalf for additional paid time off? You need to take a creative approach.

At the same time, continue to push this with the higher ups. Low morale is a productivity killer. Make it clear to the higher ups that they will pay now in compensating your people, or they will pay later by having to hire new people and retrain them. This is not only a financial risk of paying for new hires. You also risk loosing the strategic client as you will potentially loose the ability to perform the services. You can drive this home by saying:

I have no other colleagues with their knowledge background

Put it forth as an unnecessary risk to the company and see how they respond.

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Bottom Line : You must show management the estimated cost of their plan because they only care about money. You must demonstrate a false economy is being made.

I'm responsible for a small group of employees and we just acquired a client that needs their skills, but require them to work on its premises.

Given what you've said I'd say the likelihood is high that these apparently skilled employees in demand by another company would seek to move to that company or another one under these conditions.

The client is a strategic one, and I cannot afford to lose it: I need to provide the service.

You is the operative word here.

They probably can. And they probably will dump your client and you quickly.

What your employees might accept :

  • A reduction of their working day on site by e.g. 45 minutes ( that is about half of their extra commute time which are being forced on them by managers who suffer in no way ! ).

  • Extra money for the extra time and extra expense of the commute. This needs to be realistic : 150% of hourly rate for that time. People work so they see their families and they benefit from it. Not seeing their families has a high price tag for most people.

  • Alternatively, extra time off. Half day a week perhaps ( note that you've essentially robbed them of 5 x 1.5 hours = 7.5 hours a week in extra commute time, so if you got away with just half a day a week I'd be surprised - I'm sure they can do maths ).

  • As per the excellent suggestion by @mhoran_psprep arrange to compensate staff until you can find at least some new staff who can handle the commute (for their own reasons) and relieve the fatigue that will rapidly overtake your existing staff.

I requested my own responsible if there is a way to compensate the extra cost they're going to encounter, but the company's policy won't allow it in this precise case (although the commute is much longer, it is still within the borders of our city, and thus it is not eligible for compensation in our company).

What you need to do is make a financial case for this :

Profit side for company

  • Company gets strategic partner on side and happy

Extra costs with keeping staff happy or unhappy

  • As described above : budget for the equivalent of adding one extra person for every five you have. That's the equivalent of 7.5 hours a day for each of five people. It's going to come out at that one way or another.

  • The high cost of replacing experienced and skilled staff with new ones. Don't just say this to your boss, work out a realistic estimate for the cost of replacing staff who leave (and at least some will !). Include the effect of replacing trained, experienced staff on this key customer's site with untrained staff. Note : I was told by one employer they had budgeted for me being totally unproductive for six months while being brought up to speed on complex internal technical specifics and up to three years before I became as productive as existing team members. In other words both training on internal systems and protocols and experience operating them in the field takes a great deal of time even for technically qualified people.

  • Fatigued staff make mistakes. The longer you stress them the more this moves from a possibility to a certainty. How long will your important client tolerate mistakes before they switch to a new company ? Make a cost-risk analysis of this if possible to bring this into the mindset of the upper management who won't change protocol on principle. Staff fatigue and stress (which the company can be held legally responsible for and had legal obligations to avoid !) can carry an enormous actual cost. Mistakes may also have a financial penalty depending on your contract with the client, so factor that in too.

  • Lastly remind senior management that the warm glow of not breaking their self-serving rule on not paying will be cold comfort when this forces a much larger set of problems with real, quantifiable costs on the company. The term to use here is false economy.

Now it's quite possible that upper management will still bury their heads in the sand : I've seen this so often I actually expect it to happen more often than not. However, by actually converting the expected disaster into a financial cost they can relate to (and it's all they care about), you might get their attention focused on the need for more realism.

It may even be that the potential loss of staff could cost more than replacing your problem client. Don't be afraid to draw that conclusion, at least as a possibility, if the figures show it to be the case.

But of course there is one other possibility : you do the maths and it turns out that upper management are right and the potential costs of staffing problems and the rest of it are less than the profits from keeping the client happy. There have been strange cases of the upper floor actually being right in the past (my socialist heart says it can't be true, of course :-)). But you may need to open your mind to the possibility that this actually is a viable and well considered plan by the company. If you're ethically uncomfortable with that then I'm afraid you might need to find a new job.

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This makes them unhappy, and I care for them and this worries me. I requested my own responsible if there is a way to compensate the extra cost they're going to encounter, but the company's policy won't allow it in this precise case (although the commute is much longer, it is still within the borders of our city, and thus it is not eligible for compensation in our company).

Other answers have covered what you could have done very well. In terms of what to do now (other than just expect everyone to leave), your only real option is to go to management and get them to reconsider this position.

Companies can always make exceptions to these kinds of policies if they deem it appropriate - so you have to show them why it's appropriate to fund an exception in this case, and the consequences to the company if they don't.

If upper management still don't budge, then make it very clear in writing that the probable consequence of this is a large portion of the team leaving over the next few months. At least in this case, if upper management ask the question of why a significant portion of your team are leaving, you have a paper trail to show you tried to alleviate the problem earlier on.

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    +1 for the last paragraph. Without this, maybe you will get fired in a few months for losing that important client. – Josef Nov 3 '17 at 15:37
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    @Josef it does not matter. OP is going to get fired when the strategic partner leaves whether there is a paper trail or not. OP needs to find another income source ASAP. – emory Nov 4 '17 at 10:44
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First you need to have an outlook for your employees to get to a situation that is acceptable for them. Because if they are already asking to change this situation, most of them probably won´t stay with you on this forever. Especially as you are saying you have no one else in the company that can do the job and the client is a strategic one you have to take measures to mitigate that risk.

You need to have a plan that everybody subscribes to, even if it takes some time to implement. People are willing to bear a lot more, if the know it´s going to get better some day.

One thing you can do, is ask your team to participate in solving the situation. They know the client better and maybe not all of them have the same problems with the place of work. Maybe there is some kind of middle ground where only some of the team have to be on premises etc. Any solution they come up with has a much greater chance of acceptance than a forced top-down solution.

Then, you have to plan for some fluctuation. Try to get some new hires in the pipeline who are happy to work off-site. You can´t allow your company to open themselves up to having such a critical resource. Best case you can switch some of your team-members to an internal position and replace them with those. Worst case you´ll need them because somebody quits.

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If I travel for my company, I am paid mileage for my travel in my personal car that is over and above the distance to the office. For example, it's ~25 miles to the office but ~40 miles to the airport; I can charge for 30 miles each time I take a business trip (I don't do that, it's just an example). If I drive from the office where we're located to a site 200 miles away I can charge for 400 miles. The company isn't fond of this and so requires that I rent a car and expense that and the fuel that I purchase.

A similar solution should be offered to your employees - they have been put out by having to drive an additional hour each way every day - so, if they are averaging 30mph then get 60 miles per day; 60mph gets them 120 miles every day; etc.

Your corporate (if located in the US) is going to have a hard time refusing these expense reports.

  • You might want to read the third paragraph of the question again - it sounds like OP has already tried asking but the company won't allow it. – user812786 Nov 2 '17 at 20:05
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    @whrrgarbl - note my last line ; if this is a US based company they may be required to compensate their employees for driving beyond what was additionally agreed upon. Also, if the employer is going to take the hard-line the employees can also claim this as a business expense on their taxes. – KevinDTimm Nov 2 '17 at 20:25
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When your company bid for this work, they needed to take the extra expense into account (that is, the time cost of an extra 1.5 hours per team member per day). If you've failed to do this, then maybe this contract isn't as profitable for you as you first thought.

Do the mathematics again, and figure out whether this contract is still profitable if you pay your employees for the extra travel time. If it is still profitable, then go ahead and compensate the employees appropriately. If it's not still profitable, then pull out of the contract as soon as you legally can. Make sure you let your team know that you'll be doing that, so they can stop looking for other work.

If you don't do this, then the profit that you're making is at the expense of your employees. If you truly care for them, as you claim, you wouldn't even be considering staying in this contract.

5

You

My company isn't evil either (on the contrary, usually we take every possible extra step to make everybody happy).

The people that make you money

I requested my own responsible if there is a way to compensate the extra cost they're going to encounter, but the company's policy won't allow it in this precise case (although the commute is much longer, it is still within the borders of our city, and thus it is not eligible for compensation in our company).

The money

The client is a strategic one, and I cannot afford to lose it: I need to provide the service.

The way I see it is pretty simple. If you usually take every possible extra step to make people happy, you absolutely need to take this extra step and making an exception for the people that are making the money that you can't afford to lose. The alternative is that you will lose the people and possibly also the money.

5

The company is now taking 7.5 additional hours of life away per week from each employee - essentially forcing them to work a six day work week. That's 360 hours per employee, per year, assuming the 45 minutes is each way.

That's equivalent to 45 eight hour work days - over two months per year.

No wonder they're complaining, and no wonder they're all searching for new jobs. I doubt you even give them a fraction of that much time for vacation each year, but now you're simply taking it, not paying them for it, and ignoring their concerns.

To offer no recompense is certainly unethical, if not illegal.

Yes, your company's current policy may not permit reimbursement or payment, but this is exactly the sort of situation that demands the company either modify its policy, or stop accepting jobs which put employees in such a terrible position.

It's unreasonable, and the policy must be changed or what you fear will happen will happen.

Make it clear to the company that they must change the policy or they will lose the client because the workers are going to quit. No one wants to spend that much time daily on their drive, and if the client is important then they should pay the employees accordingly, acknowledging the bad situation you've put them in.

Ideally you'd set up a ride sharing where their day starts at your office, they ride together in a van, ride sharing program, or similar paid for by the company, and then they arrive back at the office 8 hours later so their workday is actually 8 hours.

Yes, the client gets less time in that scenario, but right now you're taking time from the employees without paying them so your client gets a full 8 hours, and you get paid for that.

How is that not stealing from your employees? If it's not worth it for the company to reimburse them for those lost 5 weeks of time, then the client isn't worth it.

  • 6 hours per week as it's .75 hrs each way for 1.5 hrs / day – KevinDTimm Nov 8 '17 at 14:41
  • @KevinDTimm Unfortunately I find "longer commuting time, about 45 minutes more than what they are used to now" to be ambiguous, and chose to assume 45 minutes total daily commute time, rather than 45 minutes each way. If the commute time is 45 additional each way, then yes, that's 7.5 hours a week - essentially another workday per week - and equivalent to 2 months of additional work time. If their employees are really spending nearly 2 hours in the car each way and the company thinks this is OK, I wouldn't suggest trying to work it out. The company is corrupt and they should look elsewhere. – Adam Davis Nov 8 '17 at 14:46
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    OP answered yesterday : 45 minutes one-way, 1h30 extra time each day – KevinDTimm Nov 9 '17 at 17:42
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    @KevinDTimm Thanks, fixed my math, and honestly that is simply ludicrous. Absolutely astounding that the company thinks this is ok. – Adam Davis Nov 9 '17 at 17:52
  • Astounding? No. It's pretty clear they bid based on their basic costs and damn the employees who are then tied to those contracts. They will be hiring all new employees pretty quickly (I wish the OP would keep us all up to date on these kinds of stories) – KevinDTimm Nov 10 '17 at 19:32
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No win situation for everyone

There have already been many answers offering advice and recommendations on how to make life easier for the employees, but none really address the underlying causes of the situation in the first place.

Without knowing all the facts. I'm going to draw upon my past experiences as I've had this happen to me several times in my career. It's not something new and is sadly common.

Pre-existing problem

There are good reasons why the client hired your company. As with almost all consulting type projects the client tried to do the project first on their own or at least thought about it. They likely had difficulties trying to hire talent as their location isn't ideal for that type of work.

I live in Toronto, and there is a large hub of technology companies in a nearby city (for whatever reason). It's one of the worse locations centered right at our major airport with two intersecting highways known for the worse traffic.

Unless you actually live next door (it's an industrial park) you aren't driving to work in any reasonable amount of time.

The odds are good that you won't be able to hire new talent to work specifically at this client's location for similar reasons. It'll be difficult to hire people.

I find those businesses are in those locations for reasons not related to the project.

The bait and switch

When people quit (and they will, because that's life). You'll need to hire replacements. Which leads to you interviewing and hiring in one office only to send them elsewhere.

Don't do the bait and switch. Instead, locate yourself at the client's office and conduct the interviews there. This will give you a much higher success rate at finding talent that will stay longer on that project.

You might find it's really hard to hire people doing the above for the same reason why people quit.

Why your company doesn't help

You could offer to pay more salaries, give more vacation time or allow for working from home X number of days.

But your company doesn't allow it.

That makes perfect sense to me, because companies that accept these kinds of projects and put people into these kinds of situations have already demonstrated an ignorance of the problem.

It's a problem that is bigger than your team or project. You have to go to your manager or director and raise the concerns there.

I'm sure you'll experience the same frustrations dealing with your boss as your team feels dealing with their situation. Everyone will keep saying "we can't change the situation".

That's why I said it was pre-existing.

The only solution

This is for me the only acceptable answer for this question.

You have to go work on site with your team. Otherwise you're words of support are just crocodile tears.

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    Your observations are spot-on, but I doubt your proposed solution would have any real effect. Yay for solidarity, leading by example, and all the rest, but the employees are still paying the price whether their manager is or not. Workplace relations and culture may be a big part of job satisfaction, but employees still show up for the best $/hr they can get far more than for (generally) shallow friendships. – brichins Nov 7 '17 at 0:43
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Let me get this out of the way first: just saying that a company takes care of its employees doesn’t make it true. Actions speak louder than words.

A suggestion I haven’t seen yet is to consider the extra commute time as working hours, but not in the way that their day is simply longer, but rather that they arrive later and leave earlier at this client office. To compensate for working hours lost for the client, add more people to the project, paid for by the company. Whether that is feasible depends greatly on the client and how that looks to them when people don’t make ‘full days’ though.

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    This was mentioned in other answers - the follow-up question though is "Who pays for the commuting hours?" The client is very unlikely to agree to pay the same fee for fewer hours worked if it wasn't negotiated in advance, and the OP's company won't want to either. There's a good chance that eating [1.5 / 8 =] 19% of the salary costs of the project would make it unprofitable for whoever is paying, and either company would rather just cancel the contract. – brichins Nov 7 '17 at 0:34
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    @brichins I would suggest the company itself, sorry if that wasn’t obvious. Yes there is an added cost but the OP mentioned that the client/project is a strategic one, which can mean that it’s important enough anyway. I realize it’s not ideal, but in this case there are no ideal solutions. It sure beats losing employees with an apparently unique skillset though. – Sebastiaan van den Broek Nov 7 '17 at 3:54
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One thing not mentioned is renting a big flat for all of them near the location or smaller flats for each one, or offering to cover the costs of permanent relocation for those who want to live there.

Otherwise I agree, you will lose a lot of them, have already sorted out a great number of good jobs just by will-cost-me-ten-extra-travel-hours-a-week.

Also you could offer them a travel time account, meaning if they travel one month the 10 hours/week they can work a month from home on the next project saving those 10 hours/week again.

Many companies have switched from client location to own office because the infrastructure is much better and the team members have everything they need, especially if they are working on some special technology.

You could also have a rotating schedule with one person at the clients office and the others working remote with him, there's lots of tools to help with that.

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    If the hypothetical employer provided housing that is suitable for me and my family; and the housing had convenient schools, parks, and shops - then I would be happy with the change. However, I expect providing such housing to all affected employees would cost more than the strategic client is worth. – emory Nov 4 '17 at 10:47
  • I was going to write a separate response, but this answer makes my response partly redundant. In the past I've used extended stay hotels; Candlewood Suites has a good reputation, and I've used extended stay hotels to cut my commute. Google Maps turns up relevant results, if any are available, if you search for extended stay hotels near Chicago and hotels that don't bill themselves for extended stay drool over several rooms generating income for months on end. – Christos Hayward Nov 7 '17 at 15:26
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I made a comment about VPN and remote-working / teleworking as a possible mitigator, but that seems to have been cleaned up.

If you can allow your staff to work effectively from home as possible and skip the commute entirely, then do so. Given the customer wants staff on-site this isn't practical all the time, but having the option might help retain staff. It also makes responding to a crisis that much faster if you can investigate remotely.

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    This is not a good answer, but as a comment it was lost in cleanup. – Criggie Nov 5 '17 at 23:04
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I think a lot of good answers have already been given, but let me go in with another angle. Albeit impractical, you could start hiring employees or even contractors that are local to the specific region. One by one you could start having them trained on this new project and in time get the original employees out.

0

Are you, if you do your best to give management a clue, able to offer the client a choice between:

  1. Requiring to drive employees to your main office, punching in at 8:00 and out at 5:00 plus lunch break, and working nine hours minus lunch break at your home office, or:

  2. Requiring to drive employees to your main office, punching in, driving about an hour to get to the client site on the clock, and leaving the client in time to drive back on the clock to punch out around 5:00 at your home office.

I remember the head of a computing services department getting a hostile and snarky email from a professor about how she did not have time keeping her email storage under quota. He said, "Sure; we can explore paid services if you wish to buy more than your free quota." She stopped being snarky immediately.

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