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I started a new job just over three months ago, with a commute of two hours each way. Before joining the company, I understood that I would soon be able to transfer to their office in my home town. Shortly after starting I discovered that was not going to happen.

My current manager knows about my long commute, but not about my previous expectation of working in the other office. I would like to give the company the chance to improve my working conditions by shortening my commute. My initial thought was to wait until the end of my six month probation, before mentioning this problem. Would it be too soon to mention this now (after three months)? I enjoy my work with this company and the only problem with the job is the location. If they are unable to make adjustments for me I will want to look for a new role by the end of the year. I want to stay in this job for at least six months so that it makes a reasonable addition to my CV/resume. At the same time I am increasingly tired with waking at 6 am each day and a disrupted sleep pattern.

I was told I would be able to transfer to my local office by both the external recruiter and internal HR officer (who left the company just after I started). I discovered I would have to remain at my current workplace for a minimum of one year, after asking HR to clarify my options, upon joining the company.

Also, is it reasonable to assume that my manager already knows my commute time is too long? Everyone else on the team has a journey time of about 45 minutes each way.

My question is different from When is the right time to give my notice to leave my current company? as my plan is to improve my working conditions, not leave my job.

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    How did you get the understanding you'd be transferring? Did they explicitly tell you this, or did they say something along the lines of "most [job title]s work in the [home town] office", or something similar? – Adam V Jul 28 '15 at 14:16
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    When and how did you discover that the relocation wasn't going to happen? – EleventhDoctor Jul 28 '15 at 14:19
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    Do you have that promise in writing? Email or such should do to prove your case. – cdkMoose Jul 28 '15 at 15:50
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    @cdkMoose Unfortunately not. It was over the telephone. – GeorgeX Jul 28 '15 at 15:55
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    You could consider moving closer. – HLGEM Jul 28 '15 at 16:03
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How soon should I tell my employer that my commute is too long?

As soon as you have another job lined up; no sooner.


Why?

Because by stating that your commute is too long, you're making an implicit demand:

  • This condition must change or else I'm leaving.

And if that's the case, then you're opening up a negotiation.

And if you're opening up a negotiation, then you must develop a BATNA (Best Alternative to No Agreement).


Why?

Because...

  • BATNAs are critical to negotiation because you cannot make a wise decision about whether to accept a negotiated agreement unless you know what your alternatives are.
  • Having a good BATNA increases your negotiating power.
  • And most importantly, it's for your own protection. If your employer refuses to negotiate with you, then they may subsequently perceive you as "withdrawing" from the workplace and unable to effectively contribute in the face of an overlong commute. If that happens, then your workplace may turn sour on you, and your situation may worsen. A BATNA (in the form of somewhere else to go) protects you against this possibility.

P.S. Having a BATNA, or having somewhere else to go, does not mean that you have to enact the BATNA, or leave your current job. Just think of it as protection or insurance in case the worst happens.

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    That is one option. However, the danger with lining up a job first (apart from the fact that it takes work and time) is that you may be burning bridges at the place that offered you a new job if you refuse their offer at the last minute. So you'll have to weigh your options. – sleske Jul 29 '15 at 9:54
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If you don't ask, you don't get.

You say that "I understood that I would soon be able to transfer to their office in my home town". Who at the company gave you that understanding? Who else at the company knows of it? Clearly, not everyone. And right now, your understanding looks more like your little secret.

Follow up first with the people who gave you that understanding. Hopefully, they still remembered it, and they hopefully will advise you on how to get a transfer and hopefully, with their endorsement.

If you don't get anywhere with your original contact, mention that the 4-hour commute is a hardship on you and not necessarily the best use of your time since part of the time you spent on that commute could be used to actually produce deliverables for the company. In other words, there is something in it for them if they transfer you.

The worst that happens is that they say "no" but at least, you made them aware that you want a transfer.

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    Isn't a commute generally done in private time, so not costing the company anything in terms of productivity? – Erik Jul 28 '15 at 14:45
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    @Erik, unhappy workers are less productive than happy workers. And a four hour commute makes any jobs that the company offers much less competitive in the job market. – gnasher729 Jul 28 '15 at 15:29
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    @Erik that's a bit short-sighted, the kind of thinking I call "beancounter logic" (not to disparage you, but corporations are full of this type of thinking). If this guy spends 4 hours commuting, 8 working, 2 hours eating lunch and dinner, 8 sleeping, that leaves him with 2 hours to engage in relaxing activities alone and/or with family. Do you think this actually helps his productivity in the long run? What I've observed is that in the long run, productivity is lessened or people just leave for greener pastures. – Chan-Ho Suh Jul 28 '15 at 15:32
  • @Erik, If I am facing a 2 hour commute home, I am much less likely to stay an extra hour some night to finish a task – cdkMoose Jul 28 '15 at 15:48
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    Yeah I get all of those points; it's more that the answer says "he could use that time to produce deliverables". He's not going to use the commute time to produce anything. It'll improve his morale, he might stay over, but as it stands it sounds like he's going to trade 4 hours driving + 8 hours working for 12 hours working, and that's not the case (I would hope) – Erik Jul 28 '15 at 16:00
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I suggest to approach this, but not as a confrontation: "my commute needs to be shorter or I quit" but constructively: "My commute is longer than expected which impacts my effectiveness. What can we do to improve?".

Come up with a few scenarios that can be discussed.

  1. Work for a year and than have a transfer that's committed by the company
  2. Part time local office, part time current office
  3. Part time from home, part time current office
  4. Get an crash pad near the current office and work 4 days @10 hours instead 5 days at @8 hours

I've seen option 3 quite a lot. 3-4 days in the office 1-2 from home. Depends on the job and corporate culture.

Tip: Research good telecom tools, get them, practice with them and then demonstrate to your employer that they work. For example set up a Skype call with your boss giving him (and yourself) a good hands free speakerphone (such as Jabra Speak 510, not a sales pitch, they just work much better than most others) use groupboard.com for a shared whiteboard and Skype also for screen sharing. Practice this first with a friend. If you can get your manager over the initial hump and can demonstrate that this can work effectively, it may increase your chance of working remotely considerably.

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I wouldn't suggest that you tell them your commute is too long, that can to easily be viewed as your problem, not theirs. 'Too long' implies that they have crossed a line and you are putting them on the spot. Instead, inquire about the transfer options and explain how that could make you more productive and therefore more valuable.

For any request you have of your company, it needs to be clear that there is value for the company, not just you. It's certainly OK to bring the long commute into the discussion of your productivity, but you don't want to lead off the discussion with your problem.

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