Morning commutes are the worst. Whether you drive or take public transportation, most people dread the travel time to and from work. According to the Census Bureau, the average American spends 25 minutes traveling to and from work, each way. That amounts to 208 hours of commuting every year, hours commuters understandably want back.
Messaging company Imo came up with an interesting solution — its management team actually pays employees to live within five miles of its Palo Alto office. Each employee that does live close to the company’s headquarters is awarded with a $500 monthly stipend. Almost all of Imo’s 20 employees have taken them up on their offer, with the exception of one or two people.
“We wanted to help people get to a place that makes them happy, and us happy,” Georges Hairk, one half of Imo’s founding brothers, told Fast Company.
Georges and his brother Ralph have found several benefits of having a short commute time. Aside from the obvious, like having more time to enjoy hobbies and sleeping, they found it also makes employees more active, since most will bike or walk to work. Some go home during their lunch hour, either to take care of chores or to walk their dog (which also saves them from dog-walking and daycare fees). Ralph himself goes home at lunch to spend a few extra moments with his 9-month-old daughter.
Living in close proximity also forces employees to create bonds outside of the office. Three of Imo’s employees actually live in the same apartment complex and many of their interns will choose to be roommates.
“Everyone’s living in the same area. It’s nice,” Ralph said. “I know a lot of people go out to movies together.”
Living so close to work doesn’t bother to work-life balance issue, either. Ralph and Georges want their employees to enjoy their downtime. “If you leave, nobody follows you home,” says Georges. “I think the main issue with getting away from work these days is with email and electronic connectivity. That’s much more of an issue than how close we live to work.”
Imo also makes sure their office culture boosts employee morale and overall health. Currently, they have two treadmills equipped with laptop tables and have catered food to provide healthy lunches. Soon, they will be adding standing desks. Imo also organizes group outings for the company, including hiking, whitewater rafting and sporting events.
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