Gas Prices Slowing Down Workers

May 14, 2008
Study shows rising fuel prices are hurting productivity

Are workers less productive because of high gas prices? According to responses from a recent Florida State University study, they might be.

Respondents said gas prices were foremost on their mind, including one plant-floor worker who wrote, "I spend more time at work trying to figure out what I need to give up to keep gas in my tank than thinking about how to do my job."

The survey questioned more than 800 full-time employees during the spring when prices averaged $3.50 per gallon. All of the people surveyed work in a wide range of occupations, primarily in the southeastern United States. All drove personal transportation to work and had an average commute of 15 miles each way.

Higher gas prices result in more employee stress on the job, says Wayne Hochwarter, the Jim Moran Professor of Management at Florida State University's College of Business.

"People concerned with the effects of gas prices were significantly less attentive on the job, less excited about going to work, less passionate and conscientious and more tense," Hochwarter says. "These people also reported more 'blues' on the job. Employees were simply unable to detach themselves from the stress caused by escalating gas prices as they walked through the doors at work."

Of the 800 participants responding:

  • 52% have reconsidered taking vacations or other recreational activities
  • 45% have had to cut back on debt-reduction payments, such as credit card payments
  • Nearly 30% considered the consequences of going without basics including food, clothing and medicine
  • 45% report that the escalating gas prices have "caused them to fall behind financially"
  • 39% agreed with the statement "Gas prices have decreased my standard of living"
  • About 33% -- or one in three -- said they would quit their job for a comparable one nearer to home

Hochwarter also notes that many employees say gas prices rank as the No. 1 water-cooler discussion topic, ahead of family, sports or work. He found little difference in responses among different ages, gender, work tenure and occupations.

"Several employees said they simply could not escape the media onslaught of bad news regarding the future of gas prices, and many reported their financial futures were looking bleaker and bleaker," Hochwarter says.

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