How gas prices affect your wallet and your behavior

Gas_Prices.jpgThe price of gas has doubled over the past three years, hovering around $3 a gallon nationally. Research was recently conducted to determine how increased gas prices have affected personal finance, as well as behavior at work. More than 300 employees across a wide range of occupations were surveyed in the study.

Findings from the study indicated that most people have had to make drastic changes in the way they spend money. For example:

  • 60 percent of respondents have to rethink the way they spend money.
  • 41 percent have paid off debt more slowly.
  • 43 percent have cut back on recreational activities.
  • 25 percent have gone without basic necessities (food, heat, etc.).
  • 44 percent are worried about how they are going to make ends meet.

These changes in personal finance seem to have also affected behavior at work. Changes in personal finance were associated with lower levels of job performance, less enthusiasm, less willingness to help others, fewer positive feelings about the organization, higher levels of depression and an increased sensitivity to minor irritants at work.

The price of gas has caused significantly more stress at home which is carried over to opinions of work. The stress caused by increased gas prices may be increased by employers’ failure to recognize the problem. The vast majority of employees (92 percent) indicated that their company has failed to even acknowledge that a problem exists, while 30 percent of employees felt that employers should do something to help. When asked, employees indicated that their company should offer financial support. On average, employees felt that a $30 a week subsidy would reduce much of the stress caused by high gas prices.

Interestingly, more than one-third (35 percent) of employees indicated that they would change jobs with comparable pay and responsibility if some form of assistance was offered. Finally, only 15 percent of employees felt that the price of gas would affect company profitability.

While, there are things that organizations can do to help, subsidizing employees for their travel is problematic for a number of reasons. However, companies can help by developing carpool programs and offering tips on how to maximize gas mileage. Allowing employees to telecommute may also alleviate much of the financial strain.

Acknowledging the difficulties associated with high gas prices is important, and so is communicating how gas prices affect the company’s bottom line. Employees who are affected the most are more likely to report that their company is unsympathetic to the problem.

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