The toll of long commutes on employees in Malaysia

Prolonged exposure to traffic-related factors poses severe health risks, including chronic diseases and premature deaths.
By: | February 15, 2024

In today’s bustling workforce, many Malaysians are grappling with the challenge of long commutes, sacrificing their health and wellbeing for the sake of family obligations, limited transfer options, high city housing prices, and career opportunities. As employers strive to retain and support their workforce, understanding the impact of these commutes on employee health and productivity is paramount.

According to experts from Universiti Kebangsan Malaysia and Universiti Malaya, prolonged exposure to traffic-related factors poses significant health risks. Dr Sharifa Ezat Wan Puteh, a public health medical expert at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, highlighted the threat of outdoor air pollution, which the World Health Organization links to millions of premature deaths annually. Beyond the immediate effects of air pollution, long commutes contribute to chronic health issues such as lung diseases, elevated blood pressure, and increased risk of diabetes and stroke.  

Individual stories shed light on the personal sacrifices made by employees like Mohd Hafiz Abd Rahman and Fendi, who endure daily journeys spanning hundreds of kilometres to fulfil family obligations and overcome limited transfer options, reported New Straits Times. Despite the physical and mental toll, many, like Hafiz, find solace in being there for their loved ones, even if it means enduring pain and stress.

The challenges extend to the public sector, where civil servants like Fendi face bureaucratic hurdles in securing transfers, leading to prolonged commutes and health complications. Abdul Rahman Mohd Nordin of the Congress of Unions of Employees in the Public and Civil Services emphasised the need for greater flexibility and support for civil servants navigating long commutes.

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Furthermore, career aspirations compel individuals like Nur Alina Jabir to embark on lengthy journeys, seeking better job opportunities while balancing familial responsibilities. However, safety concerns and physical ailments resulting from long commutes underscore the need for employers to prioritise employee wellbeing.