Building a commute management strategy for your employees commuting to several different office locations is a major undertaking during normal circumstances. Now add in a post-pandemic return-to-the-office situation, and you’ve got what could be a monumental task.
You need to take into consideration work-from-home plans, altered public transit schedules, in-office safety protocols, and myriad other safety procedures. We’re really experts in all things commute management, so we’re going to stay in our lane for this blog and leave the commercial office guidelines to those experts!
Like we said, building a commute management strategy for multiple office locations is a monumental task. Commute management isn’t a one-and-done task, especially in this day and age. We’ve broken down all the aspects and details you need to think about when you’re building your return-to-the-office commuter program for multiple office locations.
One of the first steps in creating your return-to-the-office commute plan is gathering information from your employees about how they feel about commuting, working in the office, and working from home regularly. Employees who previously took public transit to work may opt for something else until we have a vaccine. Some employees may be interested in working from home on a more permanent basis. You need to gather as much information as you can in order to build an effective commute management program.
When asking your employees about their situation/plan, you’ll need to make each survey specific to the office location they’re commuting to. Each city has different protocols and guidelines for individuals and companies to follow during this time. Some cities allow for more employees in the office at a time than others, for example, so make sure you have all of that sorted out.
The same applies to public transit. Many transit agencies have modified schedules, halted operations on some lines, and have specific safety protocols. All of these modifications need to be taken into consideration when you’re conducting a survey in order to build your return-to-the-office commute plan.
You’ll also need to make sure you’re hearing from your employees on a consistent basis. You can’t expect employee responses from July to hold true in September given how quickly things are changing. There’s news daily regarding COVID, responses to it, and vaccine timelines. You need to conduct surveys once a month or every other month, even if it’s just to get a pulse check on your employees and their feelings and considerations.
Alternative modes of commuting
In order to create a comprehensive plan for each of your office locations, you need to keep up with the procedures, protocols, and changes cities are making. As we mentioned above, each city has different guidelines and is at a different phase of reopening. This means you need to know everything going in locations where you have offices and employees.
In some cases, reopening plans have created opportunities for you to encourage your employees to adopt non-transit forms of commuting, if they’re more comfortable doing so for the time being. Many cities have been shutting down roadways to cars and other vehicles, giving space back to pedestrians and cyclists.
Looking into non-transit and non-driving commuting options for your employees may be required. Employees who relied heavily on public transit may be a little wary of confined spaces, and current parking and road infrastructure can’t handle an uptick in drive-alone commute rates.
Biking to work is one of the most sustainable and efficient ways to commute. (It also leads to the happiest employees!) Although you won’t be able to get every employee to adopt bicycling immediately after your company returns to your offices, there are ways to encourage and support them in making this change.
Subsidizing a bikeshare membership for your employees could be the kick in the behind they need to start biking. Most cities in the United States have bikeshare programs, and most (if not all) offer corporate programs. Even a partial subsidy can provide relief to your employees. Using a bikeshare program also takes some financial burden off your employees, by alleviating the upfront cost of a personal bike.
If you have an office location in a city that either doesn’t have a bikeshare program, or it isn’t very bike-friendly on the roads, you can host your own bikeshare program. Providing company-owned bikes for employees to rent by the day, week, or month serves the same purpose as a bikeshare subsidy. It gives your employees the opportunity to try biking to work and gain experience, without having to buy a bike of their own, which can lead to more permanent adoption rates in the future.
We know biking to work isn’t a viable option for every employee, especially for those who don’t live downtown or in close proximity to one of your offices. Operating a shuttle program for your employees is a way to keep employees from driving to work alone, and could help employees who previously took public transit but aren’t quite comfortable yet.
A shuttle program is also valuable if you operate an office in a city without a robust public transit system. Companies like WeDriveU and TripShot can help operate your shuttle program while providing up-to-date information and shuttle tracking. (We would be remiss not to mention we partner with said companies to provide private shuttle information on TransitScreen and CityMotion, our mobile app. Just saying!)
Although carpooling isn’t a new form of commuting, it’s a very effective option. There’s a reason HOV lanes exist! When you have employees living in all different areas surrounding the office, there’s bound to be employees who live near each other. There’s also the comfort factor. Right now, people are cautious around people they don’t know. Carpooling with a coworker provides a level of comfort for your employees.
It also helps manage and lower the amount of parking you need at each office location. Parking is expensive, both for employers and employees. When you have 2 – 4 employees driving to work together, you’;l significantly reduce the amount of spots you need. Employees can also save money on gas, in addition to parking – it’s a win-win!
Carpooling is also a viable option for most cities in the US. All you need is a group of employees who live near each other and one car. We know we made that sound easier than it actually is, but there are people to help! Scoop Technologies works to help employers create carpool programs for their workforce. You employees can take matters into their own hands as well, with companies like Waze Carpooling app.
Once your plans are in place, marketing them is the next (and possibly the most important) part of your return-to-the-office commute management plan. You took the time to build these plans for your employees in order to ensure their safety, and now you want them to know about it.
Just like marketing your products to currents and potential customers, you want to show your employees how you are working to benefit them. This can be especially true for employees in different cities, or even different areas within the same city.
There’s no one answer to successfully market your commute management plan, but there are tactics you can employ.
This is the low-hanging fruit, but effective nonetheless. You can cover a lot of information, provide links, and useful resources. You also have the ability to reach a lot of your employees at once. This would work well for a city where you have many employees you need to reach. Based on feedback and questions, you can continue to update and improve your plan.
Hands-on strategies (smaller office)
Hosting a bike-to-work week for your employees covers multiple bases. You can teach employees routes they can take to safely bike to the office. You can also engage with employees who have chosen cycling as their primary form of commuting to share their expertise and experiences with their coworkers. We’re not saying you can’t, or shouldn’t, do this for a larger office — it just may be slightly easier to plan and execute for a small one.
Hands-on event (larger office)
A bike-to-work week, for a larger workforce will take more planning and more time, but can be just as effective. Breaking the weeks up by department or proximity to the office can make numbers more manageable. You can also host a bike-to-work month in order to give more time and flexibility to your employees. However you decide to operate your event, the most important thing is to actually host it. You want to show your employees you care and that you’re willing to help them make a change.
What it comes down to is the effort you and your team or company are willing to put in. You need to constantly communicate with your employees and get a feel for their thoughts and feelings. You need to make a plan, decide which commuting options are best for your locations and employees, and get the word out to each office’s workforce.
Let us introduce you to the newest addition to our product suite, CommuteWise! CommuteWise is the cornerstone of our commute management solution, helping employees choose the best door-to-door commuting option. It’s the only product that understands both your company’s commuter benefits and how to communicate them with employees in the simplest, easiest possible way.
Connect with our team to learn more about CommuteWise and how we can help you build a return-to-the-office commute plan!