In that vein, we’re adding two more terms to the mix: Commute management and commute management solutions. If your job is dedicated to commutes, you might have heard either or both of these terms. If you haven’t heard either or you’re not exactly sure what they mean, we suggest you keep reading.
What is Commute Management?
Commute management is the practice of employers playing an active role in helping employees create an optimal, low-stress commute in order to increase happiness and retention. It requires a combination of commuter benefits, transportation demand management, and employee engagement. It’s making sure each and every employee commute is represented in your company’s strategy without sacrificing the quality of your benefits.
There are a lot of pieces to the commute management puzzle, and there are a variety of solutions available to support you along the way. It’s a never-ending process as the mobility landscape continues to change along with commuter habits, but it all starts with the employee onboarding process.
Onboarding and targeted outreach
Onboarding and commute plans: This is where the most hands-on involvement occurs. People are creatures of habit, so getting them to change a commute once they’ve established theirs is much harder. To get ahead of it, you’ll want to start during the new hire onboarding process — ideally, even before your employee’s first day of work.
The most effective way is to create a customized commute plan for each employee, though this is something difficult to accomplish manually at scale. At the very least, sending your new hires an email dedicated to all your commuter benefit options before their first day will allow them to consider their options and help them choose something other than driving alone.
You’ll also want to conduct regular employee outreach and understanding to gain insights into the different agencies and companies your employees use to commute. Just because you sent an email listing benefits options doesn’t mean anyone signed up! Checking in with employees about how they’re getting to work and if it’s working for them is an essential step of the process. After this discovery stage, you will have the information and knowledge needed to adapt your commute program and provide more customized solutions to your employees.
You’ll always need to regularly communicate what your company is offering in terms of benefits. The only way commuter benefits and TDM strategies work is when they are put to use, which only happens when your employees know they’re available. This is especially true if you add something to your commute program, or if a new form of mobility comes to your town.
When it comes to communication, there are many different tactics you can use. A classic memo can get the word out, but it may not be the most effective. (How many memos do you read?) Physical collateral available in the office for employees can provide more in-depth information. If you use a third-party HR management system – like JustWorks – you can have more information live there about each benefit you offer and how employees can enroll. If you have an employee Wiki or intranet, that would also be a great place for it.
No matter which you choose (and we recommend a mixture of all), you’ll want to continue communicating it consistently. Getting people to make a change takes time, so don’t get discouraged if you send the same email every week.
Real-time transit information
Once most or all employees are signed up and enrolled for their new commuter benefits, there’s still more to be done. Providing real-time transit information (*wink* TransitScreen *wink*) available around your office for your employees makes commuting that much easier. Providing the same information while they’re on the go – like a mobile app called CityMotion – will keep them flexible during their commute.
Real-time information lets your employees know how much time they have before the next bus or train, which also helps them choose the best option for that particular day. When you walk past a TransitScreen and see all the mobility options, you might choose a scooter rather than the bus because it’s closer.
Access to real-time transit information can also lead to a shift in perception. One of the biggest hurdles to change is a lack of knowledge. Your employees may not have realized just how many public transit options there are nearby. They may start to change their commuting habits once they know how accessible it can be.
Real-time information comes in handy in this instance as well. Someone’s first experience with a new mode of transportation is pivotal in forming their opinion of it moving forward, so it’s essential it goes as well as possible. If your employee knows when the bus is coming and is able to plan a trip perfectly without waiting, they’ll be much more likely to try it again.
Changing a commute is never going to be easy – especially for your employees who are used to driving. It may be in your best interest to introduce new commutes in a more delicate and supportive fashion. Hosting commuting events is the perfect way to ease employees into their new commute.
This could include a bike to work day, week, or even month. Safety concerns are a major reason employees chose not to bike to work. One way to ease those concerns is by working with a local bike association to show trails and where bicycle lanes are on the way to the office. Once employees feel comfortable with their route, increased ridership will follow.
Another event that you can host is a car-light or car-free commute week. Challenging your employee to give up their car, even a few days a week, can create new, more sustainable commuting habits. You will have to help them with their new commute, but once they realize that ditching their car can actually save them time and stress, they will be more willing to change in the future.
The purpose of commute management is to assist your employees with their day-to-day as much as possible, creating a positive experience and ensuring they remain happy with your company. That means encouraging them to permanently change their commute to something proven to be less stressful than driving alone. In a perfect world, every employee would change their commute on their own after one day of trying – but it’s probably take more effort than that. How can you encourage your employees to switch it up when they’ve already committed to driving to work?
Providing incentives to employees who change their commute could bring about real change. What do people love more than cold, hard cash? As an added commuter benefit, we offer a $75 shoe stipend to any employee who walks, bikes, or takes transit for the majority of their commutes. It’s not a huge change, but a benefit that encourages more sustainable commuting.
Another effective incentive program we have seen is employers paying their employees a daily bonus for walking or biking to work. The first employer that comes to mind is the Seattle Children’s Hospital. In an effort to lower their drive-alone commute rate, the hospital gives daily cash bonuses to their employees who bike, walk, train, bus, vanpool, or carpool to work.
Another effective bonus or incentive is subsidized transit benefits. These benefits come most commonly in the form of a fully or partially subsidized metro or bus pass. It may seem minor, but when your employees can save a couple hundred dollars a month on commuting, the little bit ends up going a long way.
Another incentive-based benefit you can offer is a parking cash-out system. This is when you pay employees cash to give up their parking spot. This usually monthly bonus can be the full price of the parking spot or a portion of the cost of the spot. It encourages employees not to drive while saving you and your company money. Talk about a win-win!
One of the most important aspects of commute management is continuously accepting feedback and suggestions. Who knows more about how your commute program is going than the employees who are experiencing it? We’re not saying you have to enact every change, but you should look for suggestions and update programs where necessary. The whole point of having a commute management solution is to implement commuting solutions, and the only way to do that is by constantly looking to improve.
One of the easiest ways to gain valuable feedback is an employee survey. Depending on where you’re located, you may already be required by law to conduct surveys. Even if you’re not, it’s still in your best interest. You want to make sure the benefits you’re providing are getting used — if nobody’s taking your shuttle, why are you spending so much money on it?
Commute and parking operations
Commute management is a lot of internal work, but that doesn’t mean you need to go through the process alone. There are third-party vendors you can work with to establish new commuting methods for your employees.
Private corporate shuttles have become more and more popular alongside the tech boom. Google was one of the first companies to provide luxury shuttles for their employees. (Surprising, we know.) Most companies can’t compete with Google and the amenities they offer their employees, but you can still make an effort to come close.
Third-party shuttle vendors like TransLoc and Tripshot help employers set up efficient shuttle programs. Through these companies, employers can set up routes, pickup & drop off locations, and have access to real-time location. We actually work with both companies to provide information on our screens and app.)
Depending on your office situation, providing bike parking for your employees may require some effort on your part. If you’re renting space in a building, you will have to work with the building management team to designate space for bike parking. If you own your building, it will be an easier process to get space, but you will have to coordinate any outside construction involved.
You can also work directly with a bikeshare company. Most companies allow users or employers to request new dock locations, so consider adding your office to the list. Most bikeshare companies also have corporate pricing available, allowing you to subsidize bikeshare memberships. This is truly a win-win situation.
Commute management and commute management solutions are only going to gain more traction among corporate workplaces. Expanding your benefits and TDM strategies now will prepare you if and when more commute regulations begin to pass.