Commute more sustainably: 5 key strategies to help your employees thrive

By Switch Automation • April 21, 2018

To honor Earth Day 2018, we decided to do some research into the average American’s journey to the office and brainstorm ideas that visionary leaders can share to encourage employees to commute more sustainably.

Commuting is a central part of modern life. In 2015, nearly 143 million or 44% of Americans aged 16 and up commuted to work each day. Furthermore, the way people commute was found to have a huge impact on the quality of their day-to-day life.

Beyond the environmental impacts, employees who chose to commute more sustainably enjoyed a range of psychological benefits. A McGill University survey of 3,377 commuters in Montreal found that people who walk, bike or take the train are significantly more satisfied with their commute than those who drive.

Commute More Sustainably Chart
The Washington Post, 2017

Surprising and unfortunate then, that a Stanford study from 2015 revealed that 86% of workers commuted by private vehicle. 76.4% drove to and from work alone and 9.4% carpooled, with the rest taking public transport, biking and walking. This finding is no joke, particularly given that the U.S. Census Bureau found that it takes the average worker 26 minutes to travel to work, with  ‘mega-commuters‘ referring to the extreme examples of those who travel 50+ miles and spend 90+ minutes getting to and from work.

As a company who aims to put people and planet at the center of everything we do, we decided to share these strategies to help employees commute more sustainably while promoting environmental health and worker wellbeing.

5 key strategies to encourage your employees to commute more sustainably:

  1. Pick an office located close to public transport facilities: positioning your office close to a major transport hub such as a metro station, train station or bus stop can simplify and shorten your employees’ commute via public transport, and disincentivize the use of a car to get into work.
  2. Consider office geography: alternatively, position the office outside of a busy urban area and in the proximity of affordable housing so that employees can live closer to the office, thus avoiding excessive commutes and boosting the quality of life for all.
  3. Reconsider your office facilities: provide office lockers and showers so that employees are free to bike, jog or walk to work without the additional complication of having to find expensive and inconvenient external facilities.
  4. Be careful what you incentivize: instead of offering inexpensive nearby parking, subsidize sustainable commuting with affordable public transport passes or bicycle financing schemes.This opportunity to cut costs on a monthly basis can be crucial in molding how employees approach their commute.
  5. Consider your data: Adopt a data-driven business strategy to understand your team’s unique needs and habits. For example, aggregate FitBit data or poll your company on SurveyMonkey. Gather your organization’s commuting habits to inform a tailored approach that elevates your employees’ happiness, reduces your company’s footprint and encourages convenient, sustainable commutes.

With employee experience, engagement and happiness driving widespread change in the workplace, we now have more opportunity than ever to reevaluate the traditional drive to and from work. The promise of the sustainable commute is threefold, promoting environmental health, cutting costs and promoting employee wellbeing.

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