It goes without saying that one thing all employers want is to develop and create a productive workforce. There are so many workplace commentators and experts these days that will talk about engagement, reward, or employee satisfaction as the key to productivity, and whilst there is absolutely a place for this, it’s important to consider what else employers can do to get the best out of their workforce.
One thing is to encourage and to facilitate an active commute. The benefits of this to both employer and employee are extensive. To consider these benefits, let’s look at some statistics:
- With the average UK one-way commute of 54 minutes, 18% of the British workforce, who commute by driving or public transport each day, understandably said that their journey is making them miserable.
- The survey of 2,000 adults found that 10% of people who travel to work by driving or public transport are less productive as a result following a less than enjoyable daily commute.
- UK commuters spend an average of £135,000 in a lifetime travelling to work.
- Rail fares have increased at more than twice the speed of wages since 2008.
So far it seems pretty clear that we need to tear up the bus pass, leave the car keys at home, and find more active ways to get to work. So, what’s stopping us?
- When asked about the prospect of cycling or walking to work, 95% of those driving or taking public transport said they have considered it, but ‘considering it’ is not enough.
- 22% of respondents cited work-related reasons; namely not having the appropriate facilities to get ready for work afterwards, or feeling too embarrassed about colleagues seeing them in activewear. Whilst understandable, employers can intervene here and they can weigh up the benefits of an on-going, more productive team, versus the one-off cost of a changing or shower room for example.
- 67% believe their employers could make allowances to enable a more active commute such as through introducing flexible starting times, access to changing facilities and incentives for equipment, such as cycle to work schemes. However, only 8% of people said their employers have any allowances in place.
- For 12% of respondents, money is an issue, stating they don’t have a bicycle and can’t afford to buy one. Clearly it is not a freebie, but the cycle to work scheme can offset this, and when you weigh up the cost of public transport, the costs fall very much in favour of jumping on a bicycle.
Data shows the following average costs of commuting over a 12-month period:
- £396 to commute by bike
- £848 to travel on a bus
- £1,320 on train tickets
- £3,727 to travel via car
16% of those surveyed said they don’t feel safe enough to choose a more active journey. This is understandable, and whilst employers can’t necessarily play a huge role in increasing suitable infrastructure, recent studies show that the health benefits of increased physical activity far outweigh the potential minimal risks.
Taking the above statistics into account, employers should look to facilitate an active commute and should consider the following reasons as justification:
Fitter, healthier staff – improved productivity
One study found that people who cycle to work experienced a 39% lower rate of all-cause mortality compared to those who did not – even after adjustments for other risk factors, including leisure-time physical activity. As a form of exercise, cycling helps us control the hormones responsible for stress, which can help us stay in better control of our emotions. With workplace stress and anxiety on the rise, resulting in the cause of 40% of staff absence, boosting our ability to take control of these hormones is critical for our long-term mental wellbeing. Data from ‘Cyclescheme’ shows that almost half of those that cycle to work said that doing so improved their mental health, with two-fifths saying it has had a direct impact on lowering their workplace stress.
As well as improving physical health, cycling has a positive effect on emotional health, improving levels of wellbeing, self-confidence and tolerance to stress.
How many of your employees have called to advise that they will be late due to traffic issues? Barring the occasional puncture, this would be a thing of the past.
Typically, organisations can save 13.8% of the total value of salary sacrifice because of reductions in the amount of National Insurance Contributions due.
Employer Branding, Recruitment & Employee Welfare
Cycle to work is good for employer branding and may therefore help your appeal to potential recruits. It demonstrates concern for the welfare of an organisation’s employees.
A cycle scheme, like other salary sacrifice schemes, can act as one of those reasons why people may postpone changing jobs.
Low or Zero-cost Implementation
Local authorities, which have budgets to promote cycling, may well provide bike sheds free of charge or at reduced cost.
The cost of cycling equipment can be treated as capital expenditure and therefore employers can claim capital allowances against it.
Broader Benefits Strategy
Some providers will offer your cycling-to-work employees further discounts on items such as children’s bikes. Cycle to work can fit neatly into a broader reward and benefits strategy.
Clearly, making regular journeys by bike is an easy way to live a more active lifestyle. Aside from making us physically fitter, a number of studies have shown that an active commute can enhance brain function, and make us sharper and more alert by speeding up connections in the brain. This could have the added benefit of helping us to be more efficient and productive when at work, in turn making it easier to leave on time and achieve a healthy work-life balance
Just think of the benefits for the UK workforce if every employee could fit a short walk, run or cycle into their day. Consider if you can promote a more active commute within your workforce and reap the rewards.
Garry Humphreys, HR Consultant