Undeniably, our daily commute has a significant impact on our mood, our health and the environment. Subsequently our engagement index and the attractiveness of an employer are affected as well. Since the Covid-19 crisis, the number of people working from home has increased and many employees will at least partially continue to do so. People realized that time spent commuting to work could be used differently, significantly reducing the stress level of employees. Unfortunately, the temporary effect of reduced traffic during the pandemic is already disappearing quickly.
Although the global pandemic may have spiked our working from home habits, it did not resolve traffic congestion altogether. Teleworking might reduce the number of trips that employees make to the workplace, it does not necessarily reduce traffic congestion for various reasons. There is a tendency that employees who travel less to the workplace travel more for other reasons, such as visiting friends and family or traveling to leisure activities, which they can do with the time saved from commuting. As one of the main drivers for congestion is the increased use of cars or better yet, the number of kilometers driven, traffic jams did not disappear entirely. This is mainly due to lack of available or insufficiently used alternatives for our cherished car.
With traffic congesting returning to all-time highs and the European CO2 emissions goals to reach, the pressure is on for Belgian companies to reduce their own emissions. Although simply taking away employees’ company cars will not be the solution, we are convinced of four key drivers that can change employees’ commuting habits in the long run and positively impact CO2 emissions in general.
- The first important element is offering sustainable and reliable travel alternatives to employees. By doing so, companies will create a shift in their employees’ commuting behavior. Today, we see that companies already contribute to the commuting costs employees have when traveling with public transport or by bike. The Belgian government has taken various additional initiatives like the “Cash for Car” and the “Mobility Budget” to ensure that companies can offer their employees improved mobility solutions. However, both regimes have proven insufficient as a wholesome solution or have even been abolished since.
- A second key driver is the continuous motivation of employees to make use of alternative means of transportation. Providing a vehicle, a bicycle and a subscription for public transport does not necessarily imply that people reduce their usage of the car. Without the extra focus, employees will eventually return to the – company - car as their primary means of transport. There are several Mobility as a Service applications on the Belgian market that support easy and flexible commuting and can help companies give that push to the employees. Commuting via these applications makes it convenient for employees to travel. And in addition to the more traditional communication channels these apps can sent regular push notifications to continuously stimulate employees to choose for more sustainable travel alternatives.
- A third efficient way to ensure that employees stay motivated is to offer them monetary and non-monetary rewards. This incentive can be in the form of a financial reward each time the employee uses alternative means of transportation. There are considerable financial benefits for the company in terms of saving fuel and parking costs and lowering insurance premiums due to fewer kilometers. This in turn could allow companies to give financial rewards to employees who make use of sustainable transportation means. Besides the monetary rewards, non-monetary rewards, such as vouchers, awards or extra vacation days, can be given to the employees who use sustainable mobility solutions.
- A fourth and final driver to motivate employees is to create awareness around the impact on the environment and on employees’ health when opting for environmental friendly means of transportation. On the one hand, it is important to raise awareness around the environmental impact of traveling by car. With global warming being a pressing issue, many employees seek different ways to reduce their own environmental footprint. Some Mobility as a Service applications offer a feature to make employees aware of their ecological impact on the environment by showing them the reduction of their CO2 emissions when selecting a more sustainable travel alternative. Other applications use gamification to have employees compete against each other to be the most environmental friendly employee of the company. On the other hand, internal marketing campaigns can help raise awareness about the positive impact on the stress level of employees and their mental and physical health when they choose to commute on foot or by bike.
In order to see a fundamental shift in the commuting behavior of their employees it is important for companies to focus on all four drivers. Moreover, this transformation will take time and not happen overnight. Therefore, instead of trying to onboard everyone from day one, employers would be wise to identify different groups in their organization and focus on employees that are proactively willing to change. Our upcoming article will focus on these different groups - or personae as we call them - so stay tuned for more.