The pandemic will transform the way we commute

Man on a bike on his commute to workOrganisations and businesses have a lot to contend with as they begin to reopen their offices. From social distancing, working from home policies, office layouts, hand gel stations and more. But there also remains one key issue when it comes to welcoming employees back to the office. And that’s how they will get to work in the first place. That’s because the daily commute is going to look a lot different than it did pre-COVID. Firstly, while many employers and workers see the benefit of meeting in person, the hybrid world we now live in will see workers commuting to the office far less frequently. And, if they do travel to the office, there is an element of hesitancy about how they will get there; a recent study revealed 60 percent that ‘post pandemic’ commuting say hybrid working has reduced stress from not having to commute daily.

With the great return to work looming, businesses and HR teams will play a critical part in encouraging confidence in the commute for employees. Leaders must start communicating and developing policies and initiatives that can encourage travel to and from offices and meetings, as the benefits of meeting in person are too great to ignore.

While virtual meetings became essential during the pandemic, they also highlighted how effective in-person meetings are. In fact, it’s been shown that 84 percent of executives actually prefer face-to-face meetings for building stronger and more meaningful business relationships.

The world of hybrid working will see virtual meetings continue to be vital for collaboration between colleagues and clients based at home or in the office. But there will likely be a rising demand to increase the number of in-person meetings, and therefore travel to and from home. And with hybrid working demands hybrid policies. Businesses must be prepared to effectively support employee cohorts with different needs both at home and during their commute. This means simultaneously rolling out and adapting flexible policies for a workforce in transition.


Commuting innovations

The issue is compounded by the fact that, pre-pandemic, commuting was rarely the highlight of anyone’s day – 85 percent of workers admit they would take a pay cut for a lower commute time. Clearly there is a lot riding on solving this issue; get your commuting policy wrong, and businesses could have a big problem on their hands.

The future of commuting post-pandemic is an opportunity for organisations to reset and reconsider their policies and benefits for employees. This includes taking into consideration providing staff with alternative commuting solutions they would require as part of their return to work.

The main concerns to solve include ensuring no overcrowding when entering the building, parking shortages are avoided and priority access to parking are given to those that need it. One way to solve these is by allowing for more flexible working hours to avoid rush hours and ensure parking spaces are available. They could also provide sustainable alternatives, such as encouraging the use of cycle to work schemes or walking to avoid enclosed, busy spaces and instead be in the open air.

Many organisations are also exploring a commuting programme that is cleaner and greener. For example, cycling and electric taxis, and also new solutions such as boat taxis for City of London workers. These innovations are all part of reimagining what door-to-door means in a post-pandemic world, and allowing employees to pick and mix from an array of means of transport.


Revamping commutes mean happier employees

As we return to the office, it’s clear that businesses will play an important role in ensuring employees can travel with ease, whether that be on public transport, driving, walking, cycling, taxis, or even by river boat.

The main driver behind this is to show employees that you care about them and are willing to go above and beyond for their safety, well-being and comfort. In turn, employees will be grateful for the support in managing their daily commute, and will arrive at work feeling more comfortable and confident to get the job done, collaborate with colleagues, and then return home safely.

This is a moment to meet your employees half-way on their commute: reimagining how we spend an average of one hour commuting isn’t easy, but it can pave the way to stronger morale, motivation and productivity for UK employees.