In the Luumlight

ICYMI: Employer Policy Adaptations & Ideas – Return to the Office Commute Planning

By: Kelly Hostetler

I left the employer virtual forum feeling inspired and empowered. Again reminded of how much energy I get from collaborating with each of you in the TDM community. In a time that has felt detrimental to TDM in so many ways, this employer forum was full of hope, creativity, and empathy. Of the 150 participants on the line, over 60% said that their commute program has risen in importance within their leadership – some light at the end of this long, quarantine tunnel. 

Employers shared employee engagement and communication strategies, hopes for system-wide infrastructure changes, and specific policy adaptations for their commute programs. The driving force behind it all? To carry through on their promise to ensure health, safety, and equity for their employees. We even had one (three-year-old) background participant who put out a call for ninja masks; even the youngest in our commute leader cadre understands the importance of safety at this time. Read on for some of the highlights and sound bites form the forum.

Safety is Number One

During this time it is critically important to be transparent about commute options and policy changes for employee health and safety. Commute leaders are focused on keeping both employees and leadership engaged in program changes and sanitation policies.  Many organizations have used this time as an opportunity to further educate their leadership in commute program planning. Employers are being measured in their approach to bringing employees back to offices. A majority of employers are planning a phased approach to ensure social distancing and safe commute options. Most will not have all employees return to offices until it is safe to encourage shared modes like transit, shuttles, and carpools. And a lack of parking spaces to accommodate the uptick in drive alone commuters also precludes them from bringing everyone back to campus.

Phasing Employees Back to the Office

Employers are planning for a phased return to work over the summer, where essential employees return first. As employers plan for this return to work, here are some policy modifications that organizations are considering:

  • Formalized telework programs
  • Staggered work shifts to allow for social distancing at the office
  • Reservable shuttle seats, parking spaces, and office desks – all in the name of 6 ft distance. 
  • Frequent cleaning and reduced occupancy in vanpools, as allowed by federal regulations
  • Educational programming for new cyclists, as well as amenities like safe bike parking, free tune-ups, and even subsidies for the purchase of a bike for commuting
  • Distributing PPE equipment to those who choose to take shared modes

Communications are Key

In all of this, a common theme was the focus on empathy and safety at every communications touchpoint with commuters. Rather than messaging about the environmental or financial benefits of sustainable modes, employers are crafting their commute messaging around personal safety and self-care. They want to ensure their employees are feeling empowered to make the safest choice for them—and then enable this choice by delivering the most exhaustive and up-to-date commute resources available each day. This is especially critical for those employees who may not have access to a personal car. What are the best resources available to them? And are those resources safe, clean, and reliable? One employer in Detroit noted that they are providing Lyft rides to all employees who previously relied on shuttles or public transit to get to work. 

Once it is deemed safe to do so, employers will likely return to messaging that promotes alternatives to driving alone. Until then, many will not explicitly encourage alternative modes. It was noted that—during this return to some version of normal—it is important to focus on intrinsic motivators and personal identities, rather than financial incentives.

Where’s the Recording?

Just as just as an in-person discussion only exists for as long as we are all present – the virtual forum recording is not available for later viewing. Please join our next employer forum in real time so you can take part in the conversation with commuter leaders across the continent. Details coming soon, simply enter your email below to receive the invite!

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