By: Tim Burgess, Head of Uber for Business, UK
Across the UK, organisations have begun the task of re-opening their offices to allow staff back into the workplace. But as they do, there are a host of issues to take into consideration, such as social distancing, hybrid working policies, hand gel stations and office testing. Although all of these are of critical importance, there also remains the key issue of how employees get to work in the first place.
It’s no secret that the commute for most people is going to look a lot different than it did pre-COVID. Although employers and employees understand the benefit of meeting in person, the future of hybrid working will still see workers commuting to the office less frequently. And there will likely be a slight element of hesitancy about how to get to work if employees do travel to the office; a recent study revealed 60% that ‘post pandemic’ commuting say hybrid working has reduced stress from not having to commute daily.
The great office return may be upon us, but HR teams and businesses will need to play a critical part in encouraging confidence in the commute for employees. To ensure all workers feel comfortable, leaders must start communicating and developing policies and initiatives to encourage travel to and from offices and meetings, because the benefits of meeting in person are too great to ignore.
The return of in person meetings
During the height of the pandemic, virtual meetings became the only option. But they also highlighted how effective face-to-face meetings are. In fact, it has been shown that 84% of executives actually prefer in person meetings for building stronger and more meaningful business relationships.
In the world of hybrid working, virtual meetings will continue to be vital for collaboration between colleagues and clients based at home or in the office. However, there will likely be a higher demand to increase the number of in-person meetings, and so a rise in travel to and from home. And, unsurprisingly, hybrid working demands hybrid policies. Businesses have to prepare to effectively support employee cohorts with various needs both at home and during their commute. This means simultaneously rolling out and adapting flexible policies for a workforce in transition.
Innovations in the way we commute
Before the pandemic, commuting was rarely the highlight of anyone’s day, with 85% of workers admitting they would take a pay cut for a lower commute time. Clearly there is lots riding on solving this issue, and if organisations get their commuting policy wrong, they will have a big issue on their hands.
The future of commuting post-pandemic is also 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.
Some of the main concerns businesses must solve are avoiding the risk of overcrowding when entering the building and parking shortages, and ensuring priority access to parking is given to those that need it. One way to rectify these is by allowing a more flexible working policy 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 choose from an array of means of transport.
Happier, more motivated employees
As the great office return gets underway it has become increasingly clear that organisations must develop new processes to ensure employees feel comfortable. This includes commuting with ease, whether that be on driving, walking, cycling, taxis, taking public transport, or even by river boat.
The main driver behind this is to demonstrate to employees that you care about them and are willing to go above and beyond for their well-being, comfort and safety. In turn, employees will appreciate the support in managing their daily commute, and so will arrive at work feeling more comfortable and confident to focus on work, collaborate with colleagues, and then return home safely.
The next few weeks will be a defining moment for most organisations, and the time to meet employees half-way on their commute. Reimagining how we spend an average of one hour commuting isn’t easy, but get it right and it can pave the way to more motivated and productive employees.