This is a recap of the May 14, 2020 webinar “Their commute: The first step to a safe return to the workplace.“ This webinar is part one of three of the Future of the American Commute webinar series hosted by Scoop. You can view the on-demand webinar here and download the presentation here.
The Future of the American Commute
COVID-19 has transformed almost every aspect of daily life. Instead of commuting, many of us have spent the past months learning how to work virtually and stay connected. With each passing week, the United States is getting closer to reopening. Many states have started to relax restrictions or have already fully opened up, and employers are hard at work thinking through their return to workplace plans.
These types of plans are new for everyone—it’s safe to say that 2020 FY forecasting didn’t include a post-pandemic business framework. Similarly, no employee planned to have to navigate the uncharted territory that comes with the stress of living—and now commuting—through a pandemic. As we look forward together and prepare these plans, one thing is for certain: safety must be the number one priority.
In this new landscape, the safety for your workforce starts the moment they step outside their front door. After all, a safe return-to-workplace plan is only as safe as your commute plan.
To help your organization prepare for getting back to the workplace, Scoop recently launched a 3-part webinar series, The Future of the American Commute, to help organizations across the nation understand:
- How major employers are thinking about the return to workplace
- Research and findings on how commuters are thinking about the return to workplace
- Commuter perception of safety of different commute modes
- Strategies for investing in the commute
- Insights across industries, employers, and leaders guiding their organizations into the future of the American commute
Their commute: The first step to a safe return to the workplace
On Thursday, May 14, we kicked off part one of our webinar series with “Their commute: The first step to a safe return to the workplace.” During this webinar, Scoop’s Co-founder and CEO Rob Sadow, along with Scoop’s VP of Customer Success Cynthia Taylor, discussed why safety for your workforce starts the moment your people step outside their front door. Rob demonstrated why a safe commute is the cornerstone of any return to workplace plan, how to effectively balance the needs of employees and employers in transportation modes and programs, and the tools your organization needs to review and future-proof your transportation program investments in today’s landscape.
Employee safety is a “home to workplace” issue
When we talk about safety in the era of COVID-19, we aren’t just talking about safety from the virus. Safety has two major components to it:
- Physical safety: Answers the question “Will I ‘be’ safe?” These are the investments we make to reduce the likelihood of our employees getting sick or infecting others.
- Psychological safety: Answers the question “Will I “feel” safe?” These are the investments we make to give employees confidence they can return to the workplace and be safe.
For our companies and our cities, risk doesn’t begin when employees walk through the door—it begins when employees walk out of their homes. The commute is the start to the workday and the end to the workday. We bring the commute into our workplace, and we bring it home to our families.
The commute is the first step—and the employer’s responsibility
For many employers, the commute has historically been the responsibility of the employee. As a result, when employers think about returning to the workplace, they start with the experience inside the four walls. However, employees approach the return to the workplace from the opposite perspective. Our internal research and external data from JLL are finding that the commute is the top concern for employees when returning to the workplace.
The employers that recognize the connection between safety and the commute will benefit. They’ll have more engaged employees, a safer workplace, and better COVID-19 rebound.
Employers that don’t put a plan in place for the commute are going to struggle. They have higher chances of reduced physical and psychological safety, putting business continuity at risk, and ultimately putting holistic company performance at risk.
The employee commute: fresh thinking and support required
If we believe that employees are entitled to a safe workplace, and that commute safety is an important element of workplace safety, all of our organizations must have an answer to this question:
How do we get our employees to the workplace safely?
Answering this question requires us to revisit a lot of our preconceived notions on how employees commute:
- The reversal on density: In many ways, the concept of “density” in transportation is sacred. Denser transportation leads to less congestion, better air quality, and more livable cities. With physical and perceived safety as the number one priority, density is no longer the primary transportation goal.
- Commuters are now more worried about safety: Commuters today view driving alone as the safest transportation mode. According to our recent Scoop research, carpooling was viewed as the safest shared option. In carpooling, you can limit two people to a car, control who you carpool with, and control the environment.
We currently have a commute problem:
- Only 29% of the U.S. workforce can work remotely
- The average commute to work is too far for many to bike or walk
- ⅓ of Americans don’t have access to a car
- Seven million of Americans relied on public transportation pre-COVID
Previous commute choices are no longer perceived as safe options for many employees. This is now an issue of equity, since not every person has the financial means to afford a car (average cost of $8,500 per year).
Now, organizations must answer this question: How can we support everyone so not just those who can afford a car can commute safely to the office?
Key principles for every employer to consider for their commute program:
- Safety: Can I get employees that need to be in the workplace there safely?
- Reliability: Can I get employees that need to be in the workplace there reliably?
- Equity: Can I truly tell every employee that there is a safe way for them to get to the workplace, or a fair alternative?
To address these questions, organizations will have to make some changes to the status quo.
Structuring a commute program for the new world
Now that we’ve discussed safety, the importance of safe commutes, and how employers will need to rethink their commute offerings to reflect the post COVID-19 world, we must consider the investment behind the commute. How can your organization intelligently invest in the commute to accommodate for evolving market and business needs?
Consider how CFOs evaluate expenditures and how their expenditures fluctuate during tougher market conditions. When the market is great, CFOs are much more comfortable investing in fixed costs and long term contracts. In down markets, CFOs tighten on expenses, and there is a push to scrap programs or investments that are not critical to business success or business continuity, that do not carry significant performance risk (e.g. fixed cost regardless of usage), and those that require long-term commitments.
Commute investment priorities
Variable: In market downturns, no one wants to be paying for things that they don’t use. Those are generally the first investments to get scrutinized and cut from budgets. In your commute investments, look for offerings that don’t have fixed costs. If you are spending money, you should be getting value.
Flexible: Similar to variable structures, no one in downturns wants to be locked into contracts that inhibit your flexibility to get out of something that doesn’t work. In your commute investments, look for offerings that don’t require you to enter into long term contracts so you can react more nimbly to changes in the world.
Scalable: No one knows exactly how many people are going to be in the office when over the next 12-18 months. That also might look very different office by office, or geography by geography. In your commute investments, look for offerings that are easy to expand or contract with more usage. The more the offering can flex by location or situation, the easier it will be for you to manage over time.
If you’re interested in learning more about how you can incorporate a safe commute experience into your return-to-workplace plan, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.