The way your team gets to the office is part of their work experience, and the commute is almost always a factor in whether someone chooses to work at your company or not. As I’ve previously written on the importance of company culture, considering your employee wellbeing is critical, especially if you want to keep them! I’ll assume you do for the purposes of this article 🙂

I am not going to tell you why you should never drive alone. There are very good reasons for it… sometimes. What I intend to highlight are the real drawbacks of solo driving as the primary way for employees to get to work, and why businesses should be thinking of ways to minimize it as they grow.

Before continuing, I will mention that it was a conscious choice to write this from a “why this stinks” perspective instead of a “why the alternative is great” perspective for two reasons: I thought it would ring stronger, AND, I was having fun writing it this way.

It’s harmful

Driving alone means the environment, traffic, productivity, congestion at the office, and stress, all take a hit. It has negative physical, emotional, and communal impacts, both personally, and organizationally. Recognizing that you care about these things is a start. It’s a mindful and conscientious habit and will show consideration for not only their wellbeing, but the wellbeing of the planet, and help build a responsible culture.

In the eight years of the Utah Clear the Air Challenge, Utah employers and employees have joined together to eliminate 4,700 tons of CO2 from entering our atmosphere.

It’s boring

There are some splendid adjectives to describe what it’s like doing the same thing every day. Let’s see. Monotonous, tedious, dull, humdrum, etc… there are at least 50 synonyms. This is NOT what you want your employees to associate with going to work. The longer the commute, the longer they may experience this, and associate it with your organization. Another job may not have such a boring commute, so you’ll have to compensate in other ways to keep your awesome team. Don’t be a curmudgeon. Make commuting fun. Make your team smile.

Every year the Denver Regional Council of Governments teams up with Denver area employers to challenge employees to commute differently. They engage individuals in a fun competition with novel prizes and events like mobile gaming trucks and ice cream deliveries, making getting out of your car even more fun.

It’s lonely

Pick up a coworker, build a relationship, and talk about creating great things together. Humans are pack animals. Like wolves, we work stronger together. This is a great opportunity to have employees build strong relationships with one another by forming carpools, bikepools, or whatever mode they choose, but together. Look at it like team building. Remove a lonely commute, and build your team. It’s a win-win, and you’ll have happier employees!

In the Region of Waterloo co-workers party together every morning during their annual carpool karaoke campaign, where passengers in a carpool are encouraged to have a sing-along in their carpool and post it to social media.

It’s lazy

If your employees are generally sedentary and sitting at a desk most of the day, more sitting is surely not what they need. Their sacral nerves are calling for them to switch it up! Don’t add pain and stagnancy to their day, and let that be that part of your internal company image. Let them know you care about their health, and encourage them to bike or walk one day a week if they’re close enough.

To encourage their employees to try more active commuting, Google targeted its employees that were interested in biking (but nervous about trying it) and went out of their way to make them feel safe. In the end, nearly a thousand new bikers hit the road at least once.

It’s expensive

Between, gas, insurance, parking, and repairs, it adds up! This is a cost to your employees, it means when you’re negotiating salaries, this is a factor. If you have programs in place to help offset this cost for them and consider their pockets, you may not only offset this cost, but you’ll also be looking out for their best interests. It’s also a direct cost to the business if you are paying for parking spaces, or have strong compliance/regulations in your region.

By providing employees with options, Santa Barbara employer Sonos reduced their company parking costs by over $100,000 per year.

It’s dangerous

Between folks using their cell phones operating 1500 lbs of moving steel, and people in a hurry to get to work, the physics and psychology of the road has you positioned for a large risk. You can hurt someone, and someone can hurt you. If you are behind the wheel, you’re at the most risk financially as well. While physical danger on the road varies from mode to mode, financial risk is greatest for you when driving alone, and the last thing businesses need is an employee dealing with unfortunate car situations. Split your risk and your mode choice/portfolio. Generally a good life maxim anyway!

Stop me before I go on! I can rant forever on this… I’ll do it!

To give credit where it’s due, cars are one of the greatest inventions in human history. They’ve transformed our lives and our cities, and are marvels of human ingenuity. I had Ferrari and Lamborghini posters when I was kid. While I almost never drive to work alone, I do personally love driving. It’s a lot of fun to operate a sophisticated machine with intricate mechanics. My pops owned an auto repair shop for 30 years (quick shameless shout out to my pops).

Still, just one day a week of not driving would reduce traffic by at least 20%, not even considering the reduction after network effects kick in. I’m not telling you to never drive. I am suggesting that a bit of mindfulness around driving alone all the time can eliminate traffic, promote balance and wellbeing in the life of your team, and reduce your expenses. Encourage the habit for your employees to grab a friend, grab a bike, take the bus or train once in awhile, and “get real!”

In Santa Monica we have some awesome modes like Bird, Lime, and Breeze Bike Share. I use them regularly, and love when new fun options pop up. I also run a company here called RideAmigos, where it is our mission to empower people and organizations to commute better. A happier workforce = a happier planet. We LIVE our mission, and we LOVE doing it.

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