The future of commuting in a post-pandemic world

Tim Burgess on how to encourage confidence in the travel involved during a return to the office.

Organisations across the UK are finally beginning to reopen their offices. But as they do, there are a host of issues, from social distancing, hybrid working policies to hand gel stations, they will have to contend with. Although all of these are of critical importance, there also remains the key issue of how employees will get to work in the first place.

The daily commute 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 much less frequently.

And there will likely be a slight element of hesitancy about how they will get to work if they 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.

It has been shown that 84% of executives actually prefer in person meetings for building stronger and more meaningful business relationships

The great office return may be looming, but businesses and HR teams 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 importance of in-person meetings

Virtual meetings became essential during the pandemic, 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.

Commuting innovations

The issue is compounded by the fact that, before COVID-19, 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. So 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.

Revamping commutes leads to happier employees

As we begin the great return to office, it is clear that organisations must instil lots of change to ensure employees feel comfortable. This includes commuting with ease, whether that be on public transport, driving, walking, cycling, taxis, 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 safety, wellbeing and comfort. 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.

This is the 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.


About the author

Tim Burgess is head of Uber for Business, UK


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