Shaping Your Post-Covid Commute Culture
Our world has changed significantly in just a matter of weeks. The spread of COVID-19 has brought with it, among countless other challenges, wide-ranging implications for employers and their commute programs. And the most salient feature of our pandemic is this: the virus doesn’t travel, people do. Armed with this knowledge, we have championed social distance. And each of us, in our own way, has done our best to manage the burdens that come along with this isolation.
What makes this situation unique is the profound impact it will continue to have on the way people move around. Transportation choices have narrowed. Many among us will experience travel-related anxieties as the process of normalization gets underway. Even more difficult to manage, from a commute perspective, is the fact that there are still many unknowns as it relates to how our infrastructure, communities and employees will rebound from this disruption.
In order for us to adapt and respond in a manner commensurate with the constant environmental changes—it is crucial that our communications take on a new level of transparency and purpose. The coming weeks and months ahead will continue to be a period without precedent. Those charged with leading commute programs are being called upon to provide guidance within their organizations—to ease commuter concerns and enable business continuity.
Within this piece, we hope to impart some useful nuggets of information that can be used to guide your commute program communications during times of disruption. Like so many other critical business decisions to be made at this hour—now is the time for empathy, resilience and flexibility when it comes to your commuters and commute program.
Own Your Commute Narrative
Be authentic. Transparency will go a long way as it relates to current commute realities. Reaffirm your shared connection to the real-world challenges being faced day in and day out. This will look different city-to-city and organization-to-organization.
Be clear. If you haven’t already, start providing frequent communications that continually hit on your commute policy key messages. Try and provide clear timelines and manage expectations regarding commute program changes.
Be agile. As a resilient leader you must be nimble and decisive when providing updates. Maintaining fluidity as commute circumstances change must be a priority in your commuter communications plan.
Take a Renewed Focus to the Commute Experience
Express empathy for the human side of commuting during the period of phasing out of working from home and back into offices. You may not always have the answers but let your employees know that you are listening to them and understand their fears as it relates to commuting each day.
Consider the critical impacts of commuting into the office each day/week as new information comes to light.
Share the wins as new commute options become available and new policies roll out that improve the commute experience, especially those that add greater daily flexibility for employees.
Centralize Commute Decision-Making
Create a commuter command center (comprised of stakeholders and decision-makers) so that you can act intentionally and decisively when providing communications. If there is one thing we’ve learned during this pandemic, it is how critical commute management is for organizations.
Gather as much qualitative and quantitative commute data as possible during the initial phases of returning to work. Share the findings across departments (HR, C-Suite, Facilities, et al.) in order to keep decisioning balanced through data as well as through empirical/anecdotal evidence drawn from employee commute experiences.
Adopt the best mechanism—and a regular as possible cadence—for delivering commute updates. This will enable business continuity and create further alignment of commute programs with organizational goals.
Reflect Your Organization’s Culture Through Commute Communications
Strive to communicate your core values and demonstrate your mission through each iteration of commute policies during this time.
Always seek new and innovative ways to empower and enable your commuters—and move the commute program forward through compassionate commute policy-making at every touchpoint.
Create a meaningful feedback loop that delineates policy updates according to commuter-identified needs. Something like: “We are listening to you, which is why we are rolling out this new policy...In effect until further notice, this change will help make commutes less stressful and allow for more flexibility."
Communicate Empathy Through Commute Flexibility
Being empathetic towards your commuter’s needs means allowing for flexibility in their commute, each and every day. Center yourself and your commute team on this guiding question, “How can you provide this commute flexibility as they return to the office?”
Promote active dialogue. Every leader has blind spots – it’s impossible to know every challenge your commuters are facing – and active listening can help you course-correct and mitigate additional impact.
Draft survey questions that seek to better understand and provide the best possible policies for your commuters.
Survey Questions Might Include:
What are your overall feelings on the impact of COVID-19 on your commute?
How did you commute prior to COVID-19, and how do you plan to commute once we to return to the office?
Have the company’s COVID-19 commute communications been informative and effective?
How can our company and commute team better serve you during periods of uncertainty?
Do you feel you have access to adequate commute resources and options?