Across the country, a mobility trend is sweeping the workforce. Employees are asking for more flexibility, more options, more technology. Human Resource leaders, transportation specialists, and C-suite execs all see it – employees want flexibility in their daily commute. They see it, of course, but do they understand the policies and technology necessary to make it a reality?
The core truth is this: the mobility game has changed. With the tap of a finger, we can access a growing list of mobility options on our phones. Should we take a bike or scooter share to meet friends? Perhaps, ride public transit on the way to the restaurant and grab a Lyft Line or Uber Pool on the way home? We have a new sense of autonomy and empowerment as we move about cities. Why shouldn’t we enjoy this same flexibility and choice for our––twice ––daily commute?
It’s not about never driving – it’s about driving less.
The fact is, nearly every organization is trying to keep up. And that’s not a slight, given the hyper-growth of the Mobilty as a Service (MaaS) apps and commute options. Employees want commute options that align with their daily mobility patterns and their favorite mobile apps. The days of binary benefits – parking OR transit – are over. My first job in Seattle offered me a choice. A free transit card (yay) or free parking in their garage. One or the other. I’m in or I’m out. Zero flexibility. What if I want to bus some days but park on others? I created my own hybrid system, where I bussed most days but drove (and paid market rate for parking) on Fridays, so I could quickly escape the city to the mountains. I created my own flexibility, but the truth is, my employer should have had the policies (and, honestly, technology) in place to empower every employee with this daily flexibility. That was nine years ago, I wonder – have they caught up?
The right policy and technology for flexibility
So, if binary isn’t the answer, what is? The key is to create a scenario where employees have a choice each morning––and any incentives/disincentives are designed to realize the behaviors we’d like to encourage. We should allow employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for parking, transit, and rideshare services. We should subsidize or reimburse commutes via MaaS apps and offer amenities like bike cages, showers, and free tune-ups. We should support flexible vanpooling and subsidize the cost for employees. We should provide guaranteed ride home services with Lyft or Uber, so employees feel like they have the flexibility to leave the car at home in case of emergency. We should subsidize transit whenever possible so that fewer employees are choosing to drive-alone each day. And here’s the message that needs to be heard: It’s not about never driving – it’s about driving less.
Technology allows employers who administer their commuter benefits to offer subsidies and/or incentives to employees who commute with third-party mobility providers like Lyft, Scoop, Strava, and Waze Carpool. These mode-specific incentives are automatically applied directly on their employees’ paychecks. The employer will also get the data about which employees are using ride-hail, biking or walking, and carpooling. For example, when an employee carpools using Scoop or Waze Carpool, the employer will know when an employee carpooled and with whom - allowing for rich analysis, targeted communications, and directed incentives (like free or priority parking for carpools). Employees simply connect their apps and start carpooling. This provides flexibility, choice, and an enjoyable experience because employees can use the daily apps they love for their (twice) daily commute.
Mobility App Integrations
Luum’s software unifies the commute and integrates with a number of mobility apps to deliver better employee experiences.
Why do I need daily parking?
Without a doubt, the worst policy you can have in place is free employee parking, with monthly paid permits a close second. If you do charge for parking, but it’s at a monthly rate, you’re creating a detrimental sunken cost effect. I am actually more likely to drive because I’ve paid for parking and I want to get the most bang for my buck. No matter how many carrots you throw at alternative modes, I’m still likely to stay rooted in my car seat.
If you truly want to shift your employee mindset and empower you team with a daily choice, then all of your policies and benefits must support this daily flexibility.
We’ve worked with employers who have shifted from monthly parking charges to daily parking charges (and doubled the total cost), with very little outcry. HR thought there would be a mass exodus, but instead, employees were delighted that they were only paying for the days they actually drove and wanted to park. What’s more, the employer was able to open up garage access to more employees, because fewer chose to drive each day. The parking garages had better daily utilization, because employees weren’t just sitting on their monthly parking permit –– afraid they wouldn’t have access on a day when driving was a necessity. Employees understood that they had access and could park on days they needed to drive but, in the end, didn’t have to worry about the days they enjoyed an alternative instead.
When we wake up in the morning, the first question on our mind is often: what’s the weather and what’s my commute like today? We commute twice daily, and we all know it has a profound impact on our job satisfaction and productivity. In fact, commute is the 3rd most common reason why an employee leaves a job, only second to low wages and hours worked. So employers, catch up and align your programs, policies, and technology to offer that flexible daily choice we all desire. Your employees, corporate culture, and bottom line will all reap the benefits.
 Washington Post; Hinge Research Institute Employer Brand Study 2017; ADP Research Institute, 2018.
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