Employees returning to the post-pandemic workplace can benefit from incentives that promote safe and sustainable travel. By offering staff access to travel solutions such as hassle-free car servicing and Cycle2Work schemes, companies can boost their reputation, increase staff retention and improve staff satisfaction.

COVID-19 has transformed the way we work, with the 9-5 grind replaced by flexible arrangements, combining home working and office working. During the pandemic, such solutions provided protection and improved productivity, benefits that neither side want to lose.

Companies have a responsibility to their staff and stakeholders to offer safe travel solutions as part of their return to work offer. In this article, we describe the business benefits of travel solutions and some of the ways you can engage and inspire your employees.

Transforming transport

Before the pandemic, fewer than 5% of the UK’s workforce worked from home, according to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS). Today, most companies have introduced hybrid models of working that mix time in the office with periods of working at home. Such arrangements are welcomed by staff, who can enjoy a better work/life balance. Freed from the daily commute, staff have more spare time for friends, family and interests.

Businesses benefit from lower office costs, reduced rates of absence and higher staff satisfaction.

Employers have a legal and moral duty to protect staff returning to work, says the CIPD. It recommends three key tests before bringing people back to the workplace:

  1. Is it essential?
  2. Is it sufficiently safe?
  3. Is it mutually agreed?

If you can answer yes to all these questions, you’re ready to start planning.

Your responsibility to your staff begins the minute they leave their homes and kick off their commute. Whether they’re riding a bike or commuting in the car, employers can support staff to make travelling to work as safe, sustainable and as stress-free as possible.

Here’s how you can do it…

Supporting safer travel

Flexible employee benefits, particularly those that support safe and sustainable travel such as cycling, provide big benefits to businesses. Research published in the Harvard Business Review found that 80% of staff would choose additional perks over a pay rise.

Offering tailored benefits can help to retain and attract new talent to your company. In competitive industries where demand for talent outstrips supply, such incentives could make the difference between a hire and returning to the market.

Examples of flexible transport benefits you can offer staff include:

  • Cycle2Work scheme: Your employees can save up to 47% of the costs of a brand-new bike and all the accessories they’ll need (including locks and lights) to enjoy a safe cycle commute.
  • Car maintenance salary sacrifice scheme: Spreading the cost of essential car servicing and maintenance across a year, including the annual MOT and service, as well as tyres and urgent repairs, can help households balance budgets.
  • E-mobility salary sacrifice scheme: Staff can experience the future of transport and spread the cost of an electric bike or e-scooter with an e-mobility salary sacrifice scheme.

It’s essential to create a staff benefits package based on your business. Well-designed schemes that are popular often prove to be cost-neutral, delivering business benefits, including lower absence rates and higher levels of staff satisfaction and retention, that offset the investment.

Freedom to choose

While schemes such as Cyle2Work are increasingly popular, staff should feel empowered – rather than forced – to choose.

A monthly car maintenance salary sacrifice scheme, for example, can provide peace of mind and protection for your employees who need to use a car. Maintaining a vehicle is one of the biggest burdens on household finance, so anything you can do to help will be welcomed.

Working with a trusted supplier such as Halfords, with over 700 locations covering the UK, staff can be confident they’ll get the support they need when they need it.

We recognise that salary sacrifice schemes present challenges for employers and have introduced scheme protection to relieve some of the pain. The plan protects employers and employees from the risks of early termination. In these rare cases, we’ll pick up the deficit.

Stress-free and sustainable

It’s fair to say that Britain’s workers have found the last couple of years tough, with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) finding mental health issues such as stress, anxiety, and depression are on the rise.

The fear of returning to work is genuine for many people. Mental health issues account for 44% of work-related ill health and an incredible 54% of lost working days, said the HSE.

Supporting staff to enjoy active travel solutions such as cycling can improve mental and physical wellbeing, helping to create a healthier and happier workforce.

Cycling is the safest and most sustainable form of travel. For a small investment in Cycle2Work, innovative employers can provide the support that staff need to cycle safely.

Your employees want to cycle, says Sustrans. The organisation found that 55% of people from ethnic minority groups who never cycle would like to start. They also found that 38% of people at risk of deprivation, 36% of women, and 31% of disabled people who do not cycle would also like to give it a go.

To achieve the best results, businesses must invest in promotional programmes that sell the benefits of such schemes. Successful internal communications programmes play a crucial role in encouraging and empowering staff, reassuring them that it’s safe to return to work.

What is Halfords doing?

At Halfords, we recognise the importance of safe and sustainable travel solutions for our 12,000 staff and their families.

As one of the largest employers in the UK and a leader in mobility, we have developed a range of services to support staff in their transport choices.

We operate the UK’s leading Cycle2Work scheme and offer the first-ever car maintenance scheme, enabling employees to spread the cost of maintenance carried out on their vehicle.

We’re encouraging them to enjoy an active lifestyle and make sustainable travel choices if it’s safe to do so. But if they need to drive, we support that too.

At Halfords, we recognise the toll that the pandemic has taken on our mental health and are doing everything we can to reassure our staff that it’s safe to return to work.

As a business, we have invested in internal schemes to promote employee benefits and have built propositions that promote the benefits of safe and sustainable travel.

We recognise that the pandemic has been challenging, but we’re on the road to recovery. At Halfords, we’re with you on the journey.