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Workplace Travel Plans—do they actually work?
Since the humble Workplace Travel Plan (WTP) became a condition of consent for development applications, it has suffered a hit to its reputation. As part of local government bureaucratic processes, the WTP became 'guilty by association' of being an administrative, box-ticking exercise without any inherent value. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Are Workplace Travel Plans an effective solution?
While skepticism is understandable, research shows that an effective WTP not only benefits the environment, but it can also help deliver financial gains and productivity improvements by saving an organisation time and money.
Armed with a well-executed Workplace Travel Plan, an organisation can expect to see a positive impact on its operating costs, carbon footprint and even its brand. The community mindset created by choosing technology-driven alternatives to single person commuting can also help increase the retention of talent.
What’s so bad about cars?
Sure, we are very attached to our cars—they are more than a means of transport. Cars are valuable possessions, symbols of our status, and for many, represent the embodiment of personal freedom. As a result, travel to and from work in many of our capital cities is dominated by the single-occupancy vehicle. Of the five million people who traveled to work on the day of a recent Census in Australia, 70% drove while 7% were passengers.
Transport is the fastest-growing source of greenhouse gas emissions, with commuter and business travel comprising nearly 40% of kilometres driven by cars.
But clearly, driving has become more stressful. We all experience the frustrations of pollution, traffic congestion, and parking pressures. When drivers are surveyed, about half say they would actually prefer to be driving less — and of these — over a third say they already make some effort to curtail their car use.
The reality – WTPs work
Workplace Travel Plans undoubtedly enable organisations to have their development applications approved, but the question is, can they really deliver an organisation savings and benefits?
On first consideration, it seems unlikely that a significant change in the travel patterns of a workforce, such as a move from single-occupancy commuting to ridesharing or on-demand bus services, could happen without a major investment in the existing infrastructure serving the worksite.
Workplace Travel Plans often involve a small capital expenditure on items such as carpool schemes, end of trip facilities, footpaths, on-demand bus services or exclusive carpooling parking bays. And, this is good news for businesses as the statistics consistently demonstrate that a good Workplace Travel Plan can succeed in cutting the number of people driving to work by 15%.
Not only does it reduce the number of people driving to work, reducing the pressure on parking, but moving to a shared mobility solution can have a positive impact on workforce culture too.
The implementation of a ridesharing program can encourage employees to build meaningful connections with people they may not have dealt with in the past. This helps transform the workplace culture into one that actively encourages open communication, collaboration, and team building.
Additionally, by sharing a journey with a colleague, it can help employees get a jump start on their day. This is because we tend to engage in conversations with people on topics we know we have in common, and for employees that naturally means discussing work. Discussing current or future projects encourage increased productivity, collaboration and establish natural communication for teamwork activities in the future.
But how do you achieve these benefits? Fortunately, there is a well-defined recipe for success to help deploy a good Workplace Travel Plan.
The recipe – key points for making a WTP work
As a start, it’s pertinent to question what we mean by a 'good' Workplace Travel Plan. Clearly, appropriate planning and execution are important, but beyond these, the following recipe for success has been honed through decades of trial and error across countless organisations and cultures.
Elements required to execute a Work Travel Plan effectively:
- Buy-in at the top from key executives
- Benchmarking the current state of play at the organisation using a staff travel survey
- Strong consideration of the objectives in the short and long-term
- Allocation of staff resource and program budget for rewards
- Alliances with technology partners to bring innovative solutions
- A comprehensive and targeted communications plan
Go for technology
It’s important to note the above point about the use of technology as it’s often missed unless a specific Workplace Travel Plan champion happens to be interested in new technology.
Opportunities to unlock new, more compelling modes of mobility using the capabilities of our smartphones have burgeoned in recent years. Some obvious examples include apps for live train or bus arrival updates, smart trip-matching for carpoolers, or hailing small, more agile on demand-buses with drivers able to respond in real-time to requests for trips. In addition, as we know, the advent of Uber and Lyft has transformed the traveler’s mindset. People are now far more comfortable booking transport using their phones — they are even coming to expect it.
Initial skepticism regarding the effectiveness of Workplace Travel Plans is understandable. They require a relatively small capital outlay and the resistance to changing deeply ingrained commuting habits may appear impossible. However, research has repeatedly demonstrated that the diligent application of a best-practice approach will yield excellent results.