Commuters across the UK will currently be thinking very carefully about the method of transport they use to get to and from work. In many parts of the country, taking the car to work proves to be a stressful and lengthy option and recent announcements that rail fares are set to increase by 1.9%, combined with the threat of regular strikes, is making this an increasingly unattractive option.
As a result, commuter habits across the UK are changing. For many, cycling or running to the office offers a myriad of benefits: financial savings against the cost of taking the train or driving, improving general fitness and wellbeing, and a reduced impact on the environment.
The rise of the more active commuter is also having a knock-on effect on the type of facilities provided in the office, and the need to supply showering and changing facilities should be recognised by businesses.
While many larger companies have offered extensive washroom facilities for some time, businesses of all sizes must evaluate whether their current office space is fit for purpose, or whether they could be alienating potential recruits due to an incompatibility with their commuting preferences. Additionally, at a time when talent attraction and retention is key, offering new and existing employees a broad range of benefits, for instance spacious and modern shower and changing facilities, is very important.
Methods of travel such as cycling and running, offer wide-ranging positive impacts that span beyond making improvements to the office facility provision. From an HR perspective, an increase in people cycling, running or walking to work can benefit employee wellbeing, improving concentration and lowering stress levels across the businesses, and having fewer cars on the road is a positive step towards reducing the environmental effects of the daily commute.
Throughout the course of the working year, employees spend a large amount of time using washrooms and therefore it is essential that companies ensure their facilities are both suitable to the needs of the workforce and appealing to customers and visitors. Different types of businesses require different things from their washroom facilities. For example, modern, young start-ups might opt for a minimalist, high-design approach, whereas older and more established businesses may feel that their brand is better communicated through classic features. Whichever style is chosen, suitability must be a priority and organisations with a large number of employees who cycle or run to work should endeavour to provide suitable shower and changing facilities.
Alongside washrooms, secure storage areas are also important for those who travel to work by bike. With cycling becoming increasingly popular both as a sport and as a method of commuting, people are investing more money in their bikes and equipment. After arriving at work, locking the bike in a secure area is highly important and businesses which make the effort to provide dry, lockable and spacious bike shelters are often held in high regard by the modern commuter.
Changing commuter habits can present many opportunities for individuals involved in the design and planning of office sites. A continued decrease in the number of people travelling to work by car could reduce the amount of parking spaces required, driving cost savings that can contribute to reinvestment or renovation of workplace facilities or the creation of green outdoor space.
Rising numbers of people choosing to cycle and run to work is certainly a positive thing, promoting wellbeing and fitness across the workplace, while reducing CO2 emissions. However, in order to adapt to changing employee preferences providing the right facilities for the 21st century commuter should be at the forefront of every site manager’s mind.
By Nigel Crunden, business specialist at Office Depot.