You know why you ride your bike to work each day: fresh air, endorphins, avoiding snarled traffic in the morning rush. But what about your less enthusiastic colleagues, the ones who might consider biking … and then jump in the car and swing through the drive-thru coffee shop? Perhaps they’re in need of incentives.
Fortunately, a growing movement aims to convince more employees to ditch the car and hop on a bike, walk, or take public transportation to the office. The common currency is cash—paid out on a per-trip or a per-mile basis. Here’s a (not really) surprise: It works.
At Osprey Packs, a backpack company based in Cortez, CO, employees earn $0.50 per non-motorized trip, up to $2/day (commuting to and from work, lunch breaks). This gets the majority of the company’s 70 employees pedaling to work. In addition, on Colorado’s Bike to Work Day, Osprey provides gift bags for all participants and randomly gives five non-motorized commuters bigger prizes. The company also coordinates a Clean Commute Challenge, where employees pledge to ride, walk, or carpool at least 30 days in a three-month period.
“It’s a really great morale booster,” says Sam Mix, Outdoor Marketing Manager at Osprey. “We make it a fun competition and reward people based on miles, number of trips completed, and more.”
Clif Bar, which has more than 300 employees at its Emeryville, CA headquarters, takes the incentivizing even further. The company’s Sustainability Benefits Program includes a $500 incentive to purchase a commuter bike or to restore an existing bike. Employees who walk, bike or take public transportation to work can also earn points they trade in for rewards, including cash, massages and gear.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the majority of companies in the outdoor industry offer some type of commuter incentive—after all, this is a market founded on healthy living and an appreciation for physical fitness. But the perks are available within a range of other industries. Timber giant Weyerhaeuser offers incentives to get employees out of their cars, as do Jamba Juice, Tumblr, Amgen, and more.
The widespread popularity of these programs underscores what health advocates have long maintained: It is in the employer’s best interest to encourage employees to adopt and maintain healthy lifestyles. In addition to paying people to pedal (or walk or take public transportation), companies can also encourage non-motorized commuting by offering shower facilities and secure bike storage.
Thanks to the 2009 Bicycle Commuter Act, employers may also provide a reimbursement of up to $20 per month for “reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike.” Your bike needs a tune up? Based on how your benefits are organized, your boss may help you pay for it. It makes sense for the employers, as the healthier the employees, the less companies are likely to pay in medical coverage.
If you’re not sure whether your company provides incentives, the easiest thing is to ask Human Resources (or, if your company doesn’t have an HR department, ask your boss). And if the program exists, take advantage of it. After all, many of us ride to work for the sheer, intrinsic pleasure. But none of us are immune to a little extra coffee cash or a free massage. Let your company help you. It makes work that much more enjoyable.