Big (and small) companies are oddly modest about the transportation benefits they offer.
Which becomes even stranger as the battle to recruit employees continues to get tougher and the commute itself increasingly gains exposure as a way companies can have competitive advantages. (As if Amazon’s HQ2s locating in the public-transportation meccas of DC and New York isn’t evidence enough.)
Publicity about some great programs sneaks through the cracks (such as Microsoft’s, Coke’s, Nestle’s, and others), but it’s always nice when another company offers up information about their own competitive transportation advantages.
Clif Bar’s headquarters in Emeryville, Calif., is one such new example. It’s no surprise the company features a lot of employees who are fit and athletic and who appreciate Clif Bar’s Cool Commute Program.
“During Bike to Work Month, we get about 40 percent biking in,” noted Sadie Chanlett-Avery, Clif Bar’s “in-house yogi, during a webinar held this week by Bikes Make Life Better. “For a lot of people, biking is completely new. We often say, ‘Hey, you’ve got this $500, this is your chance.'”
That $500 is an incentive Clif Bar offers its employees (available to them once every six years) to spend on whatever they need related to a bicycle, whether that’s buying a new one, repairing one, or purchasing accessories.
Chanlett-Avery said Bike to Work Day and Bike to Work Month are the prime times that she sees upticks in new bike commuters. Along with reminding employees about the incentive, Clif Bar gets local bike mechanics to help employees in the parking lot and also facilitates group or individual rides to places like the grocery store that will help get them comfortable. the company’s in-house wellness program also works to pair up people who live near each other in order to encourage social bike commutes to the office.
Emeryville is located in the East Bay, not far from where the Bay Bridge carries people over from San Francisco. Many employees live in Oakland and Berkeley, where the geography is pretty flat. The company has about 150 employees who live within 10 miles of headquarters, so biking is a real possibility for that group.
And even for those not biking in, Clif Bar has a fleet of bikes onsite for people to use throughout the work day. Lots of employees complement their bike riding with the great public transit in the Bay Area, with many biking to BART in San Francisco and continuing their rides when they step off the train near work. There’s one employee who’s training for an IRONMAN, and she bikes nearly 25 miles in to work over the mountains.
“A lot of wellness programs really struggle. It sounds obnoxious, but you have to keep showing up in people’s faces. Some people in their third or fourth year finally say that maybe this is their ,” Chanlett-Avery said.
It helps that Clif Bar has developed a SharePoint tracking software program, an app that was built in house, for employees to log their own points. Chanlett-Avery said apps like Strava are more for recreational riders, and workplaces really need to offer tech themselves to have a chance at getting through to employees.
Biking and transit reimbursements are far from the only things tracked in the software. “We want to incentivize our employees to live more sustainable lives. Different incentives work for different people,” she said. Home solar panels, veggie gardens, smart appliances, and new or used electric car tax breaks are some of the other elements of the wellness program that result in employees receiving points that can be used for massages, acupuncture, and chiropractic sessions.
“We subsidize anything that’s not a commute alone in a car,” Chanlett-Avery said. “Even having a party on Bike to Work Day or company comradery is such a great return on investment.”