Bike to Work: Benefits for Bottom-Lines and Waistlines

Karen Parusel

Biking to Work is skyrocketing in popularity due to its health benefits and its ability to decrease costs in the workplace in a variety of areas. Utilizing cycling as a health promotion tool reduces benefits costs, lowers absenteeism and turnover, and creates higher productivity, loyalty, and morale. Biking to work also has the unique ability to be both a health program and an environmental sustainability program, helping to make an organization a desirable, sought-after employer. These factors, coupled with recent improvements in safe cycling infrastructure, have made cycling a mainstream mode of transport to work.

Reduced Costs

Cost savings are found across the board from cycling to work, and warrant active cycling promotion in workplaces. Health care and medical claims costs can be reduced significantly, as evidenced at Steelcase Corporation. Their costs were 55 per cent lower among health program participants than non-participants over a six-year period, an average of $478.61 for participants versus $869.98 for non-participants.

Studies also demonstrate reduced absenteeism among employees who are physically active on one or more days per week. For example, DuPont saw a 47.5 per cent reduction in absenteeism due to its health program, and the Canadian Life Assurance Company also found that turnover was 34.4 per cent lower among its health program participants compared to non-participants over a seven-year time period.

In terms of productivity and morale, 60 per cent of employees consider wellness offerings an incentive to remain with their current employer, and employees who feel they are being allowed to improve their health and well being take more pride in their work. Further, 80 per cent of Union Pacific Railroad’s employees believe their health program was helping become more productive at work, and 75 per cent thought regular exercise was helping to achieve higher levels of relaxation and concentration. Less work time is lost, as physically fit employees are less fatigued, make fewer errors, and can deal with stress more effectively. In addition to these benefits, there may be reduced costs associated with car parking provisions, or opportunities to reward employees or build recognition programs around biking to work.

A Health and Wellness Program

Cycling is one of the most appropriate and accessible types of physically activity for the majority of the population, as it can be easily incorporated into daily life. It’s also easily adaptable to various abilities, with everyone from absolute beginners to advanced cyclists biking to work. In addition, cycling to and from work is more acceptable and cost-effective than formal exercise classes or fitness programs.

It also takes little scheduling and planning effort from HR representatives to promote biking to work compared to traditional health programs. As well, employees don’t need to spend extra work or personal time on fitness, as they are exercising while commuting.

People judge health improvements as the most important reason for encouraging them to take up or increase their cycling, while their second reason was for environmental benefits. This makes biking to work a great tool to promote both health and environmental sustainability. Further, many recent safety improvements (e.g. bike lanes, bike routes) are attracting many new cyclists, particularly women, who embrace an accessible European-style of riding with little “bike gear” and other specialized equipment.

Promoting Biking to Work in your Organization

Get your workplace rolling by participating in Bike to Work Week on May 31st–June 6th, and run interactive bike-to-work workshops as a way to encourage and support employees who’ve thought about biking to work, but may need that little extra push to try it. Training also supports those who already bike to work, and immensely helps participants feel safe, confident, and comfortable on the road. Workshops range from interactive presentations to on-road training, providing fun, hands-on education that gives employees the confidence to ride in urban settings. Find out more about training options and Bike to Work Week (or Bike to Work Week outside the Lower Mainland).

References

  • Cavill, N., Davis, Adrian. (2007). Cycling and Health: What’s the Evidence?
  • Edington, DW. (March 1992). Health Behavior.
  • Health Education Authority (199_). Health Promotion in the Workplace: A summary, London: Health Education Authority
  • Leatt, P. (Jan/Feb 1988). Canadian Journal of Public Health.
  • Lechner, L, de Vries, H., Adriaansen, S. and Drabbels, L. (1997). Effects of an employee fitness program on reduced absenteeism, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, _9 (9), pp. 8_7-8_1
  • Leutzinger, J, Blanke, D. (Sept/Oct 1991). Health Values.
  • Shephard, R. (199_). A Critical Analysis of Work-site Fitness Programs and Their Postulated Economic
  • Benefits, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, _4 (_), pp _54-_70
  • Yen, LT-C. (Sept/Oct. 1991). American Journal of Health Promotion.

Karen Parusel is the Streetwise Program Manager at the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition, and has also worked as a Human Resources Advisor at VanCity Credit Union. The VACC is a non-profit organization that works with employers, the public, and governments to advocate for bike safety and bike education, and aims to encourage and support those who cycle for transportation. For more information on the VACC go to www.vacc.bc.ca or call 604-878-8222.

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Category: Recruit & Retain, Workplace Wellness

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