2017 is nearly at the halfway mark and the summer months are approaching, which means the start of the holiday season – and hopefully better weather! June sees the start of Bike Week, an event set up by charity Cycling UK to promote the environmental, health and social benefits of cycling, and to encourage people to try cycling into work.
Bike week is between the 10th and 18th of June this year, so to get you prepared we’re looking at the benefits of persuading your employees to switch four wheels for two.
The health benefits of cycling
You never forget how to ride a bike – it’s literally the basis of a saying about memorable things. But people can easily forget the health benefits that cycling brings. Just 14% of British adults report ever cycling to work, and only 3% do so every day, which shows that there’s a massive opportunity for businesses to do more to inspire staff to get out and ride.
A recent study of over 250,000 commuters in the UK, carried out by researchers at Glasgow University, found that regular cycling can reduce the chance of getting cancer by 45%, and heart disease by 46%. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, took over five years and is the most detailed study of its kind into the benefits of getting on your bike.
These life-changing health benefits can also help businesses financially, with Cycling UK’s study into health and cycling finding that people who cycle to work regularly -on average- take less sick days per year, saving UK employers an annual sum of around £83 million.
Encouraging employees to ride their bikes, as opposed to taking the bus or train can also result in more engagement in the office.
A study by the University of Montreal found commuters who take long journeys on public transport felt less effective in the workplace, with journeys that were more than 20 minutes increasing the risk of burnout among staff. In comparison, physical exercise such as cycling has shown to help improve your concentration and improve your memory. Healthy bodies, healthy minds!
Cycling is good for staff wellbeing
With 6 million UK employees suffering from a lack of sleep due to workplace stress, companies need to do more to support people with work-related anxieties. One way you can do this is to encourage more physical exercise among staff, which has been shown to improve sleeping patterns, lift moods and reduce stress.
Biking can have a positive effect on mental health too, with physical exercise found to be as effective as psychological or pharmaceutical treatments for depression symptoms. An anonymous guest blog on the Mental Health Foundation discussed how riding a bike helped improve their mindfulness:
“I’m not saying that cycling was the solution to all my problems; it’s just that being on a bike gave me a break from the rest of my life, a quiet place to draw inspiration from. Cycling helped me to think up solutions, and I soon found myself making constructive decisions off the bike too.”
Employees can also feel financial benefits of riding their bike to work, with research in Scotland finding cycling on shorter journeys compared to taking the car can save commuters up to £2,000 a year, the equivalent of an 8% pay raise for an average salary.
Financial wellbeing is something that can keep staff up at night. With one in four employees reporting that financial concerns have affected their ability to do their job, and 19% losing sleep as a result, employers who can offer savings wherever possible through their employee benefits scheme can make a big difference.
How to get employees on their bike
Cycle to work schemes are a very popular employee benefit, helping people to afford a bike for their commute – which tends to be a better-quality set of wheels at a more affordable price. The scheme also comes with the bonus of paying monthly rather than with one up-front payment, making it a more attractive option for staff to take up.
Having a cycle to work scheme as part of a salary sacrifice arrangement can help both employers and their staff save money on tax and NI, with cycle to work schemes being exempt from the new salary sacrifice rule changes. With the payment for the bike deducted from employee’s salaries pre-tax, bikes can also be treated as a business asset, allowing you to reclaim the VAT.
Cycle to work schemes may be an attractive option on paper, but persuading staff to swap public transport for riding their bike, and providing facilities to get more employees to take up cycling, needs to be thought through.
Offering incentives to encourage employees to commute on two wheels is a popular way for businesses to get more sign-ups to cycle to work schemes. SHRM found that 40% of organisations offered rewards or bonuses for completing certain health and wellness activities. After all, people are likely to do something more if they’re rewarded for doing it.
Once you’ve set up an employee benefits programme, it can be easy to overlook how people are actually using it. Employees may know the company has an employee benefits package, but do they understand the savings they could make, and what it involves?
Four out of five employers who have low uptake of employee benefits schemes have not done anything to get staff more engaged with the scheme, which begs the question: how can you expect staff to sign up if they don’t know why they should?
To ensure there is more uptake, regularly communicating your employee benefits plan to your staff is the right way to ensure a more positive response, and doing the groundwork such as explaining how to sign up, how it will work and what they will get for joining will be beneficial. If employees feel involved in the process, they’re more likely to be interested in hearing what’s on offer.