As businesses look for ways to lower healthcare costs and boost productivity, encouraging and incentivizing bicycle commuting can be a great solution. Here at QBP, our commuter programs have yielded impressive results over the years, and shown how sometimes it’s the little things that make choosing bikes over cars easier. Beth Chillstrom Simon, our HR benefits specialist, shares rationale and options for creating a bicycle-friendly workplace. See what might work for your shop.
For those of us who have turned our enthusiasm for bicycles into a career, the obvious reward for commuting to work by bike is that it’s another chance to ride. Sure, we might do it anyway—but throw in some benefits for doing so and it’s even more likely to happen.
From the early days of QBP, supporting bicycle commuting was seen as a key piece in the overall employee health and happiness puzzle. Our thinking: If you build it, they will ride. And in large part, people who came to work at QBP did so because they were riders. Biking made them feel great and gave them energy…and energetic, happy people got a lot of work done, which affected the bottom line. It just made sense to make sure bike commuting was not only easy to do, but well rewarded.
QBP is able to offer all the usual benefits of a bigger company (medical, dental, vision, etc.), but it’s the smaller fringe benefits that ultimately help shape our culture, retain top employees, and make QBP stand out as a special place to work. Allowing dogs at work, casual dress, and getting paid to bike to work are just a few of the fringes that should not be underestimated.
With the high rate of employee turnover that bicycle shops often experience, a few unique extras can be what ultimately retains employees and keeps your top talent returning season after season. By thinking in terms of the time and cost involved in hiring and training new employees, a small investment on the front end can actually leave you ahead of the game financially while making a difference in the overall happiness of your staff. And happy employees absolutely contribute to a better experience for your customers.
A few of the popular benefits QBP offers that could be easily adapted at bike shops include:
QBP allows an annual allocation of 12 hours for full-time employees and eight hours for part-time employees for on-the-clock volunteering. This is usually done in groups to help build a sense of community. Because this benefit is applied in the same way as vacation or PTO, on-the-clock volunteering is a tax-deductible event.
What you can do:
- Determine how many hours you can allocate to this benefit. Do you need to limit it to bike-related volunteering, or to certain days or times of year? This can be a great chance to get familiar faces from your shop out into the community and ultimately get additional business.
- Be on the lookout for opportunities that could be a good fit in your area like trail building, bicycle rodeos, Safe Routes to Schools, etc., and encourage employees to participate. Keep in mind that the more autonomy employees have, the more it will be seen as a true benefit to them. An ultimate bonus to shops is additional business, but you don’t want employees to feel it is purely self-serving.
Commuter Credits—Getting Paid to Bike to Work:
QBP employees track their mileage and number of commutes to earn up to $3 per day to be used on internal purchases. Not only do employees get the additional money to purchase product, they save money on gas, are healthier, and more productive. It’s a key step for us to get “Every Butt on A Bike.”
What you can do:
- Decide on the dollar amount you can provide employees. Start by calculating the absolute maximum scenario and thinking of it in terms of employee retention. (At $3 a day, the total annual cost for an employee working and commuting 5 times a week comes to $780, or $15 a week).
- Determine how employees will be able to use their commuter credits. At QBP, commuter credit is applied to employee accounts and can be used toward any in-house purchase. Maybe you need to exclude some products.
- QBP does not pay cash for commuter credits, and when the employee leaves the company, the credits go away. If you have a lot of returning, seasonal employees, you may want to leave the balance open for a specific time period. A $100 credit may encourage a seasoned employee to return for another year, helping you avoid the expense of hiring and training a new employee.
- Track and administer your program:
At nationalbikechallenge.org, employers can track employee commuter trips/miles and run reports. A notebook and pencil will do, as well. QBP calculates and applies credits monthly, and employees are responsible for logging their commutes in a timely fashion. Commuter statistics can also be used for marketing your shop—not only are you selling the products, but your employees are using them.
Commuter HSA Contribution:
One of the new benefits QBP rolled out this year is a monthly $10 or $15 contribution to employees Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for commuting at least six or 12 round trips in a month. This is determined and tracked using the same tracking for our commuter credits as mentioned above. A majority of our employees are enrolled in a high-deductible medical plan, so this is an additional benefit to help offset health costs. It has also been instrumental in having employees who have not yet opened an HSA account do so, and as a result, start saving pre-tax money. This benefit supports our belief that biking leads to better employee health, with the understanding that financial health is a strong contributor to overall health and wellness, too.
What you can do:
- This benefit has more detailed compliance attached to it, so unless you offer an HSA-eligible plan, it may not be an option at all. Many shops are not able to offer health insurance, so try to be creative and listen to employees. Could you offer a similar commuter benefit that could be used towards the cost of insurance?
Every three years, QBP gives employees an additional $100 or $200 credit (based on pay range) to be used towards the purchase of a bike and/or helmet. This credit can be used in combination with the commuter credits and is available after 90 days of employment. It’s one more step toward getting every butt on a bike, as well encouraging employees to use the products you sell.
What you can do:
- Decide on a sustainable dollar amount and time frame for eligibility. Determining what your goals are for the benefit up front can help you shape the final details. Ideally, a benefit meets a number of objectives, such as employee happiness or employee retention.
- Be sure you have a way to keep track of when the benefit was used, as employees don’t generally remember those details.
As you look to add new benefits, take a few moments to determine what your end goals are. Don’t be afraid to get creative to make them work for your employees and culture. Whatever benefits you do offer, market and promote them consistently—an unused benefit is no benefit at all. Last but not least, before rolling out a new benefit, run details by an accountant or broker to ensure you are administering them correctly and are in compliance with tax laws and other requirements.