By Venkatesh Gopal, Business Development and Partnerships Manager at movmi
Our work travel or commuting patterns shape most of our lives. Very few of us would disagree with that statement. Work related commuting has gone through a major reset in the last year, as more companies embrace remote working as a permanent choice for their employees. What does this mean for the transportation space? One of the silver linings is reduced congestion, as enforced lockdowns have triggered many to get habituated to a WFH culture which is difficult to break-free from.
While benefits are multiple – more time for our loved ones, healthier lifestyles – there are a few downsides. One of them is the low uptake of public transit, largely due to safety concerns – which in the pre-COVID era was a viable and preferred option for many – which has diverted commuters to driving private cars. Entry level new car sales and overall used car sales have seen consistent growth quoting “resilient retail customers”, which is fuelled mainly by physical distancing concerns. Traffic congestion levels in many cities are already up to pre-pandemic levels.
Mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) solutions and other shared mobility alternatives (e.g. micromobility) are starting to rise to the challenge, but in addition to creating supply, the demand must be directed towards such services.
Corporate mobility programs can take various shapes or forms to tackle this issue. What’s in it for the employers? From nipping the problem of providing additional parking options for employees in the bud to allowing flexibility which fosters productivity and attracting new talent, the benefits are myriad. What will it take to create a successful corporate mobility program?
In this article you’ll read;
- What can corporate mobility look like? How do we capitalize on the ‘WFH reset’ opportunity to shift commuting patterns towards shared mobility?
- What kind of solutions are available today?
- What challenges do we see and how can we navigate those?
Shared Mobility models vs the Corporate Commute use case
Since the initial confusion of how to navigate the new pandemic-struck normal, we’ve seen different trends in favor of shared mobility.
Globally, cities are having a go at embracing the 15-minute-city concept. City planning is a key factor in dictating the rate at which residents adopt new mobility modes. A dense city means better infrastructure for micromobility and regulations favoring a flexible curbside use case e.g. carshare parking zones and ondemand shuttle pickup zones. It also means better connectivity with public transportation nodes. This idea has greatly benefited from the remote work culture acceptance globally, which detaches the most popular need for the single occupancy private car for an average household i.e. commuting to work. Corporates are increasingly considering (where possible) to reduce overhead costs in renting and maintaining an urban office space. As a result, it has reduced the need for employees to commute regularly, along fixed routes or timings.
Secondly, public-private-partnerships between transit agencies and shared mobility operators has shown more promise than ever since the pandemic. The long foreseen vision of integrated shared mobility or mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) seems to be within touching distance with new developments (and pilots) across newer cities such as Vancouver, Bogota, and São Paulo, other than the already existing ones in European cities. The rise of the MaaS wave is helped by new feasible solutions, revised regulations, incentive programs for modeshift and the growing uptake of digital payment methods.
As we have started witnessing stricter distancing regulations reemerging in many cities in the last few weeks, returning to a workplace might be too early to imagine. With regards to the relatively new concept of corporate mobility, this could be the right time to establish partnerships, test pilots and co-create financially-environmentally sustainable solutions. First off, here’s why corporate mobility programs are needed now more than ever and how shared mobility fits in.
- Equitable. One of the prime requirements for urban transportation services. From a corporate perspective, employees across all income levels must have a convenient and affordable choice in commuting. Moreover, driving to work is a financial burden which comes linked to related expenses such as parking, not to mention additional time taken and mental well-being issues. These impact productivity at the workplace, and run the risk of the employer losing talent to competitors while not being attractive enough to new ones. Shared mobility services check the affordability and convenience boxes and offer flexible choices to end users between modes.
- Financial leverage. Employee cost-to-company is a critical factor to consider. Cost overheads from subsidising vehicle and parking costs are seldom as impactful as the investment in employee’s growth and learning. Shared mobility solutions provide the required flexibility for employee needs, are easier to manage, and remain relevant even when the definition of a workplace changes e.g. remote working.
- Health and safety. This ties into point 1 of equity, since a company-wide mobility program allows all employees access to safe mode choices and does not put employee groups reliant on public transit at risk. Shared mobility such as on-demand shuttles are effective in allowing employees to move in their own bubbles, and helps in contact tracing while bridging last mile connectivity through integrated micromobility modes.
The growing popularity of remote working only makes the case for a corporate mobility program stronger. Conventionally, corporate mobility meant allocating vehicle and/or parking allowances within the employee compensation. However this is not ideal, for the three reasons stated above, as more employees working remotely find such benefits (e.g. parking) irrelevant or highly underutilized.
The popular alternative usually considered by companies is a transit pass or allowance. While that’s helpful and very welcome, many employees may live in areas that are not well-served by public transit. Exploring available shared mobility services in the city is a win-win solution. In case of limited supply of shared mobility services, there can be a collaboration between multiple actors to create the supply with a new service or making it feasible for an existing operator to serve certain areas of the city to meet first-mile last-mile needs.
Corporate Mobility: Case studies and solutions
What options other than public transport can work? How can other modes such as micromobility increase value for employees while keeping such offers feasible for employers? There are many cases one can learn from to find the ideal solution. Let’s look at a few.
ALD automotive is quite well known for providing new mobility services to corporates. The company piloted an eBike sharing solution for employees. Results from its Sao Paulo (Brazil) office indicated that it helped replace shorter trips during the day that are otherwise taken by transit or walking or by car. The corporate employee context worked quite well and the company now includes this option in its global portfolio available to clients.
Started as a Detroit-focused solution at Bedrock Detroit, the company’s MyCommute program is centered around providing cash incentives for its employees when they choose sustainable transportation modes – biking, carpooling, ridesharing, shuttles, etc. Powered by one of the forerunners in providing corporate mobility solutions, Luum, the program offers a platform for employees to plan their commute. The success factor has been the incentives and gamification for choosing a sustainable mode over the ‘sticky’ driving to work habit. It links employees (drivers and riders) for carpooling via their own cars and guarantees a ride home through ride hailing vouchers. In addition, the program also offers subsidized transit passes.
Corporate mobility isn’t a one-size-fits-all. And the employee sustainable mobility program at Promigas (Colombia) proves this. The company created a mix of carpooling and bike sharing programs from scratch for its employees. From planning bikeshare docking stations to matching employees for carpooling, the program took into account actual addresses to help shift commuting patterns. Quite detailed, the program has now grown to cover more than 60% of total employees. Promigas uses the health, economical, and ‘fun’ aspect of this program to help in its sustainability reporting and to attract and retain talent.
Speaking of offering multimodal choices for employees, Bosch launched Go for Mobility to shift employee behavior from relying on private cars to accessing alternative modes to commute to work. Most employees did not prefer to use public transit as the only option because of its limited reliability and community reach, the company integrated a carpooling app and dedicated prime parking spots to those employees, on-demand shuttle services where public transit wasn’t available, and bike subscriptions among available options.
In terms of solution providers, there are a range of options. From eBike subscription solutions to on-demand shuttles and carpooling, corporates may create packages for employees to choose from as per their convenience. The shared mobility solution bandwidth is quite wide to serve every use case and support every business model.
Mobility wallet: What’s the leverage?
Digital payment wallets became all the more popular following the need for cashless transactions since the pandemic. Digital wallets help secure transactions and at the same time provide an opportunity to ‘load’ value, which helps cut down the two-way authorization time (e.g. with credit cards) during transactions. Leveraging the penetration of smartphones, digital wallets have constituted purchases made by an estimated 13% of the world’s population in 2020.
From the employer and employee perspective, payment authentication and compensation tracking is a critical success factor while considering corporate mobility solutions. Learning from a wider use case of MaaS, one of the key factors to enable modeshift is seamless integration of planning and payments. Even for a closed user group (employees), providing a single platform where employees can plan and pay also helps create a mobility wallet where companies can compensate and incentivize their employees.
In the world of transportation, a digital mobility wallet can be leveraged to offer a convenient way to compensate employees and shift their otherwise car-centric commute to shared mobility. We at movmi did a series of interviews on how cities drive shared mobility demand and the mobility voucher offered by the City of Milan stood out, along with a few others. The 500 euros voucher for use towards sustainable transportation modes can mean using transit, bikeshare, or even using the funds towards purchasing a bike. In addition, going digital in payments enables innovative and secure authentication methods too. Case in point, Lisnr – a payment solution which uses ultrasound waves for authentication – can be an ideal fit for quick rider and payment authentication between multiple corporate employee groups.
One of the prime advantages of creating a mobility wallet for employees is flexibility. A typical corporate mobility wallet can be used in multimodal journeys and allows the employer to link multiple mobility solutions to the same platform. That way, the corporate solution will offer preferred modes to almost all employees while shifting their commuting behavior.
Benefits and Incentivization: Driving demand towards a new program
One of the major challenges with offering a corporate mobility wallet is to get employees to buy-in and successfully utilize the alternatives. One of the ways of enabling that is incentivizing this shift.
One strong example of incentivization is in the form of efficient carpooling matchmaking algorithms. Platforms can also provide rewards to employees for choosing a more sustainable commuting option e.g. bikeshare. By enabling a tech platform based corporate mobility solution, safer commutes can be ensured with contact tracing, which assures safety at the workplace. Solutions such as Hytch Rewards are available as a SaaS, which can be utilized as a subscription by employers.
Tailoring the mobility offerings to include available shared mobility modes while providing paid access to the employee’s preferred mode is vital. Some solutions such as Commutifi offer a corporate mobility wallet solution which can feature custom subsidy levels for each employee depending on the employer. The same wallet may be used for rewards redemption with partnering businesses.
More, some solutions such as Edenred offer corporate packages where the mobility budget is deducted directly from the pre-taxed income of the employee. That way, it financially benefits the employee even more. Rideamigos is another example of a solution provider offering a multimodal solution linked to incentives and gamification.
Corporate mobility is not too complex to set up. The most important factor is to get employees to use the services – which can be incentivized to an extent. Ensuring availability of shared mobility services in the city is important to drive demand. The extensive costs involved in providing parking infrastructure and private car allowance to employees can be mitigated by investing in creating a shared mobility supply – allocating space for shared bike/scooter services, creating an on-demand shuttle service, or simply by subscribing to a platform for carpooling.
As employees preferences vary, the corporate mobility wallet needs to be seamlessly integrated to provide access to multiple modes of mobility. Conventionally, just providing public transit passes poses the challenge of employees not being able to fully rely on those services, either because of service disruptions, public health concerns, wait times, or lack of availability in certain communities. Mobility in cities is moving towards multimodality. While remote working remains the norm for the time being, this is the right time for employers to create flexible, meaningful, and attractive mobility solutions.