We’re usually busy giving you practical ideas on how to promote walking, cycling and scooting to school. But today I’m taking a wider view and looking at how businesses can help their own staff to travel in safe, active, sustainable ways using a workplace travel plan.
To see this in action we’ll take a look at the award-winning Travel2Next initiative by well-known clothing, footwear and home products retailer Next.
The best workplace travel plans also embrace helping local schools or their employee’s children with safe, active, sustainable travel choices. So whether you work in a business or a school, this is for you…
Tired of the Traffic?
If your business struggles with over-crowded car parks, traffic congestion and staff with sedentary lifestyles taking too much time off sick, you may want to consider developing a workplace travel plan to alleviate those problems.
By finding out what staff and visitor travel needs are you can trial, introduce, support and promote alternatives such as car share schemes, bus links, cycling and walking.
I recently visited Next plc UK head offices near Leicester to see how they have implemented their workplace travel plan and Travel2Next initiative.
Going for Gold
Last year they were awarded the first ever Modeshift STARSfor gold accreditation for their successes promoting sustainable travel to work… a really prestigious achievement. So they have plenty of experience which other businesses can learn from.
Sarah McAlinden, Travel2Next Team Leader who spearheaded the initiative at Next, showed me how they have implemented a wide range of measures which have proven successful.
Better By Bus
Over 3,000 staff work on the site which is fairly rural and not near many public transport links. So they introduced their own bus connection service from the local train station and other pick up points. Taking the bus is not just good for the environment but also helps increase physical activity as staff will be walking to the bus stop rather than just to their driveway. After all, most bus journeys start with a walk.
Care to Car Share?
Car sharing is massive at Next plc and those who car share are given priority parking spaces nearer to the building. I loved the idea of how they help new starters; a few spaces are reserved which can be used by any drivers in their first week only – giving them enough time to link up with others and arrange to car share or find another way to travel.
They also encourage electric cars by providing charging points; maybe not the solution to all our congestion problems, but a better option than petrol or diesel.
On Your Bike
Cycling to work is encouraged. Many businesses encourage staff to purchase bicycles under the government’s Cycle to Work scheme. At Next they take it a step further by actively promoting cycling to work, providing cycle storage facilities and holding travel clinics to encourage more bike use.
They have a very popular incentive whereby staff get vouchers for the staff shop (the one which sells Next’s clothes, not the coffee shop as I first thought) if they travel sustainability. Obviously other businesses can’t do exactly the same but with some creative thinking a suitable alternative incentive scheme can be applied.
Their travel initiatives are more wide-reaching than just on the site. They also have worked with local primary schools to support those schools’ safe, active, sustainable travel schemes. Local community engagement is clearly important to them anyway. It is also a requirement of the STARS for gold accreditation that businesses engage with local schools to help promote safe, active travel.
Have you Heard?
Staff awareness about and engagement with the campaign is high because it is well branded – with the Travel2Work name and logo – and well-communicated internally via their staff website, regular emails and prominently positioned noticeboard. You can’t get more prominent with your noticeboard or travel clinics than putting them next to the staff coffee shop!
Another key ingredient for their success is Sarah’s personal passion and commitment to the scheme. Having someone on the inside with a no-nonsense approach who can motivate and inspire others, and has the support of their managers and outside professionals is a good recipe for success. Is there a potential travel champion in your business?
What’s Next for Next?
The success at their head office means Next PLC are going to expand their Travel2Next schemes to other sites and shops across the country – so they have their work cut out!
On their main site they will continue to improve existing initiatives and develop new ones. This will include road safety workshops for per-school children at their on-site nursery – with help from us at Brightkidz. By teaching children about safe, active travel from an early age we can influence their travel choices for the future.
As a FTSE100 company and household name in a competitive market they have the potential to inspire many other companies to follow their example.
I’d like to give a mention to some of the organisations and professionals who have been involved with the Travel2Next initiative.
Nick Butler and Ross Butcher from Modeshift STARSfor who can help businesses work towards accreditation for workplace travel plans.
Oisin Walker and colleagues at Leicester County Council.
Liftshare who help businesses run car-share schemes.
For more information about the scheme at Next visit www.travel2next.co.uk
For workplace travel plan support visit www.travelplanconsultancy.co.uk
And most of all thank you to Sarah McAlinden and her colleagues at Next for the insight and for inviting Brightkidz to get involved – photo shows our information/product stand at Next to promote active travel in schools and sell products to support safe, active travel for children and adults.
Photo credits: S McAlinden/Next.