By Molly Duffy
Businesses are doing more to promote walking and biking, both for commuting and as part of the work day. One of the driving reasons for this movement is that millennials, the biggest percentage of the workforce, want to work for innovative companies. At the same time, companies are grappling with increasing health care costs for them and their employees. Walking and biking, as part of a company’s wellness program, accomplish many of a company’s goals regarding employee health and other aspects of sustainability.
Walking and biking provide many benefits for employers and employees alike. In case your company needs to be convinced why promoting walking and biking is such a good thing for the bottom line, here are some motives to get everyone moving.
Some organizations are already reaping the benefits. For example, Cleveland Clinic’s employee wellness program promotes walking meetings, includes a “Walk With a Doc” component, and offers its 80,000 members insurance premium discounts, which have saved the Health Plan an estimated $80 million in unnecessary health care delivery costs over the last four years.
A whopping 75 percent of disease in the U.S. is chronic and preventable (think: obesity, heart disease and diabetes), yet walking just 20 minutes a day can make a difference. The Surgeon General’s recent Call to Action on Walking aims to make walking a national priority.
It can be easy and rewarding to move your wellness program outside whether that means providing company-owned bikes for lunchtime errands or promoting walking meetings in which employees can amble through the business campus rather than slouching at the conference table.
In recent TriplePundit post, Why B Corps Should Expand their Health and Wellness Programs, author Ryan Honeyman wrote: “One of the best areas for B Corps (and other sustainable businesses) to improve is by providing health and wellness programs to their employees … In addition to helping individual workers, healthy living programs have been shown to enhance a company’s bottom line. For example, Johnson & Johnson estimates that its health and wellness program had a return on investment of $2.71 for every dollar spent between 2002 and 2008. A study of a different employer found an even higher return: Every dollar invested in healthy interventions yielded $6 in health-care savings.”
Meeting sustainability goals
Walking and biking can help to meet multiple sustainability goals including those pertaining to wellness, transportation and employee engagement. For example an organization can score LEED points for installing bike commuter facilities like showers and bike storage and for developing safe routes to transit.
Bike shares and bike-to-work programs reduce traffic congestion. Even biking or walking to lunch and lunchtime errands can help. TriplePundit’s post Practical Ways to Incorporate a Holistic Wellness Program into Your Organization suggested Zagster as an easy way to get started with a bike share.
But is your workplace walkable and bikeable?
According to the 2015 National Community and Transportation Preference Survey, millennials favor walking over driving by a substantially larger margin than any other generation. Still, many places simply aren’t safe enough to walk or bike. Small steps toward making our workplaces and neighborhoods more walkable and bikeable can make great strides if in doing so we create new advocates for walkability and bikeability.
At a time when complete streets are the goal of so many local governments, corporations and their employees can be a loud voice in the conversation. We need places to walk and bike. Across the nation, suburban corporate office parks are planning and retrofitting to ensure that they are both walkable and bikeable. They’re also adding residential and recreational components. While the term “live work play” may be trendy, the concept is not. It hearkens back to what was originally called a town.
Over the past decades, our society has slid into the habit of driving everywhere and sitting once we arrive at every destination, except for the gym. The average American is more than 24 pounds heavier today than in 1960. Now, we are taking a stand against sitting and realizing that if we make walking and biking and standing part of the day, we feel better, work smarter and might not even have to drive to the gym.
Logic aside, walking simply makes us feel good, and when we feel good, we can’t help but do a good job. Good for our bottoms and our company’s bottom line.
What do you think? Do you walk or bike to or at work? Would you if you could?
For over 20 years, Molly Fontanesi Duffy, Esq. has focused on solving a broad range of environmental and social problems. She has worked with nonprofit organizations, government and businesses, serving in many different capacities including: management, fundraising, legal and policy work, outreach and communications. Currently, she is working with Rails to Trails Conservancy to create partnerships between hospitals and local trail groups.
An active community volunteer, Molly served as chairman of the Tredyffrin Township Environmental Advisory Council and co-founded the township’s Sidewalks Trails and Paths Committee. Currently, she serves on the board of the Open Land Conservancy of Chester County.
She gets her best ideas when she is walking.
Follow Molly on Twitter @mollyfduffy