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What Failing NYC Subways Mean for HR Managers

If you live in New York City, you’ve probably been late to work recently. Your train got delayed, re-routed, or maybe it never showed up at all. By the time you rushed into the office, you felt flustered and annoyed.

What a terrible way to start your day. Nobody wants to be late to work, but it’s more common than ever, thanks to crumbling mass transit and never-ending traffic jams.

Your employees’ commute is vitally important to their productivity and happiness at work. What happens on their way to the office sets the stage for the rest of their day. Are they walking through your door already feeling majorly stressed? That’s not good for them… or for your business.

Fortunately, HR can help. To start, take a closer look at your commuting benefits. Here are a few ideas to get you started—from standard to creative.

1. Most companies in major urban centers offer pre-tax mass transit benefits to their employees. If you haven’t jumped on this train yet (no pun intended), the MTA’s tax-free fare page is a good place to start.

2. When rush hour stresses out your team, let them skip it altogether. Implement flexible, staggered working hours so they can come to work early and leave early (i.e. 7 am – 3 pm), or come to work late and leave late (i.e. 11 am – 7 pm). Creating an “early shift” and a “late shift” also optimizes your employees’ most productive time of day, whether they’re early birds or night owls.

3. Sometimes, it’s just plain impossible to make it to the office: the subway tracks are flooded, the highway is shut down, and all the cab drivers are on strike. Offer one “transportation fail” flex day per month that allows them to work from home. (It makes a world of difference if employees don’t have to dip into their regular PTO for unavoidable transit issues.)

4. Help your employees get more work done on commuter trains, whether they have a long ride or they’re just stuck on the tracks. Reimburse them for onboard Wifi during commuting hours. For trains without Wifi (we’re looking at you, Metro North), invest in portable Wifi hotspots that employees can sign out and take with them.

5. When employees have to work very late, they worry about getting home safely. Ease their minds by offering free late-night rides via cab, Uber, Lyft, or a traditional car service. It makes those long hours much more palatable.

6. For employees who drive, provide full or partial reimbursement for expenses like parking, tolls, and gas. This may not be financially feasible for every employer, but this kind of perk will turn a prospective new hire’s head in your direction.

7. Reward employees who commute using bike share programs, like Citibike in New York City, Divvy in Chicago and Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. It can be as simple as offering to pay for any employee’s first ride on a bike share. The rest is up to them!

8. Make your office bike-friendly. Invest in accessories like interior or exterior bike racks and bike helmet hooks.

9. Partner with a nearby gym to provide free showers to employees who work up a sweat biking or jogging to the office. You’ll be amazed how many employees switch to an active commute if they know there’s an easy way to clean up before their first meeting.

10. Give your employees breathing room in the morning. Establish a “no meeting” policy for the first hour of your workday to allow everyone sufficient time to arrive at work, drink that first cup of coffee, and find their focus.

11. Did you know you can purchase gift cards for Lyft and Uber? They make a great gift for freelancers, contractors, and part-timers who commute to your office but don’t receive your company’s full-time benefits. (Don’t forget about them.)

12. Keep a publicly visible running tally of carbon emissions offset by employees who carpool, walk, bike or take mass transit to work. Set a goal and when it’s reached, reward the entire team with a staff outing or celebration.

Once you have some creative commuting benefits in place, it’s important to let job seekers know about them. Pick your favorite commuting benefit and include it in your job listings. It lets candidates know you care about their needs—inside the office and out.

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