May is National Bike Month, and Bike-to-Work Day (BTWD) is on May 14th this year. Will your company be participating? At SunPower, we will be organizing many activities during the month of May and getting teams assembled to compete in fun cycling challenges. As one who has known the joy of cycling for many years, I always look forward to this time of year and the opportunity to share my excitement and passion with others.
Why companies should encourage employees to bike to work
Biking to work has many benefits for both employees and the company. The CDC strongly encourages companies to implement workplace health programs, pointing out that healthier employees are more productive, have better overall attendance records and cost the company less in health care benefits. Moreover, cycling measurably reduces stress levels and increases mental acuity, so it can help increase innovation and make your company more competitive.
How to support bicycle commuting
If you want to encourage employees to bike to work, here are some ideas that have worked for SunPower to help get you started:
- Provide showers
- Provide secure bicycle parking
- Keep tools and spare parts handy
- Create friendly competitions as motivation
- Arrange “bikepools” for experienced bicycle commuter volunteers can work with groups of less-experienced riders
Start with the easy wins
The idea of arriving at the office, sweaty from a bicycle commute, is a common barrier for many people. Additionally, finding a way to ride in comfortable clothes while accommodating the need to dress for work can add complication. SunPower has showers and changing areas close to bicycle parking, which makes it easy to ride in, clean up, and quickly be ready for the office. Convenience is key! Shower facilities also encourage employees to engage in other healthful physical activities, such as working out before work or going for a brisk walk over their lunch break. By providing secure parking and a small bicycle repair center, the company demonstrates its commitment to supporting employees cycling to work. It’s a small investment with a potentially big payoff for employees and company alike.
Make cycling fun and social to motivate employees
Competitions and cycling challenges, such as the ones promoted by National Bike Month and Bike-to-Work Day, can really help get people rolling by encouraging those who might otherwise be hesitant to try biking to work to give it a shot. For example, for the last five years, SunPower has competed in the San Francisco Bay Area’s Company Bike Challenge. This friendly competition among Bay Area corporations has added a great motivational element to the annual BTWD activities. We’ve also given out prizes within SunPower for different categories, such as the highest scoring team or the person with the longest commute by bike. In 2014, we added another facet of friendly competition within the SunPower family by introducing a trophy for the highest-scoring SunPower office in the Company bike challenge (relative to the number of people at each campus). San Jose won the first year, but Richmond and Austin are gearing up for this year’s competition and plan to give the San Jose team a serious run for its money! I’ll be pedaling for the Richmond office.
Encourage and reward mentorship
Finally, as part of SunPower’s BTWD activities, we’ve arranged “bikepools” so that experienced bicycle commuter volunteers can meet groups of less-experienced riders and lead them to the office via bicycle-friendly routes. This makes commuting by bike more accessible and sociable to those who might otherwise hesitate to give it a try. Our bikepool mentors also help educate new bicycle commuters about overcoming common challenges such as knowing how to dress, how to adjust a bicycle for comfort, how to fix a flat tire, how to safely lock a bicycle so that it won’t get stolen, and how to ride safely in urban environments.
Pedaling what I preach
I have to admit I’m a bit of a cycling addict. For 19 years, my typical workday has started on a bicycle, pedaling my way to the office. Some mornings, it’s a slow roll in the dark or the rain, and others it’s a high-energy, carpe diem sprint. My daily route from my house to the SunPower offices in Richmond, California, takes me through the suburbs of Berkeley and Albany, over the freeway, and then on the trail along the shore of the bay. I share the path with a variety of early morning dog walkers, runners, bird watchers, and other cyclists. Birds run along the edge of the tidewater. I see gulls, plovers, cormorants, ducks, geese, and an occasional pelican or loon. The daily ride keeps me in touch with the patterns of the tides and the direction of the wind. I get to be a part of the landscape, not just pass by it like I would in a car. As a result, I arrive at the office most days in a positive frame of mind, feeling alert and energized for work. And at the end of the day, the ride helps me unwind. On many occasions, I leave work struggling to find a solution to a problem, and as the ride home clears my head, a solution comes to me. For me, cycling is both stress relief and aerobic exercise.
As for SunPower, in keeping with its corporate vision of bringing about a more sustainable future, my company is exceptionally supportive of employees commuting to work by bicycle. I feel fortunate to have that support, and I hope more companies will start or expand bike-to-work initiatives in their organizations as well. You can help your employees get healthier while also creating a healthier bottom line. What could be better?