Innovative transport solutions for getting employees back to work• 4 min read
As lockdown restrictions begin to ease across Britain, many companies are realising that the real hurdle will become how to get their employees to the office safely.
After weeks or months of home isolation, countless videoconferences, and keeping children engaged outside of the classroom, many employees are eager to return to their offices and pre-COVID workplace routines. But as many firms have begun to realise, reopening will not be as simple as flicking a switch
Employers say they plan to increase spacing between workstations, limit lift usage, shut down cafeterias and office kitchens, and even go as far as to develop one-way hallways. All of those precautions, however, come after employees actually get to the office
The more fundamental question is: how will people even get back to work safely
While cities may be taking increased precautions, a majority of passengers are reluctant to use it under conditions that may expose them to large numbers of fellow passengers
According to a recent survey, almost 50% of Britons plan to change they way they travel to work. All public transport usage is expected to decrease, while cycling is slated to increase by 71% and walking by 8%
Cities are therefore challenged with implementing new safety measures so public transport remains central to how people travel
One alternative, for those with the means to own a vehicle, is to drive yourself to work. An uptick in private car usage is an alarming prospect, both because of the environmental and economic consequences of increased passenger vehicle usage, and because of the disproportionate impact that a turn away from public transport will have on disadvantaged communities, traffic congestion, and vehicle emissions.
In the United States, a new study from Vanderbilt University projects a dramatic rise in traffic caused by a rush to single-occupancy vehicles after the shutdown, specifically hitting the Bay Area the hardest. The trend could potentially increase morning commutes by up to 42 minutes. And once at the office, many workplaces have limited parking space, and would not be able to accommodate significant increases in the levels of workers driving private vehicles
Thankfully, many corporations are recognising the trend early, and the solution may actually be less complex than anticipated. Organisations around the world are already using the technology to shuttle their essential employees to work, but healthcare and essential workers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from these new types of shuttle services
There are thousands of employees who commute to headquarters, business parks, and distributed locations who do not have personal vehicles or the opportunity to take private car services. In order to continue business-as-usual, they need a reliable and safe way to travel to and from the office. Companies taking their ‘return to work’ plans seriously are thinking about how to provide safe options to all employees.
Private shuttle networks offer a promising alternative.
Similar to the way cities like Berlin, Washington D.C., and Abu Dhabi quickly developed demand-responsive shuttles for healthcare workers to safely get to-and-from hospitals during the height of the pandemic, some employers are turning to DRT to develop private networks of shuttles for employees
These offer organisations a safe, sustainable, and convenient way to bring their teams back to the office in the coming weeks. Companies can develop a customisable transport system that gives them complete control over their return-to-workplace strategy, while creating commuting patterns that are both safe and more sustainable than private cars
Employees provide their pickup time and address, and the routing algorithm makes sure they can safely arrive at the workplace on time for their shift, sharing their trip only with a small number of approved colleagues to allow for physical distancing.
Because these systems are highly configurable, they allow employers to specify the maximum number of passengers who can be in a vehicle at the same time, and can flex as regulations evolve. Vehicles and drivers are specifically assigned to drive only for the company’s private transport network, meaning they will not transport anyone other than their assigned employees. Vehicles will be thoroughly cleaned and inspected each day or after each trip — with all drivers meeting or exceeding government guidelines for preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus
This type of network can also help employers implement staggered work schedules, and ensure that employees adhere to the new timelines. Each employee can check their mobile app to see what time they’re expected to be picked up, and can communicate directly with their HR team if any adjustments need to be made. If a passenger develop COVID-19 symptoms, the technology’s secure passenger logs will allow companies to easily check which other passengers may have come into contact with the employee in question
Private network shuttles have quickly become immensely popular with medical workers as many cities and hospital networks around the world scramble to provide safe transport for critical employees. For example, the Abu Dhabi Healthcare Link service covers 37 local hospitals and clinics across 278 km2, offering door-to-door demand-responsive free rides to and from the local healthcare facilities. Users request a trip via the Healthcare Link app, and the technology automatically handles routing and passenger capping for proper physical distancing
The service started with just 10 vehicles, but after seeing explosive demand within just hours of launching, they increased the size of their fleet by 100% within a few days.
A more sustainable commuting solution.
Returning to the office and easing workplace restrictions is an exciting development, but the prospect of ballooning traffic and congestion should give employers pause
While public transport implements new technology and puts precautionary measures in place to get commuters riding again, sharing smart, safe journeys using closed corporate shuttle networks enables employees and companies to focus on getting back to work with peace of mind.