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Should employee mobility be a priority for HR departments?

09.11.2018

As the number one reason for all travel, commuting is an experience that needs to improve.

Companies in France can no longer opt out of taking an interest in the way their employees get to work. From 1 January 2018, companies with more than 100 employees are required to submit a mobility plan for their staff. Otherwise, they could be fined next year and even risk having their technical and financial support withdrawn from the French Agency for Environment and Energy Management (ADEME), which in some cases represents several millions of euros. Part of the French Energy Transition Law, the measure requires companies’ human resources departments to address an often forgotten part of personnel management: the way employees get to work. Companies must now encourage employees to change their transport habits in order to lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce traffic on the roads. Commuting and business travel do account for 50% of corporate CO2 emissions, and are the number one reason for travel (21% of total travel, followed by travel for purchases). Of these trips, 72% are made in cars occupied by just one person.

A variety of mobility options

A number of possibilities are being explored to rise to the challenge of optimising employee mobility, including car pooling, car sharing and electric bicycles for commutes and business travel. There are also other options entirely, such as working from home or from coworking spaces near home, but companies are more resistant to these suggestions, afraid of losing control over what their employees are doing and reluctant to tackle the technological and legal complexities that such arrangements would entail (working hours, the right to disconnect, etc.).

Among the mobility solutions provided by companies, car sharing seems to be the most widespread alongside incentives for the use of public transport. Julien Honnart, CEO of Klaxit, a start-up developing a short-distance car pooling service for companies and the general public, is a proponent of these schemes: “When I talk to companies about mobility plans, I advise them to forget about regulations and look at the possible advantages. Our solutions can generate returns on investment”, he says. Setting up a mobility plan could reduce mobility costs by 5% to 20%.

Reducing transport time

A lot of companies remain sceptical, though. In a 2017 study led by the Mobile Lives Forum, a mobility think tank backed by French national rail company SNCF, half of the companies surveyed did not take into account the inconvenience caused to their employees by repeated or long trips. And yet these work-related journeys are a big part of our daily lives. The national average in France is 50 minutes, creeping up to 1 hour 8 minutes in the Paris region. Nearly half of those who spend more than 35 minutes getting to work think it is “very important” to reduce commuting time.

While “only 20% of companies concerned have set up a company travel plan”, according to Bruno Renard, Head of the French Federation of Mobility Plan Stakeholders (FAPM), some are getting seriously creative with the mobility solutions they offer their employees. For example, since early 2017, Schneider Electric has encouraged its Grenoble employees to use public transport more often by increasing the contribution it makes to employees’ annual public transport passes from 50% to 75%. “Above all, we want to have a variety of mobility solutions in place for employees, such as self-service bicycles, inter-site car sharing and Grenoble’s public self-service cars. We are also focusing on developing car pooling, which is currently practised by only 3% of our employees,” says Renaud Antoine, head of the company’s GreenOValley programme for changing usage patterns. The French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) is also setting an example in Grenoble. Just 30% of its 6,000 employees drive to work, while 20% cycle, 45% take public transport and 5% car pool. Encouraging companies to take an interest in the way employees travel is of vital importance to the French Federation of Transport Users Associations (FNAUT), which wants mobility to be a central topic of national debate.

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