This month will see Cycle to Work Day taking place, billed as “the UK’s biggest cycle commuting event”. From a health and wellbeing perspective it is a great way to promote more active commuting and to reflect how, as an employer, you are enabling and encouraging healthier lifestyles more generally.
Employee health and wellbeing – use Cycle to Work Day to get people on their bikes (and their feet)
Thursday 8 August this month is Cycle to Work Day, which is run by cycle to work scheme company Cyclescheme and is billed as “the UK’s biggest cycle commuting event”. Whether or not as an organisation you offer cycle to work as a benefit, it is a timely reminder that all employers can be doing more from a health and wellbeing perspective to encourage and enable employees to have more active lifestyles.
For example, a calendar marker such as this can be an opportunity to communicate health promotion messages around the value of healthier commutes, whether that’s getting out of our cars and on to our bikes or getting off a stop earlier and walking the remainder of the way.
Around cycling specifically, it can be a chance to take stock of the cycling infrastructure you offer internally as an organisation, such as safe and secure parking, places to shower and change, perhaps even subsidies on reflective clothing and equipment and so on.
It can also be a good opportunity to look at how effective you are at communicating road safety messages both to cycling and driving employees.
For example, the road safety charity Brake in June called for drivers to become more “bike smart”, as research by it and insurer Direct Line suggested there had been an increase in aggressive driving around cyclists over the past five years.
More widely, this sort of calendar marker can potentially be a positive reputational and community-level opportunity.
For example, as an organisation you could lobbying or working with your local council to promote better cycleways and cycle paths, working with local schools on health and safety messages, or even signing up to become an accredited Cycle Friendly Employer.
Finally, as Dr Lucy Wright, Optima Health Chief Medical Officer highlights, it is potentially an opportunity for organisations to revisit whether they are doing enough, or how they can do more, to encourage employees to become more active and take more exercise.
“For some of us, commuting by bicycle is simply not going to be an option. Our journey may be too long; we may need to drop off kids or a partner along the way; the routes or roadways may not be safe or may feel intimidating; we may have perfectly valid health reasons – for example asthma – that make it a non-starter,” she points out.
“But that’s no reason not to promote the value of getting out on a bike perhaps at the weekend or during the longer summer evenings. Even just gentle cycling can be a great way for whole families to take exercise and spend time together, as evidenced by the popularity of holidays such as Center Parcs, among others.
“Cycling can also bring with it aerobic benefits, improved cardiovascular fitness, muscle and joint strength and flexibility and it can help to improve bone density, among other benefits.
“To that end, using events such as Cycle to Work Day – irrespective of whether the cycling you’re doing is actually ‘to work’ or not – can be a great way to promote and encourage employees and colleagues to become fitter and more active generally,” she adds.