Cycling gives employees a better balance

 

An innovative research project finds ways to achieve the work-life balance the healthy way. 

Added on 31 March 2017 by Nadine Page

 

Balance bikes have become a popular and efficient way to teach children how to cycle. These popular and new-to-the-market alternatives to stabilizers help children to progress to riding pedal bikes independently and at a much younger age. Not only do children master the art of cycling quicker, they also do so with fewer accidents and without derailing their parents during the learning process. New research by Hult International Business School shows that cycling also helps adults to gain better balance too – this time not physically between their right and left side, but between home- and work-life.

An innovative research project, led by Dr. Nadine Page, encouraged employees to cycle to work using an electric bike. Due to the rural location of the workplace where the research was conducted – situated in a National Trust woodland, 6 kms from the nearest town and public transport links – electric bikes (e-bikes) were deemed the most suitable and sustainable alternative mode of transport to encourage employees to ditch their cars and switch to an active travel mode. The workplace health initiative was designed to reduce the organization’s carbon footprint associated with commuting and boost the health and wellbeing of employees. As part of the offering, all employees across the organization were able to borrow a state-of-the-art e-bike for an unlimited amount time, up to a maximum of 6-months, which was for how long the e-bikes were on loan from a local e-bike distributor. As a participant of the research, employees completed weekly diaries and an end-of-loan interview, both designed to explore the cycling experience and the impact that a change in travel mode had on their personal wellbeing and organizational behaviour.  

Aside from the anticipated positive impact on physical health, additionally, employees also reported the beneficial effects of cycling on their psychological wellbeing, organizational behaviour and, most unexpectedly perhaps, in helping them to address the balance between work- and home-life. Cycling to and from work was a “way to switch off from work and switch on to being free.” It was apparent that active commuting allowed employees enough time and space to effectively change roles, something that was not possible with passive commuting. As one participant described, “I’ve got a busy life outside of work so I use that journey to chill-out, de-stress, before I change roles from me here [at work], to me as Mum … I don’t get the same transition in the car because of hands-free.” Cycle commuting acted as a buffer between home- and work-life and enabled employees to transition effectively from one role to another. It helped to create clear boundaries between the home and workplace and this, perhaps, might account for the reported increase in organizational performance that was reported.

In describing the impact of active commuting on their behaviour at work, one participant said they felt “a lot more efficient, a lot more productive, a positive impact” and these thoughts were echoed by a different employee who said they’d “… invest more time into [their] work.” Additionally, another employee revealed that “since losing it [the bike] I actually think that my productivity levels have decreased … I haven’t achieved much this week so far.” It seems that keeping home and work life distinct might help employees to better focus at work and viz. boost organizational efficiency. Indeed, in the quantitative aspect of the study, Page and colleagues found that active commuting boosted behaviour at work by more than 15%.

As they say, riding a bike is a skill that you never forget but, it seems, many of us do not continue this health-boosting behaviour into adulthood. In the same way that children who master the art of cycling learn to balance their body weight, this research shows that cycling to and from work might be one way to help employees gain a better balance between home and work life, and be a more productive employees too. Perhaps we should all dust off our stabilizers and get back on our bikes, even if they are power-assisted.