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Is Cycling the New Golf? The Case for a Bike-Friendly Office

Formerly considered a recreational activity to be done outside of working hours, many North American companies are now recognizing the benefits of promoting a cycling culture in the workplace. "Bicycling is the new golf," says Bill Nesper, Vice President of the League of American Bicyclists, referring to the ability of bike clubs to provide networking opportunities. Cycling is not only a great way to promote physical fitness, but the social aspect of the sport encourages networking and can boost employee morale.

The league lists over 500 businesses that have implemented bike-friendly policies, 55 percent of which have under 100 employees. From breweries to tech companies and even law offices, small businesses across the country are embracing the benefits of being bike-friendly.

Here, two bike-friendly businesses offer their tips on converting your workplace:

1. Create a bike-friendly office.
Jonathan Brunger, general manager of Adventure Life, a Missoula, Mont.-based small group adventure travel company, estimates that 50 percent of the company's employees bike to work during the summer months. To accommodate and encourage cyclists, Adventure Life has outfitted their office space with bike-friendly facilities.

Covered bike racks, showers for staff to wash up after their commute and tools and bike pumps on site for commuters to do fast repairs make cycling to work more appealing. Adventure Life also offers a communal bike which can be used by staff who want to pick up lunch or commute to an off-site meeting rather than driving or taking a taxi.

2. Provide financial incentives.
Adventure Life offers financial incentives to staff to promote cycling. Their sustainable commuting budget reimburses 50 percent of purchases for new cycling equipment and services to a maximum of $150. Staff have used this sustainable commuting incentive to purchase helmets, bike pumps, and get tune-ups. The sustainable commuting incentive can also be used to purchase bus passes for commuters who take transit. 

"It's a relatively small amount of money but can make a big difference to encourage employees to embrace cycling," says Brunger. The financial incentive can boost your business' productivity as well. A recent UK study showed cycling to work reduced the number of sick days taken by half.

Related: 5 Ways to Sneak Fitness Into Your Day

3. Conduct business by bike.
Lauren Hefferon, founder of Ciclismo Classico, a cycling adventure travel company based in Arlington, Mass, conducts employee interviews by bike. "Bicycling allows people to show off another side of themselves that's fueled by endorphins. I get to see how easy people can relax and share things about themselves," she says. Hefferon also takes to the bike to conduct her business phone calls. "I'll wear headphones and [conduct calls] by bike. I think more clearly and listen better when I’m pedalling," she says.

4. Tap into employees' competitive side.
Adventure Life recently won the Missoula in Motion challenge, a sustainable commuting challenge that encourages businesses to commute sustainably. In addition to this public challenge, the company hosts inter-office competitions, breaking their staff of 16 into small groups and tracking the number of employees who cycle to work, offering lunch, a beer or latte to the winning team at the end of the week.

"There's a lot of incentive and peer pressure to commute sustainably," says Brunger. Since implementing bike-friendly incentives into the workplace is relatively inexpensive, Brunger says it's a great opportunity for employers to make a large difference in employee health and morale with a small investment.

5. Boost a sense of well-being.
Many cycling charity challenges encourage small businesses to form teams to raise money and get fit. These events not only encourage employee interaction and boost morale but are a great way to introduce employees to the health benefits of cycling. "[Cycling] is a great way to start and end your day. Burning some calories on your way to work helps get you going and on your way home, it helps burn off some of the stress of the day," says Brunger.

Related: Desk Yoga to Improve Your Posture

Lisa Evans is a health and lifestyle freelance journalist from Toronto.

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