Could Cycling Improve Your Workplace Wellbeing?

16 Cycling Initiatives To Maximise Productivity AND Wellbeing In Your Organisation – Optimus Team Learning 

Research continues to show that investing in wellbeing results in productivity and engagement improvements for organisations. This is good news, because most decisions made in the business world are based on a strong business case before investing, to achieve a return (ROI).

There is plenty of room for this investment to make a huge impact when we consider that ‘the annual cost to the UK economy from mental ill health equates to £15.1bn from Presenteeism and £8.4bn from Absenteeism’ (Centre for Mental Health)

So it’s clear that there’s a compelling reason for us to invest in Wellbeing – the question for organisations now is – WHERE and HOW do we invest for optimum wellbeing payback ???

Well, wherever we invest, there’s an important principle I’d like to share with you. It’s the most powerful advice I’ve ever learned about Workplace Wellbeing….the secret to getting maximum return on investment AND world-class wellbeing is…..

….people have to WANT to get involved…..

There are 5 elements of influencing people that any wellbeing strategy can be built around – these are the secret ways to encourage people to WANT to get involved:

MASTERY – the feeling of being “good” at something is a strong resilience trait. Mastery includes being ‘in the flow’ – that sense that our skills match the challenge at hand in the moment.

AUTONOMY – the ability to make our own choices. Wellbeing strategy can involve being sneaky so that the choices available are “limited” but autonomy is still present. When it comes to Wellbeing the emphasis is on ‘pull and attract’ rather than ‘push and tell’.

HIGHER PURPOSE – the belief in a higher cause and an inspirational reason to act. This is what I call a powerful WHY.

TOGETHERNESS – connecting people, whether it’s connecting through shared interests, camaraderie for a cause, or united in challenge or adventure. This is about bonding and building TRUST, often through sharing vulnerability. Social Connection is an important and often overlooked part of wellbeing



PLAY – one of the overlooked influencing factors in ‘serious’ workplaces doing serious work. Fun and Play activities produce chemical changes in the brain connected with creativity, pleasure and calmness. Making wellbeing activities enjoyable works in a very Pavlovian way to attract employees towards pleasure rather than away from pain. Play is an antidote to pressure.


So now you know the Influencing factors, let’s consider some of the tactics, initiatives and solutions that very few organisations use to leverage maximum return on cycling investment projects. Why Cycling ? Well it’s one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and British Cycling (with HSBC backing) are already applying significant marketing power to bear on persuading another 2 million more of us to get on our bikes in 2017. It makes sense for organisations to piggyback onto such a huge campaign and popular interest.

So here are the special cycling initiatives – remember – it’s all about motivation and influence so that employees WANT to get involved:

  • INCENTIVISE – Canadian firm Bursting Silver pay their employees $1 per kilometre to commute by bike – other organisations offer cash to put towards a bike purchase. Linking financial incentives to encourage a wellbeing choice, such as a bike purchase or commute, is a popular and valid option.


  • BUILD A COMMUNITY – automatically enrol everyone who registers for the Bike-2-Work scheme into a Club. Create your own corporate cycling kit that not only promotes a sense of team-spirit, but also advertises the organisation’s commitment to sustainable transport to the outside world. Create a club within an exercise app such as Strava – this enables a corporate community to communicate and build social media relationships on the same platform as recording their cycling stats. These stats can be used as a success measure by the organisation to record the number of commuters, commuter mileage, celebrate successes and recognise achievements. Also Strava appeals to the competitive nature of some employees who will enjoy recording the fastest times within the organisation for the commute home. Enable the wellbeing community to share blogs, stories, pictures, moments of pride, upcoming events, and even ‘wanted-for-sale’ items on a digital social media platform. Uploading quick videos that will encourage new people to join will tap into the power of ‘Social Proof’ (Robert Cialdini). Social Proof is the human desire to join in because others are already involved and reaping the benefits. This phenomenon is explained, using modern parlance, by the term FOMO (fear of missing out).


  • CHANGE THE WORLD – once there is a Wellbeing community thriving, the organisation can tap into the influential power of ‘Purpose’ to further motivate employees. For example, for every 1000 miles cycled by staff, the organisation might choose to donate 10 ‘Bikes to Africa’. Employees will experience a direct link between cycling to work and doing some good in the world. Doing a good turn for others has been cited as being one of the most powerful boosts to human resilience (Martin Seligman, Positive Psychology). Cycling is often linked to reducing emissions and saving the planet, which could also help the organisation’s CSR image.


  • BIG EVENTS – creating an annual cycling event achieves a number of excellent organisational benefits. Let’s use the example of a corporate 100 mile charity bike ride. The organisation invites clients and suppliers to join in the fundraiser for a worthy cause (a strong WHY). Employees who aren’t regular cyclists get to conquer a major physical challenge (this builds personal resilience and pride of achievement). Employees become healthier by training for the event, and a high percentage will continue with cycling thereafter. Networking relationships are built during the event leading to more business growth. Teams celebrate their 100mile achievement together, which acts as a boost for their team-spirit and bonds them together when they return to the workplace.


  • BAKE CYCLING INTO THE CALENDAR – Studies have linked cycling to improved mental health, reduced cancer risk (by 45%), and extended life expectancy. Integrate the cycling community with what is already going on in the business or worldwide themes, such as Mental Health Awareness Week or #ThisGirlCan campaigns.


  • GUIDED RIDES – arrange a lunch-time or post-work guided ride. Send a personal invite to all new starters to join the club, and maybe schedule a New Starter networking ride so that the new cohort of recruits can get to know each other. Cycling is an activity that builds TRUST because riders in a group will typically support and look out for each other. Trust is the foundation stone of rapport and relationship-building.


  • CYCLE BUDDY NETWORK – this is a way for new riders, less confident riders or brand new bike commuters to have some support as they make their first few commutes.


  • WINTER WARMERS – the Winter weather can put bike commuters off. Keep the community connected through the Winter with an indoor cycling session using ‘turbo-trainers’ or static exercise bikes. Training a couple of employees as instructors is a cheap yet effective way to encourage participation. In a 2013 study (Stress Health, 2013 Clark et al) 84 adult employees participated in a 12 week studio cycle and stress management programme – all of them experienced a reduction of Perceived Stress, numerous health & confidence benefits, and improved quality of life. These improvements happened not simply after the 12 week programme, but continued to exist 1 month later.


  • BUILD MASTERY – ask some volunteer-employees to put on a basic cycle maintenance course to show others the essentials (how to change an inner tube, how to fix a chain, bike first aid etc)


  • REACH OUT TO YOUR LOCAL BIKE SHOP – they will be keen to market their services to your employees in return for attending your workplace to offer a bike cleaning / bike servicing day. Employees should be able to conduct a safety check on their bike & helmet


  • EXEC BOARD ROLE MODELS – encourage your Exec Board to get involved and ride their bikes. When it comes to developing a culture of wellbeing, one of the biggest success factors is the level of Leadership commitment & support


  • FREE CONSUMABLES – providing emergency resources such as a pump / puncture repair kit / inner tubes / light batteries can take the hassle and stress out of the situation and make the ride home safer


  • CYCLE MAPS & SAFETY – according to research from Sustrans, safety is cited as the biggest barrier to cycle commuting, followed closely by a lack of shower / facilities at the place of work. Providing safer route info could reduce this as a barrier to entry


  • POOL BIKES – having a couple of bikes available for all staff to use could be a great way of encouraging new commuters to give it a try before investing in a new bike. Similarly, these pool bikes could be used for transport between nearby sites or meetings.


  • CONSUMABLES SHOP – a small shop on site could have two positive impacts on wellbeing. Initially the products would be useful for cyclists (eg water bottles, energy bars, corporate team kit, emergency clothing range for when cyclists forget their underwear). There is also the subliminal benefit of advertising the importance of cycling to other employees, attracting them towards cycling as an option either to commute or simply for leisure.


  • WEAVE CYCLING INTO THE ORGANISATIONAL STRATEGY – wellbeing has to be woven into the fabric of the culture if it is to be transformational. By including cycling within the company strategy, there is likely to be a greater return on investment as well as the ability to make a bigger impact on CSR

For completeness, we’ll just mention the 5 basics that many organisations already have in place:

  • Safe & dry storage for bikes
  • Drying room for clothing
  • Lockers, showers & wash facilities
  • Measure the sickness & absence rates
  • Sign up for the Bike-2-Work scheme – it’s tax efficient for employers and a big saving for employees

So there we have it – 16 rarely used ways to get the biggest payback for your investment in Wellbeing cycling initiatives. The mental and physical health of employees is an essential part of every employer’s duty of care, and by choosing to invest a little time and effort in bringing Cycling into the heart of the strategy you will be making a much needed step forward towards workplace health, more engaged employees and higher productivity.

If you would like to harness Wellbeing to inspire and transform your organisation, contact Workplace Wellbeing Consultant Simon Thomas (BSc., DipHypPsych, Cert.SM, Assoc CIPD) on 0044 (0)7947 479175 or email [email protected]

PS. Let’s get your Directors cycling ! Liferider is a British Cycling Ride Leader and Executive Coach offering coaching & wellbeing sessions by bike – that’s time-efficient wellbeing !