In recent years, research in behavioral science has helped us learn more about how people can make better decisions and change habits. These findings are being applied everywhere, including to the often dreaded commute. Principles of behavioral science like the so-called “fresh start effect” can help get more people out of their cars, and into healthier, sustainable, and more satisfying habits.
What Is the "Fresh Start Effect"?
The “fresh start effect” is a concept from behavioral science. It describes the tendency of people to use date- and time-based milestones to implement changes in their routines. For example, consider a person looking to implement healthier eating and exercise habits. They might choose to start “on Monday,” “next month,” or “after the holidays.” This is the fresh start effect in action.
As acknowledged by the American Psychological Association, research shows that the fresh start effect is a tangible and real phenomenon. The push of many workplaces to bring remote workers back to the office more often has the potential to provide a strong “fresh start” temporal milestone. So it makes sense for employers to leverage it to influence positive cultural shifts in the workplace.
The Importance of Smart Commute Alternatives in Return-to-Office Programs
The “fresh start” with return to office will be unlike any other, and it is important that employers get it right. While businesses want employees back in the office, top talent is increasingly seeking remote arrangements and hybrid alternatives that blend onsite and offsite work. In June 2021, Forbes magazine called hybrid approaches “the future of work,” acknowledging that companies will need to accommodate such requests at higher rates than ever before.
Similarly, people’s transportation preferences appear to be changing. For example, public transit ridership plummeted during the depths of the pandemic. Municipalities have pledged to lure passengers back to pre-pandemic levels, but it remains to be seen whether they will succeed. Commuters seem more wary than ever before about congregating in confined spaces like buses and subways in large numbers.
Smart commute alternatives need to acknowledge these new realities and incorporate them into commuter programs at the design level. Otherwise, they risk simply failing in the landscape of the “new normal.”
Strategies for Making the Most of the Fresh Start Effect
- Offer flexible schedules and work arrangements. The best commute is still the one that’s never made. Creating strong supports for hybrid and offsite work achieves commuter program goals while simultaneously providing the flexibility workforce members are looking for in the post-COVID world.
- Adopt personalized approaches to commuter support. Personalized commute support is increasingly in vogue as researchers and TDM professionals become ever more aware of its powerful impact. Personalizing smart commute alternatives to each individual program participant offers an effective way to improve engagement and reach.
- Consider flexible daily parking. For many organizations, hybrid and offsite working arrangements mean that fewer people will be driving to work each day, reducing overall demand for parking. Flexible daily parking programs offer an ideal way for organizations to accommodate these changes by redefining access and adapting it on a daily basis to reflect individual needs and overall demand.