With the Labour Day long weekend behind us and everyone preparing to trade their tans for turtle necks, I started thinking about what this time of year used to mean for me…back to school, back to sports programs, and catching up with friends about what they got up to over the summer holidays. With Fall being a very busy time for me as a child, and both my parents working full time, it also meant carpooling. Driving to and from activities was where I developed many friendships with the kids who lived in my community.
Fast-forward 25 years and the idea of buddying up for your daily commute and carpooling with co-workers really struck me as something more professionals should be practicing. Of course there are the environmental benefits of carpooling, however, I think beyond environmental consideration a case could be made for the positive impact corporate carpooling can have on your career and success at work.
Strictly from a financial standpoint, carpooling can make a lot of sense if you currently pay for parking. A monthly parking spot in Calgary can run up to $600/month downtown, so the opportunity to share that expense with others also commuting into work makes a lot of cents (haha).
However, beyond the financial benefit, I think from a career standpoint, the opportunity carpooling provides for colleagues to develop new relationships and ideas is the most compelling reason that professionals should consider the option.
At your workplace, you likely chat most with your manager, direct reports, or the people in your department – however, I’d like to bet that many of these people don’t necessarily live in your neighborhood. What if you surveyed your office and grouped employees based on the community that they live in. I imagine you’d likely be grouped with a lot of new people whom you may have never talked to before – colleagues from different departments, varying levels of seniority, position type – who all live in close proximity to you and could make great carpool mates.
By considering colleagues in a new way, and taking the initiative to suggest you spend more time together on your daily commute (which will also help save the planet AND you both money!), you are creating an invaluable career opportunity. Provided you get to know your carpool colleagues, there is a good chance that the conversations you have will spur new ideas and innovative thinking in a way that isn’t possible when you speak to the same people every day. Talking with different people from varying departments, position types and seniority supports the battle against groupthink, which smothers innovation in the workplace.
Creating the opportunity for employees to interact with colleagues in different departments is so valuable that companies like Google invest hugely in it. Google is notorious for the employee perks and workplace experience they offer, including strategically placed and freely available (not to mention gourmet) food throughout their office spaces. A Forbes article, which interviewed Google’s Senior VP of People Operations, Laszlo Bock, uncovered the real reason why Google offers employees unlimited food in the workplace. This food, located throughout the workplace in various cafes and micro kitchens, encourages employees to leave their desks and creates a place for colleagues to interact with people whose desks aren’t near theirs. By placing free food throughout the workplace, with the purpose of driving conversations that may not otherwise occur, Google is strategically encouraging collaboration and fueling innovation (not to mention appetites!).
Google values these new interactions so greatly that they are investing in food to drive innovation, and realizing a return on this investment. So, as an employee interested in delivering more value at work and progressing your career, there is a compelling argument that by carpooling with colleagues you will bring more innovative ideas to your workplace, which has the potential to positively impact your performance.
Unsure or feeling shy about approaching colleagues outside your department on your own? Suggesting that HR initiate a corporate carpool program at your workplace is great idea that will help facilitate the process, benefit the business and all employees interested in participating. Who knows – maybe like Google your employer will so value the newly created opportunity for conversation and innovation that the company will even provide an incentive for those who participate! Sambla’s Swedish team reported back that that modern office design has increased workspace productivity and employee retention rates, and many business report the same.
With everyone back to work and colder days fast approaching (making public transit, walking or biking to work less appealing), it’s the perfect time for you and employers to consider carpooling. Interested in developing a people program that will help bring employees together, enhance employee engagement and drive innovation? Contact Salopek & Associates and chat with one of our HR Consultants specialized in developing people processes and programs that maximize employee experience and performance.