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VMware AirWatch, a leader in business mobility, makes waves with commute options. We interviewed John Aquilino, Real Estate and Workplace Manager, who also serves as the Connector for Perimeter Connects here in Atlanta.
When we prepared to interview John we created a list of general questions about the commute options program at AirWatch, – but the story that unfolded when we spoke, was much more compelling! At one time, the company’s commute operations program was managed in-house by the HR department and the organization offered discounted transit passes. Although the program was somewhat successful, the rapid growth of the company led to the dreaded parking issue in their multi-tenant building. AirWatch began offering incentives to employees not to park at their building, with the intention that these employees would take public transportation. As you may have guessed, people simply took the incentive and started parking elsewhere, but were still driving alone to work. John quickly realized the response to the parking incentive was not creating the kind of behavior change the company had hoped for.
That’s when John reached out to Tim Waldrop, Transportation Manager at VMware. As the transportation guru for VMware and AirWatch, Tim supports employees’ growing needs for alternative commute solutions in his company’s American Field Offices and at their Headquarters in Palo Alto, CA. Tim and John worked together to customize a commute program for Atlanta, with a focus on creating alternatives to drive-alone travel that were more efficient, and geared towards truly changing their employees’ commute choices.
One of the compelling reasons for AirWatch to relocate to Perimeter Center initially was the proximity to the Sandy Springs MARTA station. So why not capitalize on that? AirWatch began providing 100% subsidized transit passes with a small added incentive each month. Recognizing that transit might not be a viable option for all employees, the company is also providing carpool and vanpool programs and bicycle incentives. John and Tim are highly encouraged by the positive employee response and growth in participation. After just six months, 10% of employees in the Atlanta office are using transit to get to work. John’s goal is for 15% of employees to share their ride with others by the end of the year.
The biggest takeaway from sitting down with John was to be proactive in engaging employees in commute options. He knows that transportation is not a top priority for many employees, but with the offer of a free transit pass, AirWatch is spending a little money to fix a big problem in their parking deck and rewarding the right behavior. John also believes the way to make transportation more important to employees is to increase visibility within the organization. Often times information on an intranet page ends up getting buried, employees forget what they heard in new hire orientations and messaging once a year at the company health fair simply is not enough and these activities won’t create the kind of change the company wants to experience. The key to generating a real change among employees is a concentrated effort that includes high visibility locations, frequent education and communications supported by financial subsidies and incentives. This approach is directly influencing employees to get out of their cars and try the bus, bike, carpool, vanpool or train.