Newport City Council employs approximately 5,500 staff, ranging from waste collectors to teachers and social workers, many of whom work long hours in high-stress roles, on top of which a lengthy commute might feel like yet more time taken away from other pursuits.
Working with Halfords Cycle 2 Work, the council aims to redress employees’ work-life balance by changing their daily commute from lost time into an active wellbeing boost, while saving money as a result. Since its launch in 2014, its cycle to work scheme has provided employees with more than 400 bikes.
Howard Mason (pictured), employment services manager at Newport City Council, says: “Getting to and from work is a means to an end, and if [employees] can do that on a bike and that improves [their] fitness, then that’s two boxes ticked at once.
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“We wanted to make sure we offered a brand that [employees] knew and understood, so that they would have confidence about going into the store to source a bike. We wanted to also ensure that [employees] had the option of using local independent bike shops, so we’ve got three independent stores in Newport that basically tier into Halfords.”
The average application represents £588 in costs, which is then broken down into monthly payments, and further reduced due to tax and National Insurance benefits. “[Employees] can actually afford a more expensive bike, with better equipment on it,” says Mason. “So they know it’s going to be much more reliable for getting back and forward to work.”
Newport City Council communicated about the programme through posters and weekly newsletters, and Halfords Cycle 2 Work showcased it at the council’s annual employee conference, allowing staff to see some of the bikes on offer.
The scheme was introduced following prompting from employees, and Mason also notes that it is a stepping stone in a wider push to make fundamental changes to the organisation that will impact work-life balance among employees. “We are rebranding as a modernised council, with more flexible ways of working or home working,” he explains.
In a sector where opportunities for monetary reward are limited, this is also a method of ensuring that employees feel valued, and allowing them to have more money to spare from their wages to spend on other aspects of their lives outside of the workplace.