Bikers on the road

Mobility Week: A few mobility trends

  • Olivier Vanneste, Partner |

As I compose this blog, I'm on a train somewhere between Leuven and Aalter.  I've just come from a client meeting in the centre of Leuven and like to use the train as a mobile office to work through my e-mail backlog. For the past year and a half, I've happily selected the mobility option that suits me best, where previously I would have grabbed my car keys without a thought. My time savings are massive.

Based on my own personal experiences and mobility projects we've completed for our clients, I'd like to list some current employee mobility trends we've noted amongst our clients below.   As a result of these trends, more and more employees are leaving their company car at home from time-to-time.

1) Even more flexibility

Too many companies continue to make use of a fixed reward and mobility policy.  Employees generally still can't make their own choices regarding mobility; they must accept the company car associated with their position and are often not allowed to select an alternative.   

This is currently changing radically at many companies, for a variety of reasons. On one hand, due to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) standard and higher corporate income taxes, the cost of the company car has gone up. Additionally, most employers are aware of the importance of flexibility to their employees:  the ability to select a different or smaller vehicle, a bicycle, or other alternative forms of mobility is a necessary element of an appealing reward and mobility policy.      

On the other hand, implementing flexible mobility quickly isn't always easy. Flexible mobility and rewards mustn't lead to excessive workloads for HR and fleet administration. This trend isn't going away any time soon. Employees must be allowed to choose how to travel to the office or a client for themselves, depending on many different factors.

2) Finally, some clarity: The mobility budget

The main problem with alternative mobility is the lack of clarity and legislation. The regulations concerning the mobility budget are a great first step in resolving this. Seldom have new laws seen more eager discussion than the mobility budget. We are contacted daily by companies with questions relating to how to manage its viable, practical implementation. In particular, the option to exchange the mobility budget for a wide range of mobility alternatives - the so-called “second pillar” - is revolutionary. Finally, we have some clarity, previously non-existent outside the framework of the mobility budget, with regard to the tax implications of various benefits such as private tickets for public transport, electric scooters, car sharing and short-term vehicle rentals.

So why isn't the mobility budget more popular? Many companies still hesitate due to overly convoluted legislation and various ambiguities. Some have therefore opted for an alternative: they do introduce a mobility budget, just outside of the official framework.

3) The rise of innovative mobility apps

Mobility apps in particular allow you to switch smoothly between alternative means of transport.   Using a mobility app, employees can easily purchase a train ticket or reserve a shared bicycle, for example. This highly increases the user-friendliness for the employee, while reducing the administrative workload for the employer. It's an important part of an effective mobility plan. With a flexible mobility plan, an employee can add a specific budget amount to a mobility app – or card. The employee can then choose between various options within that budget. The functionalities offered by these apps have increased dramatically in recent months: many more providers, multi-modal journey planners, management of multiple budgets, to name just a few. The wide range of apps and multiple possibilities can make it hard for an employer to know where to start. Public authorities have also waded into the fray in an attempt to bring some order to the chaos of Belgian public transport tickets and offerings. For example, the City of Brussels is planning to launch its own app, as well as enabling the use of a single ticket for all forms of public transport within Brussels.  Yet another step in the right direction!

4) The popularity of bicycle leases

The rise of the bicycle lease is unstoppable. Practically all cafeteria plans offer bikes as one of the alternatives. Employees are sometimes given the option to downgrade their car to a bicycle, or an employer offers all employees the opportunity to lease a bike. There are many advantages: more environmentally-friendly mobility, satisfied employees, optimised tax and parafiscal implications, better cycling infrastructure thanks to bicycle highways and, last but not least, the high quality of the offerings and service from a larger number of lease companies. A friendly warning, however: we don't recommend setting up a bicycle lease plan out of the blue. Carefully consider all the legal and practical implications first, or your company - and employees - may end up with a nasty surprise.

5) Incentives to convince the last few sceptics

Implementing a flexible mobility plan with all the options is no guarantee that employees will abandon their company cars. KPMG understood this very well when it introduced its own new mobility plan in 2018. Alternative mobility also involves a change of mindset. I would never have thought I'd seriously consider taking the train or other alternative means of transport myself. And yet, it's now become a reflex to evaluate whether taking the train or car would be best before meetings.

First and foremost are communication and clarity. Employees need to know what their options are, as well as the consequences of those choices. Innovative mobility apps can be very useful here.

However, to get everyone on board, incentives may also work well. At KPMG, for example, employees receive an incentive of €5 each day they take the train, tram or bus and are obliged to fill in an online mobility calendar. That little extra push can be what is needed to make your plan a true success. Of course, you can employ non-financial incentives too, such as a breakfast for cyclists, a special mobility event, free bicycle maintenance - the possibilities are endless!