New ways of thinking about commuter solutions

In normal times, about a quarter of those who work on the South San Francisco campus of Genentech, part of the Roche Group, commute. But the situation with COVID-19 required new thinking.

There have been a couple “ah-ha” moments for us over the last few months. We looked at our whole transportation programme and what we were able to use during this period. And we had to remove some of the programmes. Carpooling, which we strongly advocate for with an app-based program, doesn’t support or enable social distancing. So we had to formally tell employees that we aren’t supporting it and we aren't going to reimburse the costs associated with it during this time. 

We unfortunately had to do the same thing with the vanpools in the short term, because we didn’t feel it was going to be safe enough. We thought everybody would be fine with that, and would just drive or figure out how to take our buses. 

What we discovered is that a lot of our off-shift manufacturing staff had taken advantage of the vanpools because their schedules are different than the normal business hours when we supply solutions, and they couldn’t ride the buses or the boats. So they were using the vanpools and it was working really well for them. 

We found out that not all of them had cars that could make the trek into and back from work every day. We also started hearing about some folks in research, who live in San Francisco, who don’t even have cars. They don’t need cars; they live in the city! 

As a result, we had to start thinking about how we would provide different solutions for them. We added a special bus route for our manufacturing colleagues that runs on an alternate schedule, and we were able to make it efficient enough that it can also run on weekends, which we hadn’t done before. 

Previously we’ve struggled with how to help people who don’t work traditional business hours. The pandemic has forced us to pilot some solutions that are being received really well.

One of the things I’ve talked with our team about is that we need to start thinking outside the box about how we provide these services. Because even coming back from this time of shelter in place, some business units are talking about having their teams work in staggered shifts, or work different times of the day. And our solutions need to try to mirror that as much as possible. So one of the upsides to this huge disruption has been identifying some opportunities to better serve our workforce. 

Genentech was recognized by GreenBiz among an elite list of"Biotech giant Genentech is a surprising fleet leader: It's got the most aggressive electric commuter bus programs around, in addition to its other EV fleet goals."

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