Going the extra mile for employees who walk to work


Calvert Investment employees who walk to work are rewarded with $120 vouchers toward a pair of walking shoes. (Joel Page/The Washington Post)

C ompany: Calvert Investments.

L ocation: Bethesda.

Number of employees: About 200.

It takes Kate Eldred exactly 17 minutes to walk the three-quarters of a mile from her house to work.

“I’m not the speediest turtle on the block,” said Eldred, a Web manager at Calvert Investments in Bethesda. “But oh, I love it. Walking to work is everything that you think it would be.”

The Bethesda-based company, which manages mutual funds and other investments, rewards employees who walk to work by giving them $120 toward a pair of shoes every year.

“We started out by just paying for Metro rides,” said Lauren Lefkowitz, a human resources consultant at Calvert. “But then folks started saying, ‘Hey, what about all of us who use other forms of non-car transportation?’”

Now employees who bike to work are awarded a one-time payment of $500 toward a bicycle, and those who use public transportation are reimbursed for their Metro and bus rides. About one-third of the company’s employees currently commute without a car, Lefkowitz said.

Eldred has been walking to work since she joined Calvert in 2007. Every January, she gets a voucher for new walking shoes. Last year, she got some lace-up boots. But usually she buys oxfords.

“I look like a geek walking into the office,” she said. “But you know, it’s part of the look — I carry a backpack, too.”

Her favorites — the ones she’ll likely replace this coming January — are what Eldred calls “nun’s shoes”: black, rubber-soled lace-up oxfords by Ecco.

Eldred won’t reveal how many pairs of shoes she owns. “Like most people, it’s a few too many,” she says, adding that she bought all of her walking shoes through Calvert’s program.

Last year, Eldred read all 1,488 pages of Vikram Seth’s “A Suitable Boy” during her walk to and from work.

“It feels very old-fashioned to walk to work,” she said. “It’s almost like you’re living in the 1950s, in a world where people don’t get in their car to go four blocks.”

“But,” she added, “truth be told, when it’s a hundred degrees outside or when it’s snowing, I get a ride.”

Abha Bhattarai covers local banking, retail and hospitality for The Washington Post’s Capital Business section. She has written for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times.
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