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Labor Day is almost upon us. And just in time, because The Clean Air Campaign and its partners have been toiling away on innumerable projects for less traffic and cleaner air across Georgia. So, roll up your sleeves and work your way through this latest edition of Merging Lanes.

New Ozone Standard Up in the Air

We circled today's date on our calendars months ago, when the US Environmental Protection Agency announced changes were coming to the standards by which air quality is measured. Why the changes? Because more scientific evidence points to greater public health risks at even lower levels of exposure. In its present review, the EPA set a range for the new standard to fall somewhere between 60 and 70 parts per billion, which is the first time we can recall being given a range instead of an exact number. What will the EPA ultimately decide for the new standard? Looks like we'll have to wait just a little longer to find out.

Lane ends 2,000 feet.

Recapping Telework Week

Many thanks to the Governor's office, the 150 Georgia employers and the thousands of commuters who showed their support for the first-ever Georgia Telework Week last week. Also, thank you to our guest bloggers, including telework expert Kate Lister, for sharing insight into telework as a business strategy who's time has come, and to the San Diego Clean Fuels Coalition and Greater Lansing Area Clean Cities for cheering us on from afar. What was accomplished? An important conversation was started with many employers - and reinvigorated with many others - about redefining how work gets done. One employer noted "We have found this strategy to fundamentally support productivity and quality of life at our firm." A teleworking commuter offered this testimonial: "Telework means one less day having to deal with traffic and I find myself more productive working from home." Consider that some 300,000 employees in the Atlanta region telework at least once a week, eliminating 12 million miles of vehicle travel from the roads and keeping 6,000 tons of pollution out of the air we breathe. There's an awful lot of room to build on that success, both in Atlanta and in other employment centers around Georgia.

Lane ends 1,000 feet.

Worst Traffic Jam EVER?

This recent story puts Georgia's traffic congestion problems into perspective. A stretch of road between Beijing and Tibet has endured a 60-mile traffic jam that took a week and a half to clear ... only to get mired in gridlock again just a few days later. One expert tries to make sense of it all here. Metro Atlantans already lose 60 hours a year above and beyond their normal commute times to traffic snarls, according to the Texas Transportation Institute's 2009 Urban Mobility Report. Imagine losing 216 hours in the traffic oblivion lurking outside Beijing.

Lane ends 500 feet.

Walk On

What's your Walk Score? That's the question a website asks in the context of promoting more walkable neighborhoods and more access to alternative transportation. Just plug in your address to find out your walk score and see what's near you, what you're likely to spend on housing and transportation costs and your commute distance. I was disappointed to see that my measly walk score of 37 (out of a possible 100 points) indicates I am "car-dependent." Boo, hiss. What I wouldn't give for better "last-mile" connectivity between my home and the Indian Creek MARTA station a few miles away! My boss fared much better on his walk score with an impressive tally of 94, which qualified as "walker's paradise."

Merge.



More and more, employers are looking for ways to help their associates enjoy greater quality of life and a more productive work/life balance by offering flexible work hours or telework programs. And in turn, new associates and recent college graduates are looking for companies that provide such options.

We introduced a telework program at Shaw in 2007 for this very reason – to offer our own associates more flexibility and a better work/life balance. What began as a pilot program within our IT department has now become a growing – and valuable – part of the way we work: we now have between 150 and 170 associates participating in the telework program, including associates in our information services, legal, enterprise excellence, talent acquisition and marketing groups.

Reducing gas consumption, saving energy and decreasing carbon emissions associated with car commuting are some of the many environmental benefits our telework program has helped generate. But the program also offers myriad additional benefits, both for the qualified associates who participate, and for our organization as a whole.

In fact, beyond the environmental benefits of teleworking, one of the biggest advantages is the flexibility it allows. While some people prefer more time in the office, some people work better the other way round – coming to the office for meetings and collaboration, then working from home to organize, prioritize and focus on projects without distraction. Having a telework program in place means many of our associates have that option – and for people who are already productive and contributing at a high level, this option very often makes them even better. In other words, teleworking is something we’ve found works all the way around for us.

Paul Richard is Vice President of Human Resources for Shaw Industries Group, Inc. in Dalton, Georgia. Shaw is the largest manufacturing employer in the state of Georgia. For more information about Shaw Industries' commitment to Sustainability through Innovation -- The Shaw Green Edge, visit www.shawgreenedge.com.



On behalf of AT&T’s 1,750 telecommuters in Georgia, we are proud to support the state’s first-ever Telework Week. Telecommuting (working from a home office) is part of AT&T’s Evolving Workplace strategy that recognizes the nature of work is changing, and the way in which our company supports that work - through real estate, management practices and technology - is changing as well.

AT&T has implemented a comprehensive telecommuting policy with arrangements for our employees for whom it makes the most sense. Our program includes both formal and informal communication and collaboration tools, including a social networking community where AT&T's telecommuting workforce can meet online and share their knowledge and best practice tips for working effectively in a home office environment. We’ve experienced firsthand that flexible work programs such as telecommuting can have a positive impact on personal productivity, work space efficiency and quality of life.

The AT&T telecommuting program is also delivering reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The telecommuter population avoided 142 million commute miles per year nationwide. At the end of 2009, AT&T counted more than 10,000 approved telecommuters across the country. In addition, the company has provided mobile and remote access technologies to more than 130,000 employees that allow them to work from a variety of locations.

In 2010, we hope to build on the current program and expand it to even more employees.

Sylvia Russell is president of AT&T Georgia, a Clean Air Campaign partner.



Georgia Telework Week is August 23-27, 2010. The content and views expressed in this blog post are those of Kate Lister, a telework consulting professional, and not necessarily those of The Clean Air Campaign.

If the 1.3 million Georgia employees who want to work from home and hold telework compatible jobs teleworked just half the time, the overall economic impact would total almost $20 billion a year! Participating businesses could add over $10,000 per employee to their bottom lines.


Less than 3% of Georgia employees (about 115,000) consider home their primary place of work, but studies show that 40% hold jobs that are compatible with telework and 79% would do so if allowed. If they did, just half the time (roughly the national average for those who do):

Georgia Businesses could:

- Increase productivity by over $7 billion a year—the equivalent of 170,000 man years of work
- Save $3.8 billion in real estate, electricity, and related costs
- Save $1.4 billion in absenteeism
- Save $1 billion in employee turnover
- Reduce ADA compliance costs
- Potentially reduce healthcare premiums

Georgia Employees could:

- Enjoy a better work-life balance
- Recoup 2-3 weeks of free time per year—time they’d have otherwise spent commuting
- Save $2,000-$7,000/year—the combination of transportation and other work-related costs
- Save $608 million at the pumps
- Potentially qualify for a home office tax credit, reduce childcare or eldercare costs, and lower vehicle insurance premiums

The State could:

- Save 8.8 million barrels of oil—equivalent to over 30% of the Country's annual imports from Libya
- Reduce greenhouse gases by 1.6 million tons/year—equivalent to taking almost 300,000 cars off the road
- Reduce road travel by 3.5 billion miles/year saving $60 million in unreimbursed road maintenance
- Save almost 3,000 people from traffic-related injury or death and $357 million in related costs.
Georgia's commitment to telework is something its citizens should be very proud of. Only a handful of states offer economic incentives and free assistance for companies that want to start their own telework programs.

About Kate Lister

Kate is a principal at the TeleworkResearchNetwork, a research and consulting firm that has synthesized over 250 case studies, scholarly reviews, research papers, books, and other documents on telecommuting and related topics. Their research has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, and dozens of other publications. Their popular press book, Undress For Success—The Naked Truth About Working At Home (Wiley 2009) is aimed at empowering employees to negotiate, find, or create their own home-based work. It has won the praise of top telework and worklife advocates including WorldatWork, the Canadian Telework Association, the Telework Coalition, the Sloan Foundation, and the father of telecommuting, Jack Nilles.

Using the latest Census data, and assumptions from dozens of government and private sector sources, they've developed a model to quantify the economic, environmental, and societal potential on telecommuting for every, city, county, Congressional District, and state in the nation. It's been used by company and community leaders throughout the U.S. and Canada and is available free on the web along with a model that allows companies to quantify their own potential telecommuting savings. Customized models, based on over two dozen parameters, are available to evaluate unique community and company situations.

More about telecommuting, the pros and cons, who's doing it, and other resources for companies, individuals and researchers are available at TeleworkResearchNetwork.com.



Citing widespread broadband connectivity and a robust infrastructure, Forbes magazine again ranked the metro Atlanta region among the "most wired" in the U.S. Atlanta held firm at #2 for the second straight year, a strong showing in a region that is ripe for telework programs. But what is surprising is which city ranked ahead of Atlanta on this list. Hint: it's not in the Silicon Valley.

With a punishing commute that landed Atlanta on another Forbes list recently for all the wrong reasons, it's great that the region is getting recognition for the availability of broadband Internet that helps employees and employers alike boost productivity, save on overhead and commuting costs and get out of traffic. The availability of the Georgia Telework Tax Credit and consulting services provided at no cost by The Clean Air Campaign is icing on the cake for employers. We just need more employers to get on board.



Thirty percent of your employees don’t show up for work one day. What would you do? Would you close for business? Try to make it with a skeleton staff? And how would these choices impact your bottom line? Now imagine that those same employees – or more – were unable to get to work for three days or longer.

It’s a scenario that most Georgia business owners don’t think will happen to them, and, hopefully, it won’t. But recent history indicates that we need to prepare. Most of us never imagined that North Georgia roads would look like rivers last September as a 500-year flood swept the state. But that’s exactly what happened.

Georgia is also susceptible to tornadoes, as we saw in March 2008 when one spiraled through downtown Atlanta and caused damage in 15 counties across the state. Ice storms can literally freeze northern portions of state, and Dr. Patrick O’Neal, chief of the Georgia Department of Community Health’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Division, expects one third of Georgians to contract H1N1 flu. My goal is not to cause panic, but to show businesses the importance of preparing for, weather-related emergencies, pandemic, and other unforeseen disasters today.

I believe many business owners approach continuity planning with the best of intentions. But it can fall to the bottom of the list among payroll, sales and day-to-day operations. Ready Georgia, the emergency preparedness campaign from the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, also supported by the Georgia Department of Community Health Division of Public Health, can help. It offers a Ready Your Business guide to assist Georgia companies of any size with disaster planning. The guide can help planners identify key decision makers during a disaster, assess which disasters your organization is most vulnerable to, and determine essential business functions that must be maintained. It also helps organize important communication information, such as customer phone numbers, vendor email addresses and insurance provider contact information, in one location.

Working in conjunction with organizations like The Clean Air Campaign, can help businesses develop a comprehensive crisis plan to see them through a variety of situations. The Clean Air Campaign offers no-cost assistance to start or formalize a worksite telework program and can also help you apply for tax credits that cover the cost.

Business continuity plans that include telework programs can help protect our state’s economy, your business and the future of your employees. It’s time to move emergency preparedness to the top of the list, and get your business Ready.

Charley English is the director of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency and the Office of Homeland Security. He oversees all state governmental actions designed to ensure mitigation and preparedness, appropriate response and timely recovery from natural and man-made hazards which may impact the state of Georgia.



The World Health Organization recently elevated the H1N1 epidemic to “pandemic” status, meaning the virus has spread across every continent and still presents significant risks to public health. Few people realize that nearly half of all the H1N1 cases being tracked are right here in the U.S. We’re focused on things like washing our hands more often, but as employers and individuals, are we prepared for what happens next?

The problem is we don’t yet know what will be asked of us.

It is precisely for situations like these – in the time before an event like a pandemic escalates further and creates a series of challenges that happen in rapid succession – that employers draft formal business continuity plans.

Increasingly, companies are finding that teleworking is an essential tool in preparing for, and recovering from, a catastrophic natural or man-made disaster. Whether it is “home-based” or “remote-office based,” teleworking moves the work to the employee, rather than moving the employee to the work, which, in the event of a pandemic, can help prevent the spread of health risks.

Situations like the current swine flu pandemic have happened before. During the SARS breakout of 2003, many Hong Kong and Montreal based firms opted for teleworking to conduct “business as usual,” thereby minimizing human contact while still working closely with customers. In fact, SARS was a catalyst for many businesses that are integrating teleworking into their business continuity plans as a means of “social distancing” while operating critical functions within the organization.

Implementation Steps for Disaster Preparedness
Every employer is unique in the needs and considerations that must go into planning, but the key to business continuity is emergency preparedness, which entails having a program in place that has been tested prior to the emergency and an advocate that can champion the program. Consider these issues:

  1. Gaining support from all levels of management. Management will need to know how telework would impact productivity and the bottom line.
  2. Knowing which employees could work from home or a remote location. Some jobs may not seem appropriate for teleworking at first, but in an emergency, all employees may need to work from home or another location.
  3. Locating alternative facilities where employees could work. If your building becomes inaccessible, all work may need to be performed from an alternate location.
  4. Determining equipment needs and resources. At a minimum, you need to determine the types of equipment necessary for employees to accomplish their work. This can vary for each employee or work unit.
  5. Developing remote access to office files. Teleworkers may need access to information and software to perform tasks. Some companies have back up files stored off-site, which can be accessed in an emergency.
  6. Training employees and managers on teleworking procedures. Businesses have found that employees with prior teleworking training are able to respond quicker and more effectively to unexpected circumstances.
  7. Establishing a teleworking pilot program and monitoring results. A well-rehearsed plan is important to ensure your business can respond to a crisis. A pilot program for select employees can help polish your emergency teleworking procedures.

 

Lessons Learned From Recent Disasters
Employers that have had to put their business continuity plans into motion offer this wisdom:

  1. The telecommunications infrastructure may be more robust than the roadway infrastructure.
  2. Investments in technology and back-up systems are the backbone of many recovery programs.
  3. Pre-planning and testing of the plan are the key to quick recovery.

Employers can learn more about what makes a solid business continuity plan when they attend The Clean Air Campaign’s next Lunch and Learn event on telework, the telework tax credit and the role of telework in business continuity planning on July 16.



Next week is a great week to shake up the routine a little in your daily commute. The Clean Air Campaign, together with Clark Howard and the crew at 750 AM WSB and the region's local Transportation Management Associations, want you to pick a day next week to give your car the day off. Last year, some 1,300 metro Atlanta commuters pledged to do it (when gas prices rose above $4 last year, it's easy to see why). This year, let's raise the bar! You can sign up here to take part.

Need a little motivation to participate this go around? Here are five great reasons to give your car the day off:

  1. Every mile you drive alone is costing you 54 cents. That adds up over time, especially in Atlanta, which is recognized as one of the most expensive areas for commuters nationwide. Did you know the average metro ATL household spends more than $8,000 a year on transportation costs? That's more than we spend on food.
  2. You can get more done when you're not behind the wheel. With an average commute time in the region of 36 minutes each way, we're all looking for ways to be more productive. Why not hop on an Xpress bus or carpool and read a book or catch up on e-mail?
  3. Half of all smog-forming emissions come from the tailpipes of cars and trucks. That's a major factor in the number of days we experience when air quality is deemed unhealthy for outdoor activity. Fewer tailpipes is good for the air we breathe. Try carpooling. If you need help finding a person to share the ride, The Clean Air Campaign can direct you to RideSmart, a division of the Atlanta Regional Commission that runs a service to match commuters who live and work near each other.
  4. Not having to drive means less stress from the grind of traffic and the "unpredictable actions" of other commuters who are competing for space on the roads. You don't have to get worked up about the dummy who zooms past you and changes lanes without signaling when you're teleworking.
  5. When you leave your car in the driveway and choose a different way to get to work, you're not using up as much energy. Try MARTA. They're also supporting an event next week -- on Thursday, June 18 -- called "Dump the Pump." We all remember how exasperating it was last year to shell out big bucks for gas. It's still painful to pay $2.50 a gallon. Try an alternative so you don't need to fill up the tank as often.

Giving your car the day off one day next week is just a starting point, of course. We want you to do it once in hopes that you'll consider doing it more often. There are more than 350,000 commuters across town who have come to enjoy alternatives to driving alone. We need more to accomplish our mission of less traffic and cleaner air.



Telecommuter Appreciation Week is coming to a close, which presents some key opportunities to brag on the success more employers are finding with telework as a critical workplace strategy that creates bottom-line benefits. Clearly, the current economic conditions employers are facing do not invite much capacity for expansion or risk-taking. The focus is squarely on riding out the financial storm, looking internally at operational efficiency and keeping the workforce motivated.

These priorities match extremely well with the adoption of telework programs. And when it's made available, employees are jumping at the opportunity to telework because of its myriad benefits: savings on commute costs and work attire, reclaimed time from not having to travel to work and enhanced work/life balance. Seldom have these factors been more important to employees than in the current economic climate.

The nation's most well-regarded employers are leading the charge, as evidenced by the latest release of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. 83% offer telework.

The numbers indicate occasional telework is becoming more widespread. A study found the number of employees who work remotely at least once a month jumped from approximately 28.7 million Americans in 2006 to 33.7 million in 2008 -- a 17-percent increase in that two-year span.

From The Clean Air Campaign's perspective, the best commute is the one that doesn't involve a tailpipe, as every mile driven puts a pound of pollution into the air we breathe. Telework stands out among the cleanest commute options available in a region that is regarded as one of the most wired in the U.S.

To the quarter-million-plus teleworkers in metro Atlanta, thanks for doing your part to make our roads a little clearer and the air a little cleaner. Your efforts are appreciated not just during Telecommuter Appreciation Week, but every time you work from home.



Do you ever sit at work and listen to a co-worker sneeze, cough and sniffle his or her way through the day? Do you ever want to tap that person on the shoulder and say, “go home before you make us all sick!”?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year in the U.S., five to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. So how do you keep your business running with the cold and flu season in full swing?

An easy answer to keeping germs out of the workplace is a telework program. For all of those employees who think the world will end if they don’t show up; for all the loyal workers who don’t want to use a sick day; for employers who don’t want to allow one sick employee to infect the whole office, I have three friendly – and obvious – words of advice: Work. From. Home.

Stuart Brown, M.D., former director of the Georgia Division of Public Health, said that “someone coughing deposits germs on workplace surfaces – conference tables, the copy machine and telephones. So anything you can do to limit that helps reduce the risk of infection spreading to other employees.”

So here’s my recommendation to everyone suffering with a cold or the flu who still has manged to summon enough energy to be on the clock: Telework! Atlanta is one of the most wired cities – let’s try to make it one of the healthiest too.