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.
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."
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.