As the Atlanta region takes a serious look at its traffic congestion problems in advance of the July 31 Transportation Referendum vote, one strategy that private and public sector employers have been embracing is the adoption of telework as an efficient way to work smarter and help employees avoid traffic.
Nationally, Atlanta stands out as a leader when it comes to creating opportunities for employees to work from home. A recent Microsoft study tagged Atlanta as the most telework-friendly city in the U.S. What’s more, the technology infrastructure available here gives our workforce access to crucial broadband technology, making Atlanta one of the most-wired cities anywhere. Our large population of Gen-Y workers (who account for 45 percent of teleworkers nationally) also brings a keen understanding that work is something you do, not a place you go.
But, even with many of the region’s employers and commuters already leading the telework charge, our roads are still congested and we can do more. New numbers on regional commuting show that 11 percent of commuters who do not telework are interested in starting, and 45 percent of them believe they could telework 1-2 times per week. That’s another 242,000 people who could be putting in a productive workday without ever having to get into a car.
State leadership has demonstrated strong support for telework. Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue instituted the country’s first state-supported tax credit for employers to start or expand telework programs. And Governor Nathan Deal is supporting the third-annual Georgia Telework Week, taking place August 20-24, encouraging employers and individuals to show support for telework and learn best practices.
The numbers clearly reflect the success happening in Atlanta with telework. Consider this: telework has grown so quickly that it now eclipses carpooling as the most popular commute alternative in the area. According to the most recent survey on regional commuting conducted for the Georgia Department of Transportation, from 2007 to 2010 the number of people who telework at least occasionally rose 35 percent to 600,000 people.
This is exactly the kind of change The Clean Air Campaign works to create every day. As a nonprofit organization, we partner with the region’s transportation management associations (TMAs) to encourage the use of commute alternatives such as carpooling, vanpooling, transit, bicycling, walking, and, of course, telework. Thousands of commuters and more than 1,600 employers statewide are participating in voluntary commute options programs. Currently, more than 250 Georgia employers have taken advantage of our free telework and consulting services to develop or expand formal telework programs.
A wide variety of forward-thinking local employers, from public to private, large to small, see these benefits every day. WellStar’s program has helped it land in the top ten among Working Mother’s 100 Best Companies. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allows more than one-third of its employees to work from home on any given day. Local design firm VeendendaalCave eliminates 850 commute trips a year from just 70 employees through telework
Some of the best success happening anywhere with telework is happening right here. But to move the region forward, and, in turn, restore our economic vitality, we must continue to pursue all options available.
Tedra Cheatham is executive director of The Clean Air Campaign.