By Guest Columnist BOB MURPHY, call center manager at Georgia 811, a nonprofit entity dedicated to protecting Georgia’s underground utilities
A number of metro Atlanta’s top employers, including Coca-Cola, AT&T Mobility, SunTrust, Georgia 811 and Chico’s, showed their support for Georgia Telework Week in mid August.
As metro Atlanta businesses and organizations try to navigate the challenges of today’s economy, more and more employers like these are finding that telework — allowing employees to work from home — offers significant potential when utilized correctly.
Teleworking provides a host of benefits to both the employer and employee. Employers are able to save on brick and mortar office space, experience fewer days lost due to absences and benefit from more productive and satisfied employees.
Employees can experience cost savings, stress reduction and greater flexibility. It’s amazing how quickly transportation costs can add up when you consider the cost of gas and oil, repairs and the depreciation of car values. Plus, the additional time afforded that they would not have if they were required to commute to and from the office really makes a difference in employees’ quality of life.
At Georgia 811, we started embracing these principles as the 1996 Summer Olympic Games were coming to Atlanta. Over the years, the program has grown significantly.
In the early 2000s, we set a vision of becoming a virtual call center. We are pleased to say that we now have a very successful telework program. Not only do our customer service representatives work from home, but our staff does as well. More than 95 percent of our employees work remotely either some or all of the time. As a result, our absence rate has fallen to historic lows and our retention rate is excellent.
We have learned new methods to maintain continuous training and quality assurance. Our workforce spans the spectrum of Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation Xers, and Millennials — and telework works for all of them. With proper training, we haven’t experienced any of the perceived concerns about declining quality of work among teleworkers. We meet regularly and exceed our service standards.
In addition to the business benefits, teleworking also has an impact on our environment. Collectively our customer service representatives who work from home save thousands of pounds of air pollution each year, according to data from the Clean Air Campaign.
We’re not the only Atlanta organization taking advantage of telework. The latest numbers show that 600,000 people, or one quarter of all metro Atlanta commuters, telework at least occasionally. More than half of those commuters telework at least once a week, making them responsible for keeping 12 million miles of vehicle travel off our congested roads and highways.
Still there is room for growth. Currently, 11 percent of commuters who do not telework are interested in starting, and 45 percent of them believe they could teleworkone to two times per week. That’s another 242,000 people who could be pulling their cars off the road.
For those interested in starting or improving their telework programs, we recommend using the resources available through Georgia Commute Options. This program offers free telework consulting and ongoing benefits for employees. For instance, our teleworkers have the potential to win monthly gift cards, and several of our employees have gone on to earn recognition as Clean Air Commuter Champions based on their long-term commitment. This type of recognition is important to maintain the enthusiasm of the teleworking program.
With the support of executive management, a well-planned technical and managerial strategy, and an efficiently maintained process, the telework program is one answer that metro Atlanta employers have to the ever-changing business challenges we find ourselves in at the beginning of the 21st Century.
Georgia 811 is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to preventing damage to Georgia’s underground utilities and promoting public safety. It functions as a communications system, connecting member utility companies with professional excavators and homeowners who are planning to dig. This communication system provides Georgia 811 members an opportunity to locate and identify any underground facilities they may have in an area where digging is planned. Please visit www.Georgia811.com for more information.