Telecommuting offers flexibility and benefits to employers, employees, and transportation agencies that are trying to reduce congestion. Employees can work remotely or change their schedules to avoid traveling to work during peak hours. Employees can also work from home full time to avoid commuting altogether.
Modern technology makes it possible for workers to perform most office functions from a distance. This eliminates the need to be physically present in an office. Telework programs allow employees to work from home or a satellite office either all or part of the day. Employers benefit by reducing their costs and improving productivity through:
- Less wasted time.
- Lower parking and office space expenses.
- Less employee turnover.
- Lower recruiting and training costs.
These programs are ideal for public-private partnerships.
Professional and Management Staff
Professional and management positions often rely heavily on technology. The same technology offered in the office is also available in homes. This allows employees to stay in direct contact with an office, even when offsite. Computer or phone work can be done from a location other than the office during peak traffic hours or the entire workday.
Service, Wholesale, and Banking/Finance Industries
Business service employees and other types of sales positions often complete their work using computers or phones. Using the same technology from a home or remote office allows these employees to avoid commuting during peak hours or completely eliminate their commute.
Businesses and organizations that mostly do office-related work are best suited to telework programs. Manufacturing and some service industries are less suited.
How Will This Help?
- Reduces traffic volume and congestion during peak times by removing commuters from the road. Employees who work primarily on a computer can work from a home office during the most congested parts of the day or even full time. This reduces the overall demand on the local road or public transportation system.
- Increases efficiency and reduces costs for businesses. Allowing people to work from home can increase work efficiency with less time spent commuting and finding parking. Costs decrease due to less need for electricity, other utilities, and potentially office space.
- Facilitates hoteling. Hoteling is a business practice where employees reserve office space only when needed. This practice is feasible for professionals like auditors, who spend most of their time at their clients’ offices. Less support staff, parking, utilities, and office space are needed to support a staff of several auditors in this way.
- Improves the environment by reducing emissions and miles traveled. Employees travel less and therefore use their cars less. Also, as congestion decreases, fewer cars are idling in traffic or starting and stopping, all of which cause vehicle emissions.
Application Techniques and Principles
Work schedules can be managed to meet the needs of the telecommuting program. Adequate planning, enforcement, and coordination, however, are required to make the technique successful for lowering congestion. Many companies receive financial support for program startup. The amount provided depends on the number of telecommuting workers. Employers should use a tracking system to log hours and other important information for evaluating the program.
It is common for companies to explain the benefits and techniques of telecommuting. Employers can also provide telecommuting incentives if certain emission or cost reduction goals are met.
Private and public sectors must partner to educate and encourage organizations to take advantage of this strategy. Telework programs are easily created but are not appropriate for some businesses or employees. Businesses should identify what portion of their operation might be best suited for telework programs. Public agencies may provide incentives, marketing, and organizational assistance for starting these programs.
Who Is Responsible?
Business management and individual workers should work together to create a manageable telecommuting schedule. Management should consider what schedules will benefit each worker and what equipment and services they will need. The benefits of telecommuting should be highlighted to businesses and workers to convince them that it is worth the effort to reschedule work hours.
Project Time Frame
The time frame of this congestion mitigation technique is relatively short compared to more complex techniques. A telecommuting program depends on the amount of time it takes businesses to reschedule workers and implement the plan. The factors affecting the startup time include:
- Gaining employee acceptance.
- Ensuring ample technological setup and support.
Implementation time depends on the business and typically takes between three to six months.
The cost of telecommuting is minimal. A majority of the cost goes into planning, rescheduling workers, and ensuring everyone has the proper computers and other technology. Any other costs are usually due to operational changes in the business. Telecommuting plans usually cost between $20,000 and $40,000. Training a new telecommuting employee generally costs between $100 and $500. However, employers will see savings in the reduced office space, parking, and utilities needed to house all employees in a central location.
The data needed to evaluate telecommuting plans include:
- The number of willing participants.
- Their typical commute path.
- Their average speed and departure time.
- The number of trips avoided.
- The commute time saved.
If only a small percentage of people are willing to telecommute, management should evaluate the need for the program and the potential effects.
Telecommuting Best Practices
- Type of location: Organizations that do not require face-to-face customer interaction.
- Agency practices: Strong program support from administrators, policy makers, and information technology support staff.
- Frequency of reanalysis: Six months to one year.
- Supporting policies or actions needed: Clear telecommuting policies and management expectations.
- Complementary strategies: Flextime and compressed work weeks.
For More Information
Crawford, J. A., T. B. Carlson, W. L. Eisele, and B. T. Kuhn. A Michigan Toolbox for Mitigating Traffic Congestion. Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, September 2011.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute. H-GAC Commute Solutions: An Evaluation of Selected Elements. College Station, Texas, January 2011.
Texas A&M Transportation Institute. Mobility Improvement Checklist: Managing Demand: Vol. 1. College Station, Texas, September 2004.