At a joint press conference, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG) and the Greater Washington Board of Trade (BOT) announced a new effort to encourage 50,000 more commuters to telecommute by 2005. The program, which is aimed at large employers and federal agencies includes free customized training programs and free trials at telecommuting or “telework” centers, marks the first time that public and private organizations in the metropolitan Washington area have come together to promote telecommuting.
“Telework has progressed from the ‘nice thing to do’ to being essential to the vitality of this region,” said Gerry E. Connolly, chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and founder of the Washington Area Conference on Telework. “The task before us now is persuading businesses and federal agencies that telework is in their best interest – improving employee productivity, reducing absenteeism, bolstering the area’s economy, in addition to the quality of life benefits such as reducing traffic congestion and air pollution.”
Robert A. Peck, President of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, noted that teleworking has other business benefits. “Teleworking not only gets cars off the road and enhances quality of life, it provides firms with an important means of business continuity when a crisis or inclement weather occurs,” he said.
John Veihmeyer, managing partner of KPMG’s Washington offices, said, “As part of our goal to be an employer of choice, KPMG is a long-time supporter of flexible work schedules. Flexible work arrangements not only help employees gain more control over where, when and how they do their work but they make great business sense. By offering flexible work arrangements, such as the initiative being announced today, KPMG can attract and retain the very best professionals.”
The telecommuting initiative “Better Work Through Telework” is targeted toward large employers with 1,000 or more employees, as well as federal agencies. COG’s Commuter Connections Program has hired an experienced consulting team to provide free customized outreach and training for employers who register for the telework initiative.
The program aims to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by eliminating 17,000 daily vehicle trips and 550,000 vehicle miles traveled by June 30, 2005. Enhanced outreach efforts include a 60-day free trial at one of 16 telework centers for federal agencies and a series of free workshops for both private and public sector employers geared toward helping employers maximize and manage their telework programs.
In 2000, Connolly spearheaded an initiative to establish a regional goal for 20 percent of the workforce to telework by 2005. The COG Board adopted a resolution supporting the goal in 2001.
A recent COG survey showed that 400,000 people (out of an employed population of approximately 2.6 million) now telecommute compared with an estimated 250,000 in 1998 (out of about 2.4 million). The survey also reported that those who telecommute do so at least 1.5 days each week. Twenty-eight percent of employees in private sector companies and 26 percent of federal workers also said they would telecommute if given the opportunity.
The federal government supports teleworking for its workforce. “Teleworking contributes to mobility by reducing congestion on our transportation facilities and services,” noted Emil Frankel, Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation. “The improved flow of people and goods provides for a more efficient economy and an improved quality of life for the American people. We urge all federal agencies to expand teleworking opportunities for their employees,” he added. “Teleworking just one day per week would have an enormously positive impact on greater mobility in the Washington metropolitan area.”
Abby Block, Deputy Associate Director of the Office of Personnel Management, commented, “As Kay Coles James, the Director of OPM, has said, telework is an important and attractive work option for the federal government and its employees, while providing flexibility for responding to emergency situations. It also helps employees balance their work and personal responsibilities, benefits our transportation systems, conserves resources, and improves the quality of life while at the same time making federal service attractive to prospective employees and encouraging current employees to remain in federal service.”
Telework means using information technology and telecommunications to replace work-related travel. Simply put, it means working at home or closer to home – employees work at home or perhaps at a local telework center one or more days per week. Communication is accomplished by phone, fax, modem, and teleconferencing.
COG supports telecommuting efforts through its Commuter Connections program, a free service offering alternative commuting options for the metropolitan region; an annual telework conference; and workshops for employers. Originally established to help area commuters find rides to work, Commuter Connections has expanded its services to help businesses and their employees find innovative ways to succeed while improving the local economy. Last year, the program launched an aggressive mass marketing campaign to promote using mass transit, ridesharing, and telecommuting as alternatives to commuting alone by car. For more information, visit www.commuterconnections.org.
The Greater Washington Board of Trade supports telework as an important transportation option that can improve regional mobility, one of the Board’s 2004 priorities. The Board of Trade is the region’s largest network of business leaders and the only organization representing all industry sectors. Board of Trade member companies employ 40 percent of Greater Washington’s private sector work force. Members join the Board of Trade to grow their business and help build a better community. For more information, visit www.bot.org.