Teleworking takes off in Atlanta

Nonprofit groups creates a telework start-up program loaded with incentives

A law firm, corrections department and manufacturing company are among 13 Atlanta employers to take part in a unique telework initiative that offered free consulting services and even reimbursed employers for certain monies spent getting their telework programs off the ground.

The group behind the initiative is Clean Air Campaign, a nonprofit organization that works with Georgia companies, government and schools to help reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality.

In its latest telework program, Clean Air Campaign provided participating companies with up to $10,000 in consulting services and up to $10,000 in reimbursement funds for staff time spent developing and implementing a telework pilot. In return, participating companies had to commit to creating or expanding their telework programs.

Last month Clean Air Campaign announced the results of the program, which allowed each of the 13 participating companies to work with Los Angeles-based telework consultant Elham Shirazi to plan and implement a six-month telework pilot. As of July the program - called Telework Leadership Initiative - had spawned 1,800 new teleworkers in the Atlanta metropolitan area, Clean Air Campaign reports.

The group points out that employees aren't the only ones who benefit from teleworking. Employers, too, stand to gain - in particular when employees log extra hours of work time on days they telecommute.

Clean Air Campaign surveyed participants and found teleworkers save an average of 107 minutes each day they telework by not commuting - and most often that time goes right back to the employer. More than 70% of respondents said they typically use the extra time to do more work.

"The findings from this survey really dispel the myth that telework is only a benefit to employees," said Ellen Macht, executive director of Clean Air Campaign, in a statement. "In each of the 13 pilot programs, the employer reported significant bottom-line benefits, including increased productivity, improved morale and even savings on office space."

Among the program findings:

* Teleworking improves morale. Almost 90% of teleworkers reported improved morale due to teleworking, and 80% of managers agreed that staff morale was up as a result of teleworking. More than 65% of teleworkers said they're less likely to look for another job as long as they can telework, and more than 45% of managers feel that teleworking gives the employer a competitive edge.

* Productivity doesn't suffer. More than 80% of workers reported no problems getting their work competed while teleworking, and 74% reported an increase in their productivity. On the managers side, 85% reported that productivity increased (by an average of about 20%) or stayed the same. In addition, 91% of managers said that work quality was not hurt by teleworking, and 52% of managers said supervising teleworkers took no more time than supervising non-teleworkers.

* Technology is key. Participating companies invested or improved their computer technology, remote-access, and telephone systems. Companies with good remote access options found it easy to transition to a greater frequency of teleworking, according to Clean Air Campaign.

* Execution matters. Among the lessons participating companies learned is that telework training for employees and managers makes a difference, as does selecting the right employees for teleworking and having solid management buy-in. Formalizing existing programs allowed organizations to increase participation, the group says.

Perhaps the most telling finding is that all 13 participants plan to continue and expand their telework programs. Each manager, on average, plans to allow four more employees to telework. At current levels, these teleworkers will reduce more than 10 million vehicle miles from metro Atlanta roads each year, Clean Air Campaign estimates.

Telework consultant Shirazi said the Telework Leadership Initiative is the most successful telework pilot program she's seen in the U.S. today. She credits the success of the program to the resources participants received: "Much of the success is due to two things: providing a one-stop-shop approach for the creation of the programs, as well as the fact that there are better technology tools available - for less money - today."

What are your companies' incentives for allowing teleworking? As always, I'd love to get your feedback at abednarz@nww.com

Join the Network World communities on Facebook and LinkedIn to comment on topics that are top of mind.
Related:

Copyright © 2005 IDG Communications, Inc.

IT Salary Survey: The results are in