• United States

Teaching companies new tricks

Oct 20, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

Georgia’s Clean Air Campaign uses cash to instill work-at-home habits.

Once again, Georgia captures the telework spotlight. Earlier this month, Gov. Sonny Perdue unveiled the Telework Leadership Incentive, a program run by the Clean Air Campaign (CAC) that will give eight employers up to $20,000 each to either start a telework program or formalize an existing one.

“We’re challenging companies to become telework leaders in the region,” says Michael Halicki, a CAC spokesperson. The program will offer each up to $10,000 in telework consulting services and up to $10,000 in employee reimbursements.

Although Halicki says eight is the target number, the number of participating businesses could be higher if selected firms don’t require all the funding. (Say, for instance a smaller firm doesn’t need the full employee reimbursement amount, or a firm with an established telework program doesn’t need the full consulting amount.) If the eight companies come in under budget, more companies can be included until the full $160,000 is allotted.

The Telework Leadership Incentive program was developed based on the success of CAC’s Cash for Commuters program, which rewards individual employees $3 per day and up to $180 in three months to either telework, car pool or take mass transit to work. It will also pay 80% of vanpool costs for the first three months, 50% for the subsequent three, when employers commit to paying 20% of the cost for the first year.

Providing cash incentives helps habitualize new behaviors, Halicki says. The Georgia Department of Transportation recently completed a study of Cash for Commuters participants; specifically at their work behaviors three-to-six months after the incentive was taken away. The study found 71% were still using transportation alternatives such as telework.

“The idea isn’t merely to get them to do it for six months. We’re trying to create real organizational change, to get companies to embrace teleworking. Incentives are a good way to get that started,” Halicki says.

CAC is looking for a couple of things in return, Halicki says. “We want a letter from employers demonstrating their commitment to telework. And we want to work hand-in-hand with them, writing case studies and profiles. We want to learn what the barriers to telework are, and how these companies are overcoming them. Then we’ll post them on the Web site as the program develops,” he says.

“Once you create the infrastructure and formalize the program, it’s so hard to take it away,” says Elham Shirazi, a telework consultant, who with consultant Peter Valk, is handling the program’s telework training. “The telework programs that are easy to drop are the informal ones.”

Next week we’ll look at the EPA’s Best Workplaces for Commuters program.