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Teleworking may continue as an ongoing option for some

The COVID-19 pandemic changed a lot of operating practices for businesses in the greater Tucson region. With some businesses being shut down and others having to adjust to stay-at-home orders, the business landscape evolved almost overnight. The practice of offering telecommuting by some companies went from a nice perk, that resulted in environmental benefits, to a way of life for workers at many businesses.

A year ago, many of employees had not heard of Zoom meetings or Microsoft Teams. Thoughts of working from home or navigating the telework landscape were not top of mind. Now many workers have spent a large part of 2020 making a 20-foot commute and engaging with others through remote desktops, emails, online meetings and webinars.

Although teleworking recently became a necessity for many, it has long been a pillar of promoting transportation reduction efforts. Allowing employees to work from home has been a way to reduce the number of cars on the road and improve air quality. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that the average American uses 1.2 gallons of gasoline a day, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reports that an average car emits approximately 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year (assuming each vehicle drives an average of 11,400 miles per year). It’s a no-brainer to realize that vehicle emissions will decline when employees work from home.

“Telework improves regional air quality by preventing the release of harmful pollutants from vehicle exhaust and tire and brake wear that would normally be released into the air during work commutes,” said Pima Association of Governments’ Air Quality Planning Coordinator Dustin Fitzpatrick.

If your business plans to continue the work-from-home option for employees and would like to fine-tune your telework program, the Sun Rideshare program at Pima Association of Governments offers travel reduction resources and assists in navigating telework options, policies and practices to ensure telework can be a productive option.

Although working from home doesn’t work for every job, many employees had to make the shift and employers have seen great success with telecommuting.

At Tucson Medical Center, about 1,300 employees began working from home in March. Most of the employees work in information systems and accounting/financial services departments.

“It’s been very successful,” said Beth Gilbert, Employee Wellness Specialist for TMC. “The only cost was setting up network access for their remote computers.” TMC expects to have its teleworking employees continue working off campus through the end of this year.

Several studies have found that telework not only has a positive impact on the environment but leads to increases in productivity and employee satisfaction.

Global Workplace Analytics, a research-based consulting firm, reviewed over 4,000 studies, reports, and articles about telework and found that it leads to:

  • Improved employee satisfaction
  • Reduced employee attrition
  • Reduced unscheduled absences
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased cost-savings for employers

Their review of studies found that large companies such as Best Buy, British Telecom, Dow Chemical and others reported that teleworkers are 35 percent to 40 percent more productive, and AT&T workers work five more hours at home than their office workers. In fact, over two-thirds of employers report increased productivity among their telecommuters.

With telework infrastructure in place, many businesses are allowing workers to telework even as stay-at-home orders are being lifted.

Learn more about the benefits of telework at for your employees, your business and for travel reduction.