CTR Commuter Diversity: Telecommuting
As transportation researchers, we are all too familiar with the causes of congestion. And as the saying goes, “you are not stuck in traffic—you are traffic.” So we try to do our part to reduce our impacts on the Austin network in a variety of ways, participating in such congestion-mitigation practices as carpooling, bicycling, and using public transit. This article is a continuation in a series on the commuting alternatives we use right here at CTR.
Austin’s congestion woes show no signs of lessening, so commuting alternatives are becoming increasingly attractive. In a recent article in The Alcalde (the UT alumni magazine) titled “The Traffic Solution No One is Talking About,” CTR researcher and former director Randy Machemehl remarked that:
I teach a class on transportation at UT, and I like to tell my students that I have a solution to congestion which costs nothing. We could implement it today, and by tomorrow morning we’d have absolutely no congestion…it’s something called travel-demand management. This is a group of strategies that are all ways to reduce or spread demand across the transportation system during peak hours. Some of these strategies include carpooling, telecommuting, and flex time. All of these measures have little or no cost and could lead to huge improvements at rush hour.
CTR published a handy guidebook summarizing travel demand management strategies like telecommuting, providing case studies and the specific strategies recommended for Texas metro areas. The Travel Demand Management Guidebook is a TxDOT-sponsored research product (6-0702-P2).
Various CTR staffers have been telecommuting for years with great success, staying in touch with colleagues via email and telephone. A commonly cited drawback of telecommuting is a sense of isolation; CTR telecommuters traditionally have worked at home only one day a week and thus haven’t found the arrangement particularly isolating. Even a single day a week of regular telecommuting can provide tremendous gains for employees looking to concentrate on detail-intensive projects and start their day without the stress of battling Austin traffic.
Notes Selina Keilani, CTR’s Chief Business Officer,
I occasionally telecommute. It saves me an hour in commuting time, which allows me to be more productive both at work and at home. I find I am also better able to focus on tasks that require concentration when telecommuting, without the distractions or time commitments often present in the office. I feel in this age of constant connectivity, it is important to offer employees some degree of flexibility and the option to telecommute when possible. This can improve productivity, increase morale, and promote employee retention.
Most UT employees are eligible to telecommute, given their supervisor’s approval. The UT HR Department sets forth these general requirements:
- You must work with your supervisor to complete the Telecommuting Agreement.
- Be sure to maintain a healthy and safe environment at your remote worksite.
- Don’t let non-work related events and activities interfere with your work. This includes using your scheduled work time to care for your dependents.
- Turn in weekly time reports and any other work hour records your supervisor requests.
- Get your supervisor’s approval for overtime (if you are non-exempt) and leave.