Businesses embrace telecommuting
by By Matt Shinall
Mar 06, 2011 | 2617 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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With gas prices rising relentlessly, working from home is a dream for many employees but the practice of telecommuting has also gained appreciation with employers across various sectors of the economy.

Even in manufacturing there remain administrative and support roles allowing for the option of working remotely. Shaw Industries, Bartow County's largest employer, has developed over the past five years an effective and growing telecommute program.

"Today, we probably have somewhere north of 200 of our teammates who are participating in telecommuting in some form or fashion and it's been growing in popularity," said Paul Richard, Shaw vice president of human resources. "A couple thousand of our associates live in Bartow County but it's really not a distance thing as much as it is flexibility and being able to have that opportunity."

Flexibility, as described by Richard, is the ability for employees, who's job allows, to work from a home office. This opportunity has resulted in participants commenting on an improved work/life balance and in many cases, increased productivity.

A recent survey reported by The Clean Air Campaign has shown telecommuting has grown in popularity among Atlanta-area commuters. The survey found that telecommuting has overtaken carpooling as Atlanta commuters' primary commute alternative rising to 27 percent of surveyed drivers.

Drivers are switching to working from home for various reasons. Tate Henshaw, former Rydal resident, now lives just north of the Bartow County line a full hour from his office in Atlanta, a commute totaling an average of $100 a week on gas. Beyond the financial burden of his daily commute, Henshaw found that his drive to work was impairing his quality of life.

"I was commuting from Rydal everyday for about six months and I can tell you the stress level from that traffic is really a factor that you have to deal with," Henshaw said. "I think I get as much or more done now as I did before. There's less distractions here. I don't have the phone ringing all the time here and I'm not worn down from sitting in Atlanta traffic for an hour."

As an account manager for Polay Financial Management, Henshaw works primarily at his computer and via telephone. A phone system, identical to that in his office, using Voice Over Internet Protocol technology, enables voicemail to be checked and calls to be transferred directly from the receptionist in Atlanta as if he were in the office. Instead of driving 600 miles a week to and from work, Henshaw makes the drive to Atlanta one day a week to deal with necessary paperwork.

"I think it can't be just anybody because you have to self motivate. You don't necessarily have someone sitting here looking over your shoulder. But if that's something you don't have a problem with, I think it's great because it also allows you to spend more time with your family. I work 9 to 5, so at 5 o'clock I'm done and I can spend time with my wife or my friends but if I were still driving to work everyday then I'd basically be working from 7:30 or 8 to 6:30 until 7 with the commute added in," Henshaw said.

For Shaw, environmental concerns are a high-ranking factor in expanding their telecommute program. The carpet industry has historically been a "dirty" industry in the means of production, waste and recycling; but Shaw has taken great strides to become a leader in their industry for "green" manufacturing.

"Shaw has always been a leader in sustainability, particularly in our industry, but even if you look at the broader community we think that this telecommuting opportunity was good for us for a couple of reasons," Richard said. "It's good for the environment, it's good for our people -- it gives them some flexibility and it lets us take advantage of the talent of some folks we otherwise may not have access to."

Employees have been recruited to fill specialty needs from throughout the Atlanta area and even some employees telecommuting from outside the state. Richard noted that options such as telecommuting helped the company receive recognition as an employer last year when named in the 2010 Top Places to Work by Georgia Trend Magazine.

"It was a way for us to become a more attractive employer as well," Richard said. "We get a lot of interest in it. We have to remind people that it's not for everybody but where we're able to accommodate it, we certainly do and our experience has been such that we will continue to expand it where it makes sense."

The Clean Air Campaign works to promote commute alternatives including incentives for participating businesses and individuals. Commenting on survey results reporting an increase in telecommuting, Executive Director of The Clean Air Campaign Kevin Green commented in a press release on an often hidden benefit evidenced in January's ice and snow.

"Getting telework to be accepted by more employers as a workplace strategy has been a major emphasis for our organization and its partners," Green stated. "[January's] weather is a perfect example of how important it is to give employees the ability to work remotely. ... With many workers house-bound for up to a week, employers with telework programs were better prepared to keep their organizations operating in spite of icy roads."

For more information on telecommute opportunities visit www.cleanaircampaign.com or call 404-817-7762.