Sunday, February 26, 2006

Partial-day telecommuting to relieve rush hour congestion

LM Sixel recently had a column in the Chronicle profiling the Mayor's effort to get more Houston employers to offer compressed workweeks and/or telecommuting to help ease our rush hour traffic congestion (Kuffner chimed in to support 9/80 schedules). While I wholeheartedly support both of these options, I can see how they might seem like a radical step to conservative employers who feel a whole lot more comfortable with faces in the office. This got me thinking about an "intermediate" option that might be easier for employers to swallow, yet could still offer traffic relief.

These stats I came across in a recent article are key:

Unlike a decade ago, U.S. workers are bombarded with e-mail, computer messages, cell phone calls, voice mails and the like, research showed.

The average time spent on a computer at work was almost 16 hours a week last year, compared with 9.5 hours a decade ago, according to the Day-Timer research released this week.

Workers typically get 46 e-mails a day, nearly half of which are unsolicited, it said.

16 hours a week is over 3 hours a day of email and other computer work. There is absolutely no reason this work needs to be done at an office, especially considering that most employers offer employees remote access to their networks and email.

What Houston needs is to shift more of the traffic load to off-peak hours, like after 8:30am and before 4pm. If employers allowed an hour+ of "computer time" to be done from home each morning and each afternoon or evening (2+ hours total every day), we might see a whole lot more de-peaking of rush hour congestion as people come in later and leave earlier. It's also a less radical and more comfortable step for employers (not to mention employees), who still get office "face time" every day. And employers can directly measure remote logins and traffic through their email servers to to confirm real work is happening during these hours. As they build comfort with partial-day telecommuting, they can continue moving towards more full-day telecommuting options.

Everybody wins: Houston gets less congestion, employees get more flexibility and less time stuck in traffic, and employers get a happier and more productive work force. To get help promoting it, Mayor White might recruit Time Warner RoadRunner and AT&T/SBC, who stand to benefit nicely from selling additional home broadband connections around the city.


At 1:57 PM, October 15, 2007, Blogger Christopher Blanc said...

All I can say is RIGHT ON. This is a great city but the traffic makes it painful, polluted and ugly. Fixing that even a little bit would be a bonus to living in Houston.


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