By Mark Powell
One way to reduce traffic congestion in San Diego is for government to incent businesses to implement telecommuting programs. Telecommuting or “working from home” is a trend that reduces the number of cars contributing to traffic during commuting hours.
Even better, research indicates that working from home can also increase employee work productivity. Several studies have shown that employees who work from home put in more hours than if they were in the office, and are more likely to go above and beyond what is required.
San Diego drivers spend more time on freeways than most Californians, and—in a city where parking spaces are limited—many employees need to pay for their own parking, which incurs a significant additional monthly cost. In addition to saving money on gas, parking, and vehicle maintenance expenses, telecommuting can also reduce employee stress while at the same time increasing morale.
The benefit to air quality and environment is another boon of telecommuting. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that air toxins from vehicles account for as much as half of all cancers generated from outdoor pollutants.
San Diego is among the world’s worst cities when it comes to traffic. According to the INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard, San Diego ranks 13th among the most congested cities in the United States, and 10 percent of San Diegans’ driving time in 2017 was spent in traffic.
Widening freeways and building new roads and bridges may appear to be common sense solutions to our traffic problems, but these strategies are cost prohibitive, hard to implement, and take decades to accomplish. These solutions also cost taxpayers a lot of money and are often met with community resistance and potential eminent domain lawsuits as government confiscates land for streets and roads.
When businesses offer their employees the opportunity to telecommute, they actually reduce operating costs. Telecommuting can be considered an employment benefit that improves recruitment and retention, increases work performance, and helps employees balance work and personal life.
It is no secret that there is a housing shortage in San Diego, and if this trend continues it is going to be challenging to recruit qualified candidates who can afford to live in Southern California. Businesses are increasingly struggling to recruit from out of state, and a growing number of workers are enduring one-way commutes of more than 90 minutes. But with telecommuting programs in place, workers can live in areas of San Diego County that are more affordable, without the burden of commuting hours to and from work in heavy traffic.
Government should encourage local businesses to implement telecommuting programs with incentives such as low-interest business loans, tax credits or other financial resources—and they should also implement telecommuting programs. Telecommuting options may not fit all business models, but there are other alternatives, such as the innovative 9/80 work schedule currently being implemented by the Port of San Diego. Under the 9/80 schedule, employees work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day over a two-week period, receiving one extra day off every other week.
With advancements in communication technology, telecommuting is a viable option for most employers. Businesses may need some organizational and cultural changes in order to embrace this new mode of operation, but this can be effectively accomplished through training and supervision.
With San Diego traffic among the worst, we need to look for long-term solutions to reduce traffic congestion, and telecommuting seems to be a practical and cost-effective strategy. By empowering and trusting employees, providing them with state of the art telecommunications technology, and laying out the expectations of the work arrangements, local businesses can have a successful telecommuting program—and, best of all, we can have fewer cars on the road!
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