Flexible Work

Flexible Work

Flexible Work

Great organizations are improving employee productivity, increasing retention of key people, and often saving millions of dollars annually. We admire corporations that contribute to the triple bottom line: people, profits, and planet. Flexible work and flexible transportation programs are enabling great employers to achieve all three.

In the Oil and Coal Age, everyone drove solo during gridlock hours to their one work location to toil over their designated machine. Now people are most effective working some days at one location, other times at home, others at a customer or supplier location. We are becoming increasingly flexible and mobile. We can take advantage of the new flexible workplace solutions to annually save hundreds of wasted hours, thousands of gallons of wasted gas, and pocket thousands of dollars.

Currently, over 2,500 Applied Materials employees participate in Applied Anywhere, a comprehensive flexible work location program.

The semiconductor chips in your computers, electronic games, solar panels, and mobile devices are likely to be made with equipment from Applied Materials. Their flexible work location program, Applied Anywhere, addresses their global business environment and provides agility to be closer to the customer as well as supporting the needs of many employees who perform some or their entire job outside the traditional office place. Applied Anywhere supports eligible employees that at different times may need to work from one of several corporate offices, at home, at an airport, or at a customer site.

Ann Zis, a Senior Program Manager for Applied, explained that the program has made global teams more effective, reduced commute hours, increased productivity, and saved gas miles.

The new workforce is mobile; at times working at their office, other times at home, other times at a customer site. Effective mobile working often requires wireless services, Internet services, IP telephony, security, laptops, and a variety of mobile devices. Hundreds of technology companies are benefiting from mobile work include Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Cisco, Nokia, Google, Yahoo, and Symantec.

Flexible work allows millions to travel less. Flexible transportation can enable most employees to save money and fuel when they do travel. 93% of all U.S. car trips are with only one person in the vehicle. The picture is better with work related travel. 12% share rides and 5% use public transit.

Your employer may pay you $1,380 per year, tax free, to use flexible transportation. The IRS allows ridesharing, public transit, and other creative commute options to be reimbursed up to $115 per month tax free in 2008, increased from $110 in 2007. Check-out the commute programs offered by your employer. Investigate regional transit and ridesharing programs. You could save a bundle.

37% of Yahoo! headquarters employees get to work without driving solo, reported Danielle Bricker with Yahoo during my interview with her. Yahoo’s Commute Alternatives Program is comprehensive, popular, and getting results.

As one of two dedicated Commute Coordinators at Yahoo, Danielle practices what she preaches. For four years, she has commuted 90-miles daily without owning a car. She commutes by train, walking to the station at one end, and boarding a Yahoo shuttle for the last mile to work. Living in San Francisco, Daniel will occasionally use CityCarShare to travel a distance at night, or when shopping at multiple locations requires carrying heavier loads.

Yahoo provides employees with free Eco-Passes for bus and light rail on VTA, the area’s rapid transit provider. Employees may also order online discounted passes for other public transit providers. Yahoo has achieved high ridership on public buses, light rail and trains by providing shuttle buses to take its employees to and from major transit stops such as Caltrain and Amtrak. Several full-size contracted buses transport employees to and from their homes in San Francisco.

These buses run on B20 biodiesel. Yahoo further reduces its carbon foot print by using locally grown food for 40% of its cafeteria meals. Cafeteria waste is used for biodiesel production.

Yahoo makes it easy for people to ride together. Yahoo has an intranet site where people can locate other employees near their homes for carpooling. There are special events, education, lunch-and-learns, and weekly education to encourage the growing use of Yahoo’s Commute Alternatives Program. These people use Yahoo!Groups to communicate and stay informed. Some car pools, such as those in Santa Cruz, merged into van pools with one van carrying 15 people. The Santa Cruz van provided by Enterprise includes wi-fi, allowing people to email, Yahoo Message, and create when crawling in stop-and-go traffic.

A number of highways used by ride sharers have high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, allowing car and van poolers to fly by solo drivers stuck in traffic.

Yahoo encourages the use of a zero-emission vehicle owned by one billion people on this planet – the bicycle. Yahoo provides bicyclers with secure storage of their bikes. Free lockers and showers are available. To help people quickly navigate Yahoo’s campus of buildings, loaner bikes are also available.
Many of the Yahoo commuters are able to get extra work done using laptops and other mobile devices while commuting on transit.

Yahoo’s results are impressive, considering that Silicon Valley workers live widely dispersed; many are forced to live miles from Silicon Valley so that they can live in affordable housing. Technologists work long and irregular hours, which makes ridesharing more challenging. Many Silicon Valley locations provide a long and uncomfortable walk in the dark to public transit.

Yahoo addresses these problems in a number of ways. One is that it provides a guaranteed ride home. Yahoo will pay for a late worker’s taxi or rental car. Commute program managers agree that a guaranteed ride home is critical to a commute program’s success. All agreed that employees rarely use the guarantee, making the cost minimal.

Yahoo rewards – employees who come to work without driving alone are rewarded with free lunches, movie tickets and massages. For her tireless work in making the program a success, Danielle Bricker was nominated by fellow employees for one of Yahoo’s most prestigious awards. Out of 14,000 employees, she was recognized with the Super Star Award.

Yahoo’s flexible transportation programs reflect the organization’s commitment to make a difference. Yahoo! is carbon neutral by offsetting its 250,000 metric ton carbon footprint (from 2006) through hydropower in rural Brazil and wind turbines in India.

Each month, a growing wealth of information and solutions to the global warming problem are available to Yahoo’s 500 million users at Yahoo Green.

By taking a carbon neutral approach, Yahoo goes beyond a simple commute program. Yahoo looks for ways to eliminate unnecessary employee trips. Yahoo’s high-tech flexible work allows people to work at home and other locations when appropriate. Employees manage their own work hours, allowing them to avoid the crawl of gridlock hours. When at Yahoo headquarters, employees can take advantage of on-site services to avoid running errands and traveling off-site for meals. Yahoo succeeds in the triple bottom line of people, profits, and planet.

Effective organizations have gone far beyond having a few employees telecommute. Flexible work is created so that all unnecessary travel is eliminated. Global teams of employees, partners, and customers use the new Internet to effectively work together without always being together in the same building. Solo gridlock commutes are replaced with more healthy and productive travel where mobile work can be done while ride sharing and using public transportation.

Flexible work and flexible travel are greatly helping people to be more productive, save money, and help us achieve energy independence.

Copyright © 2007 John Addison. This article is part of John Addison’s upcoming book, Save Gas, Save the Planet. John Addison publishes the Clean Fleet Report

Cool Commutes

Cool Commutes

Las Vegas BRT

Innovative solutions for energy independence and ending the climate crisis are manifest in Silicon Valley: breakthrough energy storage, biotech conversion of waste to fuel, electric vehicles, fuel cells, materials science, converting sunlight to energy and more.

200 members of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group (SVLG) convened to advance a different type of innovation – programs that make employees more effective anytime and anywhere. Organizations are increasing productivity whether employees are at a primary work location, secondary, home, customer site or other remote location. Work Anywhere and Cool Commute programs get increased job results with fewer wasted hours from people trapped in gridlocked traffic.

“Cool Commutes” was the title of the January 31 meeting. “Cool Commutes” is a friendly competition between Bay Area employers to determine which can encourage the greatest number of employees to commute without driving solo. Several attending corporations and government employers shared their success in helping thousands reach work using ride sharing, public transit, bicycling and walking. One CEO in Redwood Shores even canoed to work. Employer programs are both reducing the fuel wasted in commuting and eliminating unnecessary commutes.

Cool commuting is improving the profits of a number of Silicon Valley companies. The new workforce is mobile, at times working at their office, other times at home, other times at a customer site. Effective mobile working often requires wireless services, Internet services, VOIP, VPN, security, laptops, mobile devices with better energy storage and so on. Companies benefiting from secure mobile commuting include the meeting host Hewlett-Packard (HP), plus IBM, Oracle (ORCL), Hyperion (HYSL), Lockheed Martin (LMT), Sun Microsystems (SUNW), Cisco (CSCO), Google (GOOG), Yahoo (YHOO), Symantec (SYMC) and hundreds of others.

In addition to revenue improvements, many of these corporations and government employers are seeing cost savings. Healthcare costs lower when employees get more exercise walking and bicycling. Productivity goes up when the stress of rush hour commutes goes down. Mobile workforce strategies coupled with commute programs has allowed many to reduce facility costs. Reduced parking saves up to $2,400 per space. Shared facilities have a much higher payoff.

Cool Commute and flexible work location programs helped several participating high-tech firms with employee recruiting, retention and productivity. The programs did more than benefit employers; all of us benefit from reduced burning of fuel that results in more energy independence and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Ann Zis detailed a number of areas of success at Applied Materials (AMAT). Their program, “Applied Anywhere,” addresses their global business environment and provides agility to be closer to the customer as well as supporting the needs of many employees who perform some or their entire job outside the traditional office place. Through the program Applied Anywhere supports eligible employees that at different times may need to work from one of several corporate offices, at home, at an airport, or at a customer site.

“Applied Anywhere” is far more comprehensive than traditional telework programs. The program has made global teams more effective, reduced commute hours, increased productivity, saved gas miles and jet miles. Ann Zis advised workshop attendees to start by interviewing senior executives and to make a program align with corporate and executive goals and objectives. Conduct design workshops to facilitate the creation of program policies, places, technologies and details. Periodically, validate the program goals with focus groups.

All workshop attendees agreed that flexible work location programs fail when the approach is “one size fits all.” In some countries, the management culture requires most employees to be together most of the time. Yet, even in those countries sales and customer engineers are often mobile and at various locations so drop-in centers and satellite office could be a better alternative to solely a “work from home” approach. The nature of the job dictates where people need to be. All attendees also agreed about the importance of technology enablers to support flexible work location programs.

Ann Zis recommended a phased implementation, starting with a group near headquarters that is likely to succeed. It often takes four to six months for people, both managers and employees, to adjust to a new style of work location flexibility. Over time, categories of employees emerged including those that could work from home, mobile, drop-in, while for some, it is still appropriate for them to retain a dedicated seat in an Applied building. The policies, practices, technology and locations were created to support each category.

Currently, over 2500 Applied Materials employees now participate in Applied Anywhere, including over 1400 located outside the U.S.

Flexible work locations reduce unnecessary travel. When travel is necessary, organizations are innovative in making commutes better from employees, employers and the community.

36% of Yahoo headquarters employees get to work without driving solo, reported Danielle Bricker with Yahoo! This is double the 18% mode-shift that the corporation committed to the City of Sunnyvale when building permits were first issued. Yahoo’s cool commute program is comprehensive, popular and getting results.

As one of two dedicated Commute Coordinators at Yahoo, Daniel practices what she preaches. For three years, she has commuted 90-miles daily without owning a car. She commutes by train, using her bicycle to handle the “last mile” at both ends. Intermodal commuting is used by many.

Yahoo provides employees with free VTA Eco-Passes for bus and light-rail. Many of the Yahoo commuters are able to get extra work done using laptops and other mobile devices while commuting on public transit.

Yahoo’s results are impressive considering that Silicon Valley workers are widely dispersed in search of affordable housing. Technologists work long and irregular hours, which makes ridesharing more challenging. Many Silicon Valley locations provide a long and uncomfortable walk in the dark to public transit.

Yahoo addresses these problems in a number of ways. One is that it provides a guaranteed ride home. Yahoo will pay for a late worker’s taxi or rental car. Many at the workshop agreed that a guaranteed ride home is critical to a commute programs success. All agreed that employees rarely use the guarantee, making the cost minimal.

Yahoo has a fleet of shuttles to get people to and from transit, between Yahoo locations, to airports and sometimes providing an emergency ride. Some of the shuttles run on B20 biodiesel.

It is not easy to get employees to change their commuting behavior. Yahoo used surveys, education, an intranet website to help people find others for ridesharing, and YahooGroups to encourage collaboration, and monthly reward competition for those who avoid driving solo.

Yahoo encourages the use of the zero-emission vehicle owned by one billion people on this planet – the bicycle. Yahoo provides bicycler riders with secure storage of their bikes. Free lockers and showers are available. To help people quickly navigate Yahoo’s campus of buildings, loaner bikes are also available.

Many meeting participants recognized the value of the humble bicycle. SVLG CEO, Carl Guardino, commutes to work emission-free three times weekly, riding his bike 30 miles roundtrip. Lockheed Martin will make it easy for employees to zip across its campus with 200 yellow bicycles available for anyone.

Many presenters and attendees praised the non-profit organization “511.org.” 511 is an example of friendly systems that allow people to easily travel without getting in their car. 511 allows you to put in your departure and destination locations, then see or hear the best way to travel with public transit, train, even carpooling and bicycling. It even includes current traffic conditions. I have used this wonderful system with everything from an Internet browser (511.org) to my cell phone (dial 511). 511 is widely used in Northern California.

511.org offers consulting to employers. Employee surveys, employee home locations, flexible work locations and plans are all considered. Plans and recommendations often include public transportation, carpools, vanpools, bicycles, guaranteed ride homes. Employers like Genentech (DNA) and Stanford University have custom 511 implementations as part of their employee intranets.

Nationwide there are many organizations that offer some of the services provided by 511. Using your favorite search engine type “rideshare” plus your zip code.

Cool Commutes is just one of a dozen exciting initiatives included in SVLG’s “Clean and Green” Energy Action Plan. You can join Cool Commutes at SVLG.