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Work-Life Programs in Action: A Couple of Working Case Studies

We often talk about how total rewards programs can overlap and work together and, in doing so, actually create an opportunity to enhance the employer-employee value proposition. In some cases, though, this isn’t the only accomplishment. With some programs, there’s also an opportunity to do some good in the community. I’m thinking specifically about 2 of the 7 work-place effectiveness categories — workplace flexibility and community involvement — coming together for a greater good.

 I first read about this dynamic several years ago when it happened in the city of Houston, Texas, via the “Flex in the City” program. (Catchy title, eh?) The goal was to cut down on freeway congestion during at least one peak rush hour. The city’s then-mayor asked Houston’s top business leaders to, if it made sense for their businesses, try additional work options that eliminated at least one additional peak-time commute. This effort started in September 2006 for two weeks, and the results were so good that the program continues today.

 Here in Scottsdale (and the greater Phoenix-metro area), we have similar issues with traffic congestion and emissions. And WorldatWork’s actually been able to do our part!  I’ve invited our own Bonnie Serino from our HR department to join me to explain how we’ve taken advantage of a similar program.

Rose isn’t kidding when she says Phoenix has issues with air quality and traffic congestion. The Phoenix-metro area (in Maricopa County) ranks second in the nation for the dirtiest year-round air, according to the American Lung Association. And our air quality issues are a significant health threat. We have one of the highest rates of chronic obstructive lung disease in the nation. And the primary cause is pollution — mostly generated by motor vehicles and other gas-powered machinery.

The Trip Reduction Program, or TRP, is an Arizona law that requires Maricopa County employers, like WorldatWork, and schools with 50 or more employees and/or driving-age students to implement worksite programs to reduce single occupant vehicle trips traveled to the worksite.

The ordinance is part of Arizona’s ongoing effort to comply with federal air quality standards and reduce single occupancy travel to 60%. At WorldatWork our single occupancy vehicle rate, or SOV rate, is 69%. That means 69% of WorldatWork employees at the Scottsdale office commute alone in a car to and from the office.

 To do our part to clean the air we breathe and reduce traffic congestion, WorldatWork offers incentives to employees, like Rose, who use an alternate commute — carpool, vanpool, telework, walking to work or riding the bus or a bike. (On a side note, Rose carpools with two other co-workers at least three days a week and on other days she teleworks. And Lenny Sanicola — he’s our 2011 Bike Commuter of the Year!)

From gift cards and recognition (Commuter of the Year awards) to a guaranteed ride home and preferred covered parking, if an employee commits to using an alternate commute, even just one day a week, they’ll be rewarded for their clean air efforts. Not to mention they’ll save money on gas and in some cases even burn calories.

From the employer’s perspective, it’s a great way to experiment with flexibility options — even if it’s just for a specific time period, as what Houston asks local businesses to do — while at the same time helping the local community. And they benefit by contributing to cleaner air for everyone and less traffic congestion.

Although the TRP is mandated by the county and can be considered “just another HR paperwork, government bureaucracy” because of its required annual survey, documentation and government audits, we breathed life into our TRP by positioning it as a wonderful work-life employee benefit that blends perfectly with our employee wellness and financial education programs and overall workplace “green” culture.

If you have something similar in your area, I’d love for you to comment.  If not — then perhaps you can forward this to your city’s mayor and get the ball rolling!

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of WorldatWork.

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