Telework Offers a Win-win Solution
Teleworking: A 21st Century Solution
Monday, February 21, 2011
Last week was National Telework Week. The Telework Exchange and Cisco will soon release a comprehensive report in March detailing the total impact of the Telework Week initiative on commuting costs nationwide.
Last week was also the week that my Telework Tax Credit bill, HB 2197, passed in the House and the Senate.
HB 2197 will provide a tax credit to employers for expenses incurred in allowing employees to take advantage of modern technology to telework. An employer would be eligible for a credit of up to $1,200 per teleworking employee, with a maximum of $50,000 per employer. The bill was a recommendation of the Governor’s Reform Commission and supported by the Northern Virginia Technology Council, which has long been a leader in promoting telework policies, as well as the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce and most of our Northern Virginia delegation in the General Assembly.
LAST MAY, I had the opportunity to participate in the Unlock Gridlock Conference in May, hosted here in McLean at Gannett headquarters, which focused on Telework. We had industry experts and Commonwealth officials come together to discuss how to implement and expand organizational telework programs to boost Virginia businesses’ productivity and bottom-line performance, as well as unlock gridlock on Virginia roadways and provide work and family balance.
According to the recent Commonwealth of Virginia/Telework Exchange "What We Saved, What We Learned" report, the U.S. workforce could save approximately $161 billion in commuting costs, avoid 130 billion driving miles, and remove 120 million tons of pollutants from the air by teleworking one day per week for a year. And then consider the childcare costs, other expenses and lifestyle advantages that could be the result for thousands of our local workers by further promoting telework.
The "Unlock Gridlock" Conference, as well as my bill, recognizes that expanding telework programs is part of the solution to eliminating gridlock throughout Virginia. In addition to providing highway congestion relief, telework provides significant cost savings to both businesses and employees. Now we can work with Virginia businesses to understand the benefits of telework and to learn how to make it a reality for their employees.
Telework!VA is our state program at the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) that provides hands-on telework support and training to employers in Virginia. Telework!VA offers up to $50,000 in financial incentives to businesses and non-profits in Northern Virginia and up to $35,000 in Richmond and Hampton Roads for eligible telework-related expenses. (For more information on Telework!VA, please visit www.teleworkva.org.)
The overwhelming support for my bill, HB2197, was encouraging. I have heard from many constituents, particularly women with child care or elder care obligations, who are excited about this development and the lifestyle and work/family balance advantages that it can provide. I look forward to promoting teleworking with our local and state business community and providing more opportunities for this new and more flexible way to work.
Teleworking is a 21st century workplace option that can reduce traffic congestion and air pollution, as well as cut gasoline consumption and dependency on foreign oil. It also helps provide a more family friendly workplace that gives Moms and Dads more time at home and less time sitting in traffic. Telework gives employees the flexibility they need to meet daily demands and can be a great recruitment tool for businesses. Employers get the benefit of increased productivity, improved morale, fewer sick leave days used, better worker retention, and reduced costs for office space.
With the winter storms we have just experienced, we are also reminded that Telework allows employees the flexibility to stay off the roads in bad weather, work from home, and meet their childcare needs when schools are closed. When hundreds of our neighbors were sitting on George Washington Parkway in the storm, they were not getting any work done. But those who were able to stay home that day were able to work with little interruption to their workday. Our highly educated and professional local workforce is well suited to telework.
I first started working on this issue and telecommuting almost 20 years ago when I first worked for our Congressman Frank Wolf. When my children were sick or the weather was bad, I often took the opportunity to work from home when practical and still fulfill my work obligations. Congressman Wolf has been a leader on the federal level and with this bill in Virginia, I look forward to working in the Commonwealth to expand Telework. This bill is a win-win solution for employers and employees that will provide better ways to work for thousands in our area.