When roadwork can do no more good, telework can be a solution

Virginia commuters could soon see less-congested roads thanks to the commonwealth’s efforts in pushing telework, according to a state official.

The physical and financial limits of building and maintaining roads provide a good argument for telework, according to Virginia Transportation Secretary Sean Connaughton.

“We don’t have the money or the physical ability to expand the system anymore,” he said. “Anyone driving up and down [Interstates] 395 or 95 [would] recognize you can’t go out any further. 66, we can’t go out any further. That’s why telework is such an important, important part of the future of this region, across the state, across the country.”

With the expansion of areas such as Tysons Corner, the 270 corridor and the Dulles Access Road, the Virginia area has experienced “enormous challenges,” Connaughton said in his keynote at the Telework Exchange Town Hall Meeting in D.C. on Oct. 18. Although "billions upon billions of dollars" have been funneled into expanding the transportation network to deal with the growing number of citizens, the current infrastructure remains outdated and poorly accommodates employees who work outside the traditional core, the secretary said.

Technology and personnel practices have advanced to the point where telework could be a successful approach, Connaughton said. Telework has evolved from being something managers weren’t all that receptive to because they didn’t want employees to “run around their houses with fluffy slippers on and not get dressed,” the secretary said.

“But you know what? When you look at many of the types of work we do, I don’t really care if you wear fluffy slippers!” Connaughton joked. “If that makes you comfortable and you can do your job and be productive and maybe be even more productive than being in the office, then we should support that.”

Telework not only leads to more productive and happy employees but it also saves energy, keeps costs down and helps save the environment, making it a “great win-win for all of us,” Connaughton said.

The Commonwealth of Virginia is currently exploring ways to take telework to the next stage, Connaughton said, with providing tax credits to employers who decide to buy equipment that would enable employees to telework. Work is also underway to figure out how to give similar incentives to not-for-profit organizations that don’t need the tax breaks, Connaughton added.

“It’s sort of funny to me because in the office we are the public administration – we’re supposed to advance transit and things like that – we’re actually the ones pushing [telework] because we see this as a real opportunity to save money and to provide better, happier workers,” he said.

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