The Home Team


Some people take a car to work. Some people take Metro. And others take a few steps down the hallway. “I just roll out of bed in my pajamas,” says Christina Grolman, a consultant with accounting firm Deloitte.

The 25-year-old found that getting from North Bethesda to her Ballston office and back each day was taking a toll. (“On a good day, that’s an hour one way,” she says.) So she talked to her bosses and now spends one to three days of every workweek at her place.

This schedule has given her more energy, the chance to focus on projects without interruptions and time for healthier habits, such as making lunch in her kitchen. And when Grolman does have to get behind the wheel of her Mustang, she doesn’t mind as much because it’s not a daily grind.

Good thing her gig isn’t with Yahoo. Marissa Mayer, the Internet company’s CEO, just announced that her employees will have to physically report to the office or lose their jobs. The reasoning cited in her memo? “Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home.”

I’m guessing this means that Yahoo won’t be participating in the third annual Telework Week, which starts Monday. Organized by the Alexandria-based Mobile Work Exchange, the event is designed to highlight all of the good stuff that happens when people telework for at least one day. The final tallies for last year’s event, when about 70,000 employees around the world pledged to take part, were mindboggling: more than $5.6 million saved in commuting costs, more than 250,000 hours gained in people’s lives and nearly 3,500 tons of pollutants removed from the air.

Because 50,000 of those pledges came from around here, the majority of those numbers benefitted the D.C. area. And frankly, we could use a whole lot more numbers like those and fewer like the ones from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, which recently reported that Washington’s drivers waste an average of 67 hours stuck in traffic each year.

“Time is money,” says Cindy Auten, general manager of Mobile Work Exchange. “If my employee is stuck in traffic, that employee is coming in late. And one accident can shut down the Beltway for a whole rush hour.”

Auten emphasizes that telework isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. There are full-time teleworkers, part-timers like Grolman and people who take advantage of the option on an ad hoc basis — maybe they have a midmorning doctor’s appointment near home, so they won’t head into the office until the afternoon.

As Washington is trying to figure out how to cope with an expanding population but no more space for roads and little wiggle room for adding capacity to public transportation, this kind of job flexibility sounds like a practical solution.

With more people working from home in their slippers, the folks who do have to get to the office can make the trip faster. Anyone who doesn’t see the benefit in that is a yahoo.

Make the Call

Think you’re an employee who could work from home without phoning it in? Prove your case to your boss with the resources at Mobileworkexchange.com, which include an eligibility gizmo, a commuting cost calculator and information on technology advances that make telework an increasingly viable option for more people. The site is also where interested employees (and businesses) can pledge to take part in Telework Week.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFit columnists and the Fit editor for Express.
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Katie Aberbach | March 1, 2013