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I was first offered the opportunity to telework full-time 10 years ago. I jumped at the chance and never looked back. At that time, I lived in Lawrenceville and commuted to Alpharetta. I was thrilled at the prospect of reclaiming countless hours consumed by the daily trek through the gridlock of the metro area’s northern suburbs. With the additional incentive of savings in gas money, I had all the motivation I needed to be a successful home-based teleworker.
In the ensuing decade, I’ve come to appreciate many of the smaller, unexpected benefits of telework. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite things about working from home:

  • Comfort and control of my environment. I’ve never been the work in pajamas type. My weekday morning routine still includes taking a shower and getting dressed in real clothes. But, every day is a casual day and I never wear shoes. On beautiful spring and fall days, I open my office window. When I’m not on a conference call, I’m enjoying my own iTunes playlist or Pandora station while I work.
  • Reduced stress and increased energy. As a natural introvert, the virtual work environment is a good fit for my personality. Until I began working from home, I didn’t realize how much energy I was expending in daily social interactions at the office. Don’t get me wrong, I have a healthy network of friends and family and I’m in no danger of becoming a hermit. I do enjoy and appreciate my co-workers, but for me, it’s just as effective and much less stressful to interact with my professional colleagues primarily by telephone, email, instant messaging and desktop sharing technology.
  • Work-life balance: the little things. I can put a load of laundry in the washer and grab a healthy snack from my kitchen in the same time it would have taken me to walk to the office break room and buy junk food from the vending machine. I never lose a half-day of work waiting for the cable installer, furniture delivery truck or plumber. If I finish my workday at 5 p.m., by 5:05 p.m. I can be in the kitchen starting dinner, on my way to work out, or winding down with a beverage while catching up on social media.
  • Increased productivity. Even the busy times when my workload requires that I put in extra hours are less stressful and more efficient as a teleworker. There is no need to stay at the office late or lug a laptop and a stack of papers back and forth from my office to home. I can walk away from my desk, eat dinner with my family, and return to my home office for a few late-night or week-end hours when the email onslaught has slowed down and I can actually get some work done.

Not only does telework make my life easier, it benefits my employer– in real estate savings, employee retention, and the aforementioned increased productivity. And then there are the environmental benefits of eliminating the emissions of a 10-year daily auto commute! Telework may not be right for every job or personality type, but for me it’s been a win-win-win proposition all the way.



After a rough winter, Georgians are finally enjoying their first stretch of warm weather, opening their windows and starting some spring cleaning. This week, Georgia Commute Options partners are encouraging Georgia residents to not only tidy up their closets but also spring clean their commute trips. Follow the stories of real commuters on our blog as they describe their experiences.

Prior to joining my vanpool, I remember the frustration of time spent in traffic.  I was often maneuvering through traffic to pass cars thinking this would save time, but that did not help. I tried alternate routes, but it took the same amount of time. Finally, I heard from a co-worker about the vanpool offered at work and I immediately signed up.

The cost of driving alone has kept going up consistently because of rising gas prices and maintenance costs. Every time I take my car for a repair, the bill is never less than a hundred dollars. This is money I am now able to save. I am also able to keep my car for a longer period of time. This is realized savings of thousands of dollars each year. Because I don’t have to pay for gas each week, I now save for vacations, have more for my kid’s college tuition and have additional savings for retirement.    

Taking the vanpool has also allowed me to meet new people. There are currently 14 people on our roster, and I’ve enjoyed the relationships we have built with each other. We have become a vanpool family. 

Recently during the snow storm in Atlanta, we became victim of the circumstances like so many other commuters did. Although we left work at around 1 p.m. thinking we could get home in an hour, that did not happen.  It actually took us more than an hour just to get on I-75 North, which was only a mile from our building. Due to several accidents on the highway, it took us nine hours to just get to our vanpool location.  After talking with other commuters, we quickly realized that we were fortunate to even get home.  The credit goes to our experienced driver, who knew how to drive on icy roads. I cannot even imagine if I was not part of the vanpool that day. Having ten people together gave us courage and made the time go faster. Although it was a long commute, there is no doubt it would have felt much longer without them.

Taking the vanpool allows me to be more relaxed at work and home.  It is a good feeling to wake up every day and not have to be stressed about driving to work.  During the van ride in the morning, I check email, converse with others and even catch up on more sleep.  When I’m riding the van home, I can read a book, converse with others and even catch up on some more sleep.  I am also less tired, so I’m able to take my kids to their after school activities, and I have enough energy to play outdoor sports in the evening.

Not once have I regretted taking vanpool since I started. I would recommend a vanpool to anyone who is currently driving alone.  



After a rough winter, Georgians are finally enjoying their first stretch of warm weather, opening their windows and starting some spring cleaning. This week, Georgia Commute Options partners are encouraging Georgia residents to not only tidy up their closets but also spring clean their commute trips. Follow the stories of real commuters on our blog as they describe their experiences.

In the mid 1980’s, I was working in downtown Atlanta for a major bank. I left this job after a few years and said to myself, “I’m never working in downtown Atlanta again. The traffic and commute are ridiculous.”

Never say never, because here I am again, working in midtown. So how can my commute be better this time? Well, it just so happens my husband, Jimmy, also works in midtown about 10 minutes away.

Every morning we leave our house at 5 a.m. because he starts work at 5:30 a.m. Since I don’t start until 6:30 a.m., I’m able to take a 30 minute or so nap before driving to my job. In the afternoons, I go back and pick Jimmy up for the ride home. What’s great about this is that we split the driving. I drive in the morning and Jimmy takes over in the afternoon. Occasionally if I don’t feel well, I’ll ask Jimmy if he will drive in, and being the good person and husband that he is, he always agrees.

In the past, we would drive to and from our jobs separately. After arriving home each day, we would give each other 30 minutes or so to “chill” from the drive before discussing our day. Sometimes the drive would be so bad and we would be in such a bad mood that we would take our moods out on each other. That is not the case now.

Now we talk about our day during our ride home together each day and also “vent” if necessary. When we do get home, we are in a good mood and come home to one happy little dog. No matter how bad our day has been, our dog is happy to see us and puts us in an even better mood.

A couple of other positives about carpooling include:

  1. Driving in the HOV lane
  2. Saving money: We save about $300 a month in fuel costs and are able to keep mileage off our second vehicle
  3. Spending time together: We go ahead and “de-stress” from work because we are together
  4. Faster commuting: It makes our drive home seem quicker because we are not alone. It also keeps us off our cell phone because we have each other to talk to.
  5. Catching up on rest: Occasionally, I’m able to take a nap on the way home so I’m recharged when I get home.

One of the best stories I can tell you about our carpooling during the past six and a half years is from our recent January Snow Jam. We all know what a horrible, unnecessary traffic jam we had. We did make it home that night, but it took us thirteen and a half hours to get there. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that my husband was with me and that we had a four wheel drive vehicle. Otherwise, I may have lost my mind to anxiety and we could have been stranded like many others. Luckily I was not stranded and was not alone. Jimmy remained calm, cool and collected. A couple of days later, the director of the company I work for said to me, “You and Jimmy spent thirteen and a half hours together during this drive home and you’re still married?” I laughed and said, “Yes of course, in fact, we are even closer now.” It’s amazing how a stressful situation can make you appreciate each other and bring you closer as a couple.

One of the benefits of “Logging our Commute” each day is my name gets drawn two to three times a year for the monthly $25 gift card. I’ve also been awarded the “25,000 and 50,000 Clean Air Champion” Award.

Starr Camp is a Sr. Accountant for Atlanta Center for Medical Research. Her husband, Jimmy, works as a manager for Overhead Door Company of Atlanta. Starr’s hobbies include photography and scrapbooking. She is a Lifetime member of “Georgia Nature Photographers Association” www.gnpa.org and serves as their Treasurer and also serves on several of their committees. Jimmy is an avid weekend backpacker and a member of several hiking clubs.



After a rough winter, Georgians are finally enjoying their first stretch of warm weather, opening their windows and starting some spring cleaning. This week, Georgia Commute Options partners are encouraging Georgia residents to not only tidy up their closets but also spring clean their commute trips. Follow the stories of real commuters on our blog as they describe their experiences.

Like most Atlantans, I use to spend a great deal of my life in my automobile. Commuting 36 miles roundtrip for 18 years took its toll on my nerves and my wallet.

Almost ten years ago, I decided to make a major life change and live closer to work. I moved downtown about a mile from my job and ended my car addiction forever. At first I would drive the short distance from my loft to CNN, but then I discovered Georgia Commute Options. In addition to receiving gift cards from The Clean Air Campaign via the Georgia Commute Options program, my employer also offered special incentives to ditch my ride and walk or ride a bike to work. I also got a free gym membership from Turner Broadcasting.

I actually went two years entirely without owning a car and discovered things about myself and the city of Atlanta I would never have learned sitting solo in traffic. I uncovered a growing community of avid cyclists that are determined to improve their health and their wallets by pedaling instead of driving. I unearthed the culture and pulse of our fine city on the seat of my bamboo bicycle. I also enjoy walking or riding my bicycle to my local grocery store and to some of the fine restaurants located downtown.

Letting my car sit idle has given me the freedom that I thought only an overpriced car could provide. The citizens of Atlanta need to break their cycle of addiction to cars and discover a whole world of stressless pollution free commuting.

Carpooling, moving closer to your job, and/or riding a bike or taking mass transportation will not only save you big bucks, but improve your health and frame of mind in the process.



After a rough winter, Georgians are finally enjoying their first stretch of warm weather, opening their windows and starting some spring cleaning. This week, Georgia Commute Options partners are encouraging Georgia residents to not only tidy up their closets but also spring clean their commute trips. Follow the stories of real commuters on our blog as they describe their experiences.

Ever seen the movie “12 Angry Men”?

It’s the story of a jury serving on a homicide trial. At the start, eleven of the jurors vote to find the defendant guilty; only one believes he’s innocent. That juror plants a seed of reasonable doubt. By the end, all 12 believe the defendant innocent, and they acquit him.

In a car-centric city like Atlanta, I sometimes feel like that one juror when discussing MARTA with those who don’t take transit.

Many who are inclined to dismiss MARTA bring up the expected issues, ranging from perceived downsides (safety issues, etc.) to actual downsides (the limited range of existing routes). Their vote is no from the start.

In having these conversations, I like to share my own “conversion process” regarding MARTA.

I was an Atlanta driver for years – idling away in a sea of cars during rush hours – just because I didn’t understand or trust the alternatives. Then a friend – think of him like that one steadfast juror – told me how he used MARTA to make a similar commute. Why not try it a couple times a month?

I did. I found I liked doing crosswords, listening to music, or even taking a light nap better than sitting in traffic. So I tried it some more. Once weekly. Twice weekly. Most of the time...

Then all the time. A year ago, I gave up my car entirely, opting not to do major repairs on my older car since I was riding MARTA daily anyway. I live close enough to the College Park MARTA station to just walk.

A major benefit has been establishing a daily routine, Forrest Gump-like in its simplicity, of walking our 10-year-old son to school. If I got no other benefit from going carless, the memories I’ll have of these walks would be enough.

But wait, there’s more... (Here I go into “lone juror” evangelical mode)

  • I’ve saved enough money to afford some nice vacations and allocate more dollars to 401k.
  • I’m walking about 20 miles a week, so I’m healthier.
  • It feels good to go green.
  • I’ve had conversations with friends on the train that wouldn’t have happened without MARTA – and even gotten re-acquainted with old friends (see this article with that serendipitous story)
  • I’ve eliminated the stress of sitting in traffic.Regarding any safety issues: in my driving days, I had incidents of road-rage directed at me that were far worse than anything I’ve seen in 15 years of riding MARTA. And on MARTA, you can always just change trains at the next stop.

So, if you’re not a MARTA rider - is that enough to switch your vote from “no” to “I’ll try it”? Your verdict is important.

And if you do ride MARTA, are you spreading the word to others? Your outreach is important too. Change the no votes to yes.



After a rough winter, Georgians are finally enjoying their first stretch of warm weather, opening their windows and starting some spring cleaning. This week, Georgia Commute Options partners are encouraging Georgia residents to not only tidy up their closets but also spring clean their commute trips. Follow the stories of real commuters on our blog as they describe their experiences with clean commute options. 

During “Spring Clean Your Commute Week,” a new chapter in my life begins as I close out 15 years with Alcatel-Lucent and start day one with Southern Company. Both companies are long-time Clean Air Campaign participants and supporters. And although I’ll be leaving a 100% telecommute setup for a daily ride to Atlanta, I’m thankful for the opportunity to briefly share a personal reflection on the value of telecommuting.

The year was 2001, springtime to be exact, and I had been working as an engineer in telecommunications for only two years. As my wife and I waited with eager anticipation for the birth of our first daughter that summer, we wondered if we’d both be able to continue working without sacrificing our commitment to raising our children at home. We carefully devised a plan and took it to each of our employers: she would purchase and equip a home office to telecommute four days each week, and I would ask my manager to exchange my desktop for a laptop in order to work from our home office every Wednesday.

It was quite a proposition; no one in either of our organizations had pioneered a virtual-office arrangement 13 years ago. These early days would turn out to be just the start of my telecommuting journey.

Over the next several years as I became increasingly self-sufficient in my role at work, I gradually increased from one day a week to a full-time home office in 2008. Besides, with most of the engineers in my group being located in other regions of the country, it made sense to avoid driving from the south side of Atlanta to connect my laptop at our office in Alpharetta. Not only did it make sense, it made cents. After all, this was the timeframe in which we saw a gallon of gas increase from the price we’d expect to pay for a soda at lunch, to the price of the lunch itself.

In addition to the increase in productive hours available to me and the considerable fuel savings to be had by not driving, there were thousands of miles of punishment that wouldn’t be absorbed by my car – and the resulting environmental benefit to go with it. Maintenance and parts not required. Waste fluids not discarded. CO2 emissions not generated. Tons of pollution not unleashed into our breathing space.

Below I’ve calculated (because that’s what engineers do) an estimate of the positive impacts over these last 13 years:

  • 2,232 roundtrips eliminated
  • 313,488 miles not driven
  • 157 tons of pollution avoided
  • 4,986 hours of time invested in...
  • 4 kids’ lives and...
  • 1 happy wife

So, as valuable as the cost and environmental motives for telecommuting are, the impact on my family life is the most important to me personally. I have certainly been blessed beyond calculation in that aspect!



According to a recent Gallup poll, 70% of employees have checked out at work or are actively disengaged -- annually costing US companies over $300 billion in lost productivity. Disengagement is a clear sign that something is out of balance.

When all aspects of your life are good and plenty - your mental, physical, social and financial health - your total quality of life and your job performance can improve. But where does your daily commute fit into improving your quality of life?

  • Some of us feel like we are working more and spending less time taking care of ourselves and our loved ones. When you factor in a long commute, which may actually be the case. But there are ways to bypass the traffic by trying to bike part of the way to work to save some money or riding MARTA where you can also get a bit of extra work done. Check out alternatives to driving alone here.
  • Finding yourself lacking social stimulation? Maybe getting a carpool partner will help. You can sign up to receive alerts when people who live and work near you are looking for someone to share the ride.
  • Does your company have a telework program? By working one or two days a week at home, you can bypass traffic altogether. Teleworking can even boost your productivity up to 20%! So if your company doesn’t already have a telework policy, send your manager here to learn how to get started.
  • If your company has a wellness benefit program, why not take part in it? It can help improve both your physical and mental health. Sometimes your employer’s wellness program extends to your friends or family members. Did you know you have a 57% greater chance of losing weight if you exercise or diet when you don’t do it alone

The quest for work/life balance leads us in many different directions. But by taking our commuting choices into consideration, simple changes can yield positive results. Check out Georgia Commute Option program information to find some ways to get started.

Jenny Schultz is the Communications Specialist with The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Jenny commutes by MARTA rail and currently spends her time on the train reading "Grimms' Fairy Tales."



When the first Snowpocalypse of 2014 hit metro Atlanta a couple weeks ago, many drivers were stuck in their cars on the freeway for hours, some even overnight. We were unprepared for the initial impact of the storm and as the second of the year approaches, many metro businesses have made the proper preparations.

Companies all over the city have embraced teleworking as part of their work culture and are allowing employees to work remotely to stay productive and off the roads this week. Elham Shirazi, a nationally recognized telework consultant for The Clean Air Campaign says teleworking is more popular in the metro area than carpooling and taking MARTA to work. She has worked with major companies locally to help them improve their teleworking strategies, including Home Depot, Delta Air Lines, Georgia Power and GE Energy.

While driving alone is the most popular way to get to work, embraced by 82% of people surveyed by the Center for Transportation and the Environment, teleworking comes in second at 7%, followed by carpooling (5%), train (3%) and bus (2%) and biking or walking (less than 1%).

Those who are able to work from home during the winter storm are able to keep performing their daily tasks, ensuring their organization isn’t behind once everyone is able to return to the office. Teleworkers are also able to save a bit of money by changing up their routine; instead of spending a couple bucks on coffee at Starbucks, they can enjoy their own beans at home. Teleworkers are also saving on dry cleaning as well as gas and other car expenses.

Click here to read a full article from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Atlanta employers embracing teleworking, as well as tips for spur-of-the-moment teleworkers.

Stay safe, Atlanta.

Jenny Schultz is the Communications Specialist with The Clean Air Campaign, one of several organizations in the Atlanta region that deliver Georgia Commute Options programs and services in partnership with the Georgia Department of Transportation. Jenny commutes by MARTA rail and currently spends her time on the train reading "Grimms' Fairy Tales."



Did you know with the new Georgia Commute Options logging and ridematching system you can set up custom alerts to remind you to log your commutes and to alert you when new potential ridematches become available?

STEP 1: Log into your account at GaCommuteOptions.com

STEP 2: Click the ‘Match Alerts/Log Reminder’ link under My Profile in the menu down the right-hand side.

STEP 3: For log reminders, select how you would like to receive them. You have the option of by email or to your mobile device.

STEP 4: Select the day(s) and time you would like to receive the reminders. You can receive them once a week, twice a week, or even daily at a time you specify.

STEP 5: If you’d like to receive ridematch alerts, check the ‘Alert Me’ box and then choose how you would like to receive them – either by email or on your mobile device.

STEP 6: Press ‘Save’ at the bottom of the screen. And voilà! You will start to receive alerts when someone in your area wants to carpool or vanpool and your reminders to log your commutes. And you can adjust the settings as often as you’d like.

Have questions or want to see some screenshots? Click here to view some helpful tips about the new Georgia Commute Options logging and ridematching system.



Updated 1/28/14 - 3:42PM

With wintry conditions sweeping across metro Atlanta, commuters are asking about the status of several programs and services for the afternoon trip home.  Here are several updates:

TRANSIT

  • MARTA bus and rail service is operating as normal this afternoon.
  • GRTA Xpress service is operating as normal this afternoon.
  • Cobb Community Transit is operating express routes out of downtown beginning at 1pm.
  • Gwinnett County Transit is operating as normal this afternoon.

ROAD CONDITIONS

  • Surface streets in downtown Atlanta are gridlocked, according to news reports.  Interstate traffic is also heavy on most major interstates around Atlanta.  For current info on road conditions and hazards, visit 511ga.org.

GUARANTEED RIDE HOME SERVICE

  • Please note that as stipulated in the program agreement, inclement weather conditions do not qualify for Guaranteed Ride Home service:

What Conditions Do Not Qualify?
You may not use GRH for a ride to work, a trip to a medical facility, personal errands, intermittent stops, scheduled appointments, medical appointments, scheduled overtime, company-wide emergencies or closures, business-related travel, termination of employment, side trips, vehicular failures, transportation system and/or provider closures or failures, work-related and/or bodily injury, 911 emergencies, inclement weather, natural disasters or acts of God.

Be careful out there!