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State Telecommute Group Pushes Fuel Savings Idea
Let workers take home option, but press accountability

By Maureen Rousseau
Hartford Business Journal Staff Writer

If employers want to do their part to alleviate high fuel costs and pollution - and help their bottom line - there is an answer. Just allow more telecommuting asserts Telecommute Connecticut, a statewide commuter service program of the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

In recent years, telecommuting has become an increasingly popular option for many workers in Connecticut and throughout the United States. Jeanne Taylor Stimolo, program manager for Telecommute Connecticut, said, "technology is at a point where it is good enough and widespread enough that the possibility for an even greater (telecommuting) increase is quite high."

Telecommuting provides flexibility to move back and forth with the needs of individuals and the company.

With gas prices at an all time high, it is no wonder Kim Connolly vice president of
Smith Brothers Insurance in Glastonbury notes a drastic increase in her employees' desire to telecommute. But, she said, "That's a good thing. You don't need to see (employees) to know that they're working."

One Smith Brothers worker who recently moved to the Connecticut shoreline now telecommutes at least once a week, saving the time, fuel and money of commuting two hours a day that she now uses to get more work done.

By allowing employees to telecommute, employers not only help reduce fuel costs and pollution, but also make it easier for employees to better balance their work and personal lives. According to Connolly, telecommuting is a great way to minimize time spent commuting to and from the office for common situations like home maintenance appointments or a child's school events.

"It is important for parents and their children that parents be able to make it to things like school plays, and with telecommuting, parents can take an hour or so out of work to go see their child and get back to their work after."

Employer Benefits
Employees aren't the only ones reaping the financial benefits of telecommuting employers are also able to save. If planned for the long term, overhead expenses are reduced, allowing for the maximization of office space. Telecommuting allows companies to attract and retain high quality employees, cut down on the amount of sick days taken, and remain productive when circumstances keep workers out of the office.

Stimolo remarked that telecommuting provides "flexibility to move back and forth with the needs of individuals and the company."

Telecommuting, as long as it's taken seriously, benefits everyone "The right programs are needed for individuals and employers" for telecommuting to be fully beneficial to a core party, which is why Telecommute Connecticut consults with companies to figure out exactly what their business needs, said Stimolo.

"We suggest a pilot program to feel their way through both sides said Stimolo, so "we can develop something to work really well (the program) is flexible and can grow and evolve; we have a lot of experience and can develop something new."

Smith Brothers, for example, has "philosophy" about working from home, and requires employees to sign documents, so they are aware the expectations for productivity are just as high when working from home as they are in the office.

Connolly believes in the telecommuting program because "good performers in the office are good performers at home."

"Employers seem to be nervous about (allowing employees to telecommute)," said Connolly, "but if they trust their employees to get the job done, they will be totally surprised."

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