Flexible Schedules Reduce Traffic

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Today, I stare at the curious bumper sticker on the car in front of me, wondering why we are all on the road at the same time every day moving less than 10 mph. How much extra time are we spending trying to make it into the office on the 8 to 5 routine?

Maybe you were able to listen to a fun radio show or an inspirational podcast in traffic, but unconsciously you had to fight the hazards on the road, trying to stay safe and not miss your exit. By the time you make it into the office your blood pressure is a total wreck, and you’re running late.

Same story in the afternoon going the opposite way as you rush out the office to pick kids up at school, or make it somewhere before closing time. Why do we do this every weekday, twice a day?

Road construction in my city will never end. Houston lacks an efficient public transportation system, and let’s face it, Houston is built for cars. Many of the implemented “solutions” like wider roads or HOV lanes have not solved traffic gridlock. The problem is too many people on the road at the same time. So how about REMOVING THE PROBLEM?

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I try a different schedule the next day. I work from home starting at 6:00 am, help my child get ready for school, then head to work after finishing an 8:00 am conference call. I get to the office 30 minutes faster than during rush hour traffic. I am calm and energized to continue my work at the office, and I feel focused throughout the day. If I can do this every day, I will save at least 5 hours a week to get more work done! Even better, more thoughtful work done.

Is the 8 – 5 work schedule just a habit that no longer applies to all companies? Can employers offer flexible hours as the norm, and can that initiative make a big difference to help alleviate traffic in our city? 

In 2006 the City of Houston, initiated a pilot program called Flex in the City. It called for volunteer employers to allow their employees flexible schedules for two weeks. The goal was to reduce rush hour traffic. An estimated 20,000 employees were able to participate. Data collected indicated some reduction in travel times and many companies reported increased productivity and less stress among participants. However, I recently inquired the program is no longer active because of lack of companies willing to participate.

Flexible schedules rank among the top priorities for most workers today. Working men and women seek the ultimate goal of work/life balance, and now we have the technology to help us. Are we using it? Organizations are understanding the most important asset is their people, and balance is needed to improve productivity, innovation and achieve performance goals. So why are companies not promoting this?

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Technology is one of the driving forces that creates change, and not only in our built environment. We need to find solutions to improve the place of work and the full experience of working.

Technology has made occasional mobile working an option for many companies. 13 years ago, technology may not have been in line to make Flex in the City a success. Perhaps it is time to try again.

We can change spaces, add or remove walls, update office furniture to accommodate technology, add a fun coffee - play area, and incorporate wellness concepts into a design. However wellness also extends outside the workplace, from the time you start heading to work to the time you leave work. How every employee arrives into the office is overlooked by many employers. It is easy to love a new, beautiful and functional space, but that alone will soon be obsolete if work culture does not change to meet employees and business evolving needs.

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Many employers talk about work flexibility, but few have formal policies allowing all employees to take advantage of it. Flexible schedules will work best when it is a cultural value in the company, available to all, and not only accepted after an employee comes forward to make the request. We know happy employees are productive employees and tend to remain loyal.

Work styles and work culture are different and unique to every business. There is no one size fits all approach to workplace flexible hours. We still need interaction to take place in the office. A balance. There are certainly many things to take into consideration. How do you manage this? What are the disadvantages and benefits?

Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog to explore how different companies around the world are rethinking their work schedules to promote healthier lifestyles and healthier communities.

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Gina Valenzuela

GValenzuela@pdrcorp.com

713.739.9059

Gina is a registered Architect in the state of Texas with 19 years of experience in design fields that include ground-up architecture, commercial interiors, visual display and retail merchandising. She has 14 years in the architectural field and is proficient in the creation and coordination of construction documents, with strengths in programming and developing functional design solutions.